Over the past two decades, cycling in Summit County has grown in popularity so much that our resorts have (almost) become bike towns with a ski habit. Our summer season might be shorter than what lower-elevation cycling meccas like Moab and Sedona have to offer, but as with many aspects of high-country living, what matters is quality—not quantity—of hours spent in the saddle. A 20-mile mountain bike ride here is usually more involved than a 20-mile ride elsewhere—not just due to the thinner air, but also the varied and challenging terrain and, if we’re being honest, the views that constantly ask to be photographed in case said thin air fogs the memory later. Summit County, in fact, was recently named the No. 1 mountain-biking destination in Colorado by Singletracks.com, which cited 812 miles of trail (!) within a 25-mile radius of Summit’s epicenter. And while our corner of Colorado may not be known as a prolific road-biking haunt, options abound there, too. What follows is an insider’s guide to the best rides around, aimed at helping you—and your friends and family—maximize your two-wheeled experience in Colorado’s Playground.

Aspen Alley

Image: Liam Doran

MTB Rides

Aspen Alley

A favorite both for its swooping layout as well as the mesmerizing aspen forest through which it swoops, this trail can be ridden up or down, but most prefer to descend it. The town of Breckenridge reworked the route a few years ago, lengthening the trail and increasing time spent among aspen trees, to much acclaim. Come fall, the tread takes more traffic than any trail in town, for good reason. True to its name, tall trunks line the singletrack and make you feel like you’re riding through a tunnel of white and gold and orange. Just try to keep your eyes on the trail ahead, because Aspen Alley also is known for tight, bermed corners and a flowy smoothness that lets you go. There aren’t many times when someone reaches the bottom and isn’t smiling from earlobe to earlobe—including locals who ride it every day.

Length   1.3 miles

Difficulty   Intermediate

Find it   Off Boreas Pass Road, just past the gate south of the Bakers Tank trailhead

Pairs well with   Bakers Tank Trail, Blue River Trail, Illinois Creek Trail

Miners Creek Trail

You may have seen photos of mountain bikers crossing the Tenmile Range near Peak 5—one of the classic images from the nationally renowned Breck Epic stage race. The good news? You can ride the same trail as the Olympians do. The bad news? Getting there tests your legs and lungs like few other summer adventures in Summit. Most ride this rugged singletrack, which doubles as the Colorado Trail and Continental Divide Trail, from south to north, hiking much of the climb up the west side of the range. Why suffer? The views, for starters. And because the descent from 12,466 feet into Frisco is one of the best descents in the state—one I like to celebrate with a cold beer on the rooftop deck at Frisco Marina’s Island Grill.

Length   4.7 miles (just Miners Creek)

Difficulty   EXPERT

Find it   VIA the Peak 9 service road from Breck, then right on the Wheeler Trail, OR ascend Wheeler from Copper to its junction with Miners Creek

Pairs well with   Wheeler Trail, Peaks Trail, Gold Hill

Tenderfoot Trail / Oro grande

Tucked away on the east side of Dillon, the Old Tenderfoot Trail got a reboot last summer when volunteers extended what used to be an out-and-back and turned it into a loop. Trail work continues in the area, which will serve as something of a hub for hikers, bikers, and motorized users when it is complete. For mountain biking, the new loop provides incredible views of Dillon Reservoir and the Tenmile and Gore ranges. You can also combine it with the Oro Grande Trail, a wide, beginner-friendly out-and-back that takes you east toward Keystone.

Length   6.4 miles

Difficulty   Intermediate

Find it   On County Road 51 across Highway 6 from the town of Dillon

Pairs well with   Straight Creek Trail

Ptarmigan Trail

Silverthorne doesn’t have a ton of mountain biking, but this trail makes up for what the town lacks in variety. An out-and-back with a handful of spurs worth exploring on either side, Ptarmigan climbs to a wilderness boundary below 12,498-foot Ptarmigan Mountain, where you get magnificent views of the Gore Range. During the ascent, you pass through aspen and pine forests on tacky dirt that is never too steep. I sometimes ditch my bike at the wilderness boundary and continue on foot to the summit.

Length   8.4 miles round-trip to the boundary

Difficulty   Intermediate/advanced

Find it   On the Ptarmigan Trail (it’s the road name, too) up the hill from Wendy’s in Silverthorne

Pairs well with   A cold pint at the Bakers’ or Angry James breweries

Wheeler Trail

Image: Liam Doran

Wheeler Trail

Technically called the Wheeler National Recreation Trail, this classic Forest Service singletrack starts in McCullough Gulch, just below Quandary Peak and about five miles south of Breckenridge, and traverses the Tenmile Range to Copper Mountain. If you like getting above treeline and riding a trail that looks like a spaghetti strand, you’ll be enamored on Wheeler. It always amazes me how few people I see on this route, probably because it takes more effort and pain tolerance to ride it than most other trails in the county. You crest 12,400 feet twice between Peak 8 and Peak 10, and unless you are superhuman, you can expect to be pushing your bike a good bit. Pack plenty of water and food, lather on the sunblock, and don’t underestimate the potential for foul weather up high.

Length   10.3 miles

Difficulty   Expert

Find it  At the base of the south-facing hillside in McCullough Gulch and on the east side of Highway 91 at Copper

Pairs well with   Miners Creek Trail, Peaks Trail, Tenmile Canyon Recpath

Peaks Trail

A Summit County rite of passage, the Peaks Trail traverses the forested eastern flank of the Tenmile Range between Frisco and Breckenridge. It is the site of an annual time trial race in the Summit Mountain Challenge series and a popular way for locals to get from town to town without using pavement. In fact, it might see more use than any local trail. But there’s a reason for that. Its climbs don’t last long, and a handful of long, smooth, flat sections lend themselves to cranking in a bigger gear. While certainly not a beginner trail, if your teenagers don’t mind walking through some of the chunkier technical sections, it’s a fine place for them to practice their skills.

Length   7.8 miles

Difficulty   Intermediate

Find it   Off Miners Creek Road in Frisco and Ski Hill Road in Breckenridge, just north of the Peak 7 base area

Pairs well with   Gold Hill, Miners Creek, Breck’s town trails

Colorado Trail

Image: Liam Doran

Colorado Trail

For a 486-mile route that runs from Denver to Durango, the Colorado Trail committed a lot of mileage to meandering in and around Summit County. We consider that a boon. Sure, you can expect to yield to plenty of through-hikers during high season, but it’s a small price to pay when such a wondrous singletrack is the reward. The CT breaks down into sections as it snakes from east to west in Summit, each a destination of its own. Kenosha Pass to Breckenridge is a fall classic, 33 miles of open country and big landscapes with stunning foliage lining the route. Then there’s the famous descent off Georgia Pass into the Swan River drainage; the locally renowned West Ridge segment starting with a crushing climb out of the North Fork of the Swan; a meandering-if-chunky pedal over Gold Hill; and the sensational, wildflower-heavy climb to Searle Pass from Copper. Some keep going from there, over Kokomo Pass to Tennessee Pass and beyond. The point is, your options are almost endless. 

Length   As much as you want to ride

Difficulty   Intermediate/Advanced

Find it   Popular trailheads include Kenosha Pass, the Tiger Dredge, Swan’s Nest, Gold Hill, and Copper Mountain’s Corn Lot

Pairs well with   Peaks Trail, Red Trail, Horseshoe Gulch (pictured here), ZL Trail, Galena Ditch

If you want to race

Like testing yourself against the field? Summit’s cycling scene supports a range of races that are open to everyone, from the Wednesday night Summit Mountain Challenge series (mavsports.com/summit-mountain-challenge) to the Firecracker 50 Fourth of July classic (mavsports.com/firecracker-50) to the Breck 100 (warriorscycling.com/races/breckenridge100) and six-day Breck Epic (breckepic.com), which attracts some of the best endurance riders in the world.

Get the new map

Last August, the Summit County Open Space and Trails Department released a new, interactive digital map that includes a trove of detailed information, from trails to campgrounds to scenic sites like lakes and peaks. It works on everything from smartphones and tablets to laptops and desktop PCs and contains useful details like mileage, reservation information, fees, amenities, and permitted uses. summitcountyco.gov/trailmap

Keystone Bike Park

Image: Liam Doran

Bike Parks

Flumes

The town of Breckenridge has no shortage of pearls in its frontcountry system, an ever-growing list that includes Moonstone, Barney Ford, Slalom, and Sidedoor. But one of the old reliables, especially if you don’t feel like climbing too much, is the Flumes network on the northeast side of town. It starts next to the Kennington Place Townhomes across from the 7-Eleven and offers a large loop with three distinct segments, Lower, Middle, and Upper. It also connects to a broader system that continues to the Swan River drainage.

Length   6.5 miles

Difficulty   Intermediate

Find it   On the north side of Huron Road between the Kennington Place and Huron Landing complexes

Pairs well with   Slalom, Tom’s Baby, Discovery Ridge, ZL Trail

Frisco Peninsula

Due to the rocky, rugged terrain throughout Summit County, it can be hard to find beginner trails. And while the Peninsula Recreation Area doesn’t exactly qualify as being easy for novices—your best bet for novice singletrack is the River Trail in Breckenridge or Oro Grande in Dillon—it’s a good option nonetheless. Most of the trails are flat, with short, punchy climbs, if any. You can park at the Adventure Park’s day lodge and base yourself there, enjoying a picnic lunch between family loops. My favorite trail is the Peninsula Lakeshore Loop, six miles of blissful waterfront singletrack that traces the rim of the peninsula and makes you feel like you’re riding in the Pacific Northwest.

Length   6–11 miles

Difficulty   Intermediate

Find it   You can start from anywhere, but if you’re driving, it makes sense to start at the day lodge at Frisco Adventure Park (621 Recreation Way).

Pairs well with   Peaks Trail

Barney Flow / B-Line

Just above Carter Park in downtown Breckenridge, a hidden gem exists in the adjacent Barney Flow and B-Line freeride trails. Think of B-Line as the slightly rowdier of the two, with a few more drops and man-made features. Barney Flow features bermed turns and a handful of poppy jumps. If you’re not quite ready for these trails, you can work on your skills at the Wellington Pump Track in French Gulch—or take a lesson at Woodward Copper, the renowned action-sports camp.

The details   Ride up the Carter Park switchbacks to Moonstone, which connects to Barney Flow and B-Line. Find the Wellington Pump Track off Wellington Road near the horse stables. One-hour MTB lessons at Woodward cost $75. campwoodward.com 

Frisco Bike Park

At the Frisco Adventure Park, riders can choose between four options tailored to a range of abilities. The pump track is perfect for kids and beginners. The dual-slalom course lets you race your buddy on manageable terrain. The slopestyle course provides a reasonable entry into jumping. And the dirt jumps are as good as you’ll find in the central Rockies—with an even better backdrop for action shots. Best of all: it’s free.

The details   621 Recreation Way, Frisco townoffrisco.com/adventure-park

Keystone Bike Park

Like riding down mountains but don’t love climbing them? Behold your happy place. Keystone’s lift-served terrain is among the best in North America and has hosted some of the world’s best freeriders, as well as the no-name rippers from Summit who ride it every day. Keystone’s 55 miles of trail offer everything from blue runs to rock gardens to 20-foot drops. Everything is purpose-built for mountain biking, including manmade features that up the ante on expert runs. Hence the resort’s moniker: “We maintain a devotion to downhill.”

The details   Full-day lift tickets cost $48 for adults and $27 for kids—or you can always climb under your own power for free. Not ready to drop in by yourself? Keystone also offers lessons, starting at $58 for beginners (or $135 including bike rental and protective gear). A full-day private lesson costs $300. keystoneresort.com

Tenmile Recpath

Image: Liam Doran

Road Rides

Tenmile Recpath

Summit County’s road-biking options aren’t as plentiful as its mountain-biking options, mainly because most of the shoulders are narrow. But the expansive local recpath system can be used to link every town in the county. The two most popular segments run between Frisco and Breckenridge, and Frisco and Copper, where you pedal (or coast) along Tenmile Creek and gape at the towering rock walls through Tenmile Canyon. Don’t forget basic recpath etiquette: stay to the right, and announce yourself if you want to pass.

Ute Pass

Three of the most popular local roadie rides, not surprisingly, involve climbing a mountain pass. Two of those rides crest the Continental Divide: Loveland Pass culminates with an ascent of Highway 6 past Keystone and Arapahoe Basin, while Hoosier Pass serves as the paved high point between Breckenridge and Alma on Highway 9. But the best of them all is Ute Pass, a winding, 5.3-mile climb (gaining a lung-taxing 2,000 feet in elevation) from Highway 9 north of Silverthorne that affords arguably the best view of the Gore Range in Summit County. Head up early in the morning, when the sun bathes the Gore in spectacular light. If you have time for more than just the climb, start at Silverthorne Elementary for a 31-mile round-trip.

Brewery Tour

Looking for a way to combine fitness with culture? Pedaling between breweries in Summit is totally doable, assuming you just “taste” during your stops. Start at the Breckenridge Brewery, head down the recpath to Coyne Valley Road and Broken Compass, then continue to Frisco where HighSide and Outer Range await. From there, take the Dillon Dam Road to Pug Ryan’s, then head down the recpath to the Dillon Dam Brewery, then Bakers’, then Angry James. Take the free Summit Stage bus back to Breckenridge. Don’t want to DIY? Ridden Breckenridge offers $60 two-hour, two-wheeled tours (daily at noon & 3 p.m., on high-performance Borealis carbon fiber-framed fat bikes) along Breck’s Blue River bike path, stopping for pints at Broken Compass and sampling spirits at Breckenridge Distillery. breckenridgebiketours.com

And don't forget ...

Sometimes, a bike requires as much TLC as a child (or spouse), especially after logging miles on our rugged, high-altitude trails. While you might not have time (or money) for a full tune before every ride, attention to the details can make a difference on your next trip—like cleaning and lubing your chain, wiping down dusty stanchions on your mountain bike’s fork and shock, and checking your brake pads to make sure they’re not too worn out (you want at least a dime’s thickness on each pad). Any local shop can steer you in the right direction, too, and all offer a range of service options.

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