Front Range - Golden
Chimney Gulch/Windy Saddle
Type: Mountain Bike
Start elevation: 5,800 ft.
Vertical gain: over 1,200 ft.
Distance: out and back - less than 10 miles
Chimney Gulch/Windy Saddle is a Front Range favorite. This ride is the off road brother to the Lookout Mountain road ride climbing to essentially, the same destination, the top of Lookout Mountain. Although this route takes a little longer and is way more challenging. There are two place you can park to access this trail head, this has the most parking, just off HWY 6 in Golden, just across from the athletic fields of the Colorado School of Mines , just south of the junction of HWY 6, HWY 58, and HWY 93, and just north of 19th street. The other trail head is on Lookout Mountain road itself. Take 19th street from HWY 6 west and drive up less than a mile and there is minimum parking at this area.
Starting off HWY 6, you may be sharing the parking with the local Hang Gliding bunch, follow the trail up and out westward. You'll come to an area you will have to dismount, the canal "locks", a concrete structure that diverts water. Once you've cleared this hurdle, it's all climbing. Some of the switchbacks in the lower third will challenge the seasoned rider but can be cleared. As you continue along you will cross Lookout Mountain road, this is where the 2nd trail head is. Follow the trail and keep climbing. The single track is rocky, but very ride able. You may see the remnants of a car that went over the cliff some time ago. Two bridges and some shade will welcome you. There will be one more road crossing, Lookout Mountain road at Windy Saddle itself. There is parking up here for the family and hiking only trails are accessible from this area. Continue up on the Lookout Mountain trail to the top, Boettcher Mansion and Jefferson County Nature Center is the summit of this ride. You can turn around and descend your way back to you car or continue on...... to Apex Park....
Type: Mountain bike
Lowest elevation: approx. 6,000ft
Elevation gain: 1,795 ft.
Distance: 8.3 miles of trails.
Apex Park, is yet another gem in the crown of Jefferson County Open Space Trail System. Located in Golden, Colorado, this park is easily accessible and great for riders of all ability. Do not let the 8.3 miles of trails fool you into thinking it's not worth the drive, it is and then some. Parking is easy with two areas to do so, one on the east side and one on the west. East access is on US 40 and County Road 93, just north of I70 and just south of HWY 6 and the Jefferson County Court House. Parking on the east side is plentiful, with cooperation from Heritage Square, see the family fun page for this attraction, this is the preferred place if riding up. West access is on Lookout Mountain Road and the intersection of Colorow Road, one mile away from the Lookout Mountain Nature Center and Preserve. The preferred way up would be the Apex Trail all the way to the Enchanted Forest Trail. This will test your climbing skills and offers the most vertical at one time. Take the Enchanted Forest down, this trail has incredible single track and flows very well. Finally, as the name foreshadows, it provides a lot of shade.
A word of caution: as of March, 2010, Jefferson County (Jeffco) implemented ODD and EVEN trail use days. The Enchanted Forest trail can only be ridden downhill on EVEN days, so plan your ride day accordingly. The Apex Trail has restrictions also. So, on even numbered day, NO directional restrictions will apply. Therefore, ride this open space on even numbered days.
With that out of the way, return down Enchanted Forest to Apex at the bridge and take Apex trail to Sluicebox, this single track has many switchbacks to challenge all levels and is very exposed. Follow Sluicebox to Grubstake Loop and take in the views of Golden and the Denver Skyline. Grubstake to Pick N Sledge, Pick N Sledge to Apex down and out to the east parking area.
If you read the above ride description of Chimney Gulch and Windy Saddle, you are at the top of the west access. From the Jeffco Nature Preserve and Boettcher Mansion, there is some single track from here. Take the Lookout Mountain Trail, it runs parallel to Colorow Road and drops you right into the top of Apex Park. There is a little sign with information and a trail map board at the top.
If you do decide to combine Chimney Gulch and Apex, be prepared. Bring water and food. There is a lot of climbing if you ride from the bottom of one to the other, if you do an out and back, you will have gain quite a bit of elevation. Do not worry, Golden has many places to rest and recover once you've completed this in tandem or individually.
White Ranch Open Space, Jefferson County
Type: Mountain Bike
Start elevation: 6,298
End elevation: 7,400
Total climb: up to 4,000+
Distance: 19 miles of trails- you have options
White Ranch Park is part of the amazing Jefferson County Open Space. It is located in north central Jefferson County. You find it just north of downtown Golden and minutes from the Boulder County line. This park is a Front Range favorite with two entrances. The lower lot is off highway 93 at 56th Ave. The upper lot can be accessed by taking Golden Gate Canyon road to Crawford Gulch road north following the signs to the trailhead. The ride of choice ascends from the lower lot. There is ample parking and available restrooms. Start at the Belcher trailhead and precede through the two cattle gates. Please leave them the way you found them: open or closed. Proceed up the Belcher trail to the Longhorn trail and make a right. This is a semi technical trail for a while until it intersects the Shorthorn trail, which is the trail you will want to continue up. The Shorthorn trail will rejoin the Longhorn trail; stay on the Longhorn at this point. Continue up as it is worth the climb. Stay on this trail and you will pass the Maverick Trail and intersect with the Rawhide Trail.
Turn right on the Rawhide Trail until you come to the T intersection and then go left. Follow the single track which provides you with sweeping views of the area. Continue to the middle parking area. Sip some water and ingest a quick snack while admiring the Denver skyline to the east or rotate 180 degrees for an eye opening view of the Continental Divide. Strive for the summit! To accomplish this get back on the Rawhide Trail, this is a fast doubletrack service road. Hold on, the Belcher Hill Trail is approaching quickly on the left.
Downshift and navigate the rolling single-track .8 miles to your destination of the upper lot. You made it so check your heart rate. Hydrate once again and backtrack for some epic downhill Front Range style. From this point, at the middle parking lot, your options seem endless. There are many options to make a mountain bike ride epic! If you choose to climb some more check out the Rawhide trail, this drops down fast with switchbacks and water bars abound to bring you back up with significant elevation gain. Try the Belcher Hill down while tossing the Round Up loop for a great flow of single-track. For the technical XC rider, head across the Maverick trail back down to the Longhorn all the way down to Whippletree. Either way, this series of trails linked together will not disappoint. Make your way back to the lower lot and head into Golden for something other than trail mix and fun with the family.
Type: Road Ride
Start elevation: 5,674 ft
End elevation: 7,581 ft
Total climb: 1,907
Distance: 5 miles and up
Lookout Mountain is located in Golden above Ford St. and Highway 6. Perhaps you have the seen the large "M" on the mountain which represents the Colorado School of Mines, one of the largest illuminated college logos in the United States. This is the home of one of the finest climbs along the Front Range. The unofficial start is at the "pillars", the Gateway to the Rockies, and ascends for nearly five miles. This road offers low traffic, steep switchbacks and high speed descents. Along the way you may encounter some wildlife, or find yourself in the shadows of paragliders high above, while the views of Golden, Denver, and the eastern plains unfold below you. This ride offers a great flow that will challenge the top riders yet is gentle enough for the recreational cyclist to accomplish. At the top of the climb the unofficial finish line is reached at the entrance to Buffalo Bill's gravesite. You can extend the ride to view one of Denver's most popular destinations: The Buffalo Herd Lookout. Once you get to the top past the gravesite continue up on Lookout Mountain Road for a few more miles to US 40 West. This is the frontage road that parallels I70. Turn right and continue climbing for two miles to the stop sign. You will enjoy stunning views of the snowcapped Continental Divide and the Buffalo Lookout is just across the intersection on the north side of I70. You may encounter the native herd grazing in this historic Denver mountain park. From this juncture you can ride the route in reverse for a hands in the drops, fingers on the brakes descent, with minimal climbing in this direction. If you reach this destination, add another 700 ft to the climb for endurance training and another notch on your belt.