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Shocks and awe 

Local cycling luminaries name some off-road gems

At first, most people aren't attracted to Colorado Springs for its personality.

From Garden of the Gods to Pikes Peak, the area is most noted for its good looks — and its ample opportunities for a good time. One favorite local activity is mountain biking.

But with trails and open space galore, it may be difficult to decide where to go. So we asked some of our local mountain bikers to talk about the area rides they love, and paired that with trail information from mtbproject.com and goo.gl/Pqiz02. Check both sites for maps and more information. (We've included links for trails that are outside the city limits.)

If you're looking for a cheap local thrill, these should be good bets.

Captain Jack's Trail

Recommended by: Luke Burgie, mechanic at Ted's Bicycles

Length: 2.4 miles

Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Good to know: There's a lot of gravel on this mostly downhill trail, so be careful.

Description: Located off the top of High Drive on city park land, Captain Jack's is one of the most popular trails in the region. It's a singletrack trail, though it's quite wide in places. As mentioned above, the main challenge is gravel.

Why Burgie likes it: "It's pretty smooth, so you can take it pretty fast if you're an advanced rider ... but it's a good all-around trail that I think anybody can be comfortable with."

Cheyenne Mountain State Park

Recommended by: Stephanie Surch, Criterium Bicycles employee, Active Transportation Advisory Committee member, volunteer with the Women's Mountain Bike Association of Colorado Springs (WMBA)

Length: Various

Level: Various

Good to know: You'll need a Colorado State Parks pass. (Day passes are available at the gate.) A map is a good idea: goo.gl/hn4ScP.

Description: The trails in Cheyenne Mountain range from extremely advanced to beginner-level. However, as the name suggests, you should plan on doing some climbing. Cheyenne Mountain is one of the area's newer park properties. Most of it is wooded.

Why Surch likes it: "It offers some trails that have a lot of climbing, it offers some trails that aren't as technical but are fast and flowy, and on the other side it offers more technical trails that are rocky."

Falcon Trail

Recommended by: Gary Forst, employee at Old Town Bike Shop

Length: 14 miles

Level: Intermediate

Good to know: This trail is on Air Force Academy property. You're required to have an ID on you and a riding buddy, and it's a good idea to check with the Academy before you go to make sure it's allowing visitors. You'll also want a map (goo.gl/ptPIJ5).

Description: Falcon is a mostly rolling singletrack loop, with some longer, steeper climbs. Most of it is fairly mild from a technical standpoint, though a few areas present challenges. The trail winds through wooded areas and valleys.

Why Forst likes it: "It has everything. It's got some nice climbing and singletrack with some fairly technical trail. It's got some really nice rolling, undulating aspects there ... it really is a beautiful trail."

Palmer Park

Recommended by: Alison Dunlap, 2001 World Mountain Bike Champion, two-time Olympian, and 13-time national champion

Length: Various

Level: Various

Good to know: This city-owned open space is popular with everyone. Watch for hikers and dogs.

Description: Palmer Park is mostly wooded with some open valleys. It boasts beautiful rock formations and breathtaking views of Pikes Peak. Mountain bikers love the challenges those rocks present, was well as tight turns and tree roots.

Why Dunlap likes it: "It really has a little bit of everything. It has trails that are great for beginners and trails that I still can't clean everything after riding in Palmer Park for 20 years."

Pulpit Rock, Austin Bluffs Open Space

Recommended by: Connor Bruson, Borealis Bikes employee

Length: Various

Level: Various

Good to know: Bruson points out that this city-owned area has trails that are "beginner and then expert — there's not really much in between."

Description: Wooded and sprinkled with rock formations, this area features some rocky, technical downhills and some wide, fast trails.

Why Bruson likes it: "I like that there's nobody there, and for me it's pretty new. I just discovered it within the last year ..."

Roundup Trail, Red Rock Canyon Open Space

Recommended by: Stephanie Ward, enduro racer and WMBA volunteer

Length: 1.3 miles

Level: Intermediate

Good to know: As Ward notes, "Definitely expect hikers because they love that trail — and dogs and deer and coyotes. Be aware, and don't let your speed get out of control."

Description: This trail in beautiful, city-owned Red Rock Canyon Open Space has great curves and some technical spots. It should keep you on your toes, so don't get distracted staring at all the orange rock formations. Once you finish the trail, it's easy to link to other trails in the park for a longer ride.

Why Ward likes it: "It's fun; its turny; it's technical. You can make it easy or make it difficult."

Section 16 Trail

Recommended by: Chris Wallin, co-owner of The Hub Bike Shop

Length: 2.2 miles (5.4 miles for the loop)

Level: Advanced

Good to know: Tricky in any weather, this descent can get nearly impossible when trail conditions are less than ideal.

Description: Most people ride Section 16 as a loop with the Palmer Trail. This area of wooded city property will challenge the best riders, with both a difficult climb and a treacherous, steep descent.

Why Wallin likes it: "I guess because it's hard ... it's definitely not for beginners."

Spruce Mountain Open Space, Palmer Lake

Recommended by: Ethan Blagg, employee at Café Velo

Length: Various

Level: Various

Good to know: You'll need to leave town to visit these two parks, which are near Larkspur in Douglas County. (See douglas.co.us for maps of the area.)

Description: If you want to leave the city behind, this is a great spot to seek out. Trails are open and rolling, and many accommodate cross as well as mountain bikes. There are nice views of the valley and rocky bluffs.

Why Blagg likes it: "I like the kind of endurance stuff. It's not very technical."

Templeton Trail, Palmer Park

Recommended by: Lindsey Watson, employee at SRAM, WMBA volunteer

Length: 3.8 miles

Level: Advanced

Good to know: Be ready to walk your bike through some sections of this difficult trail.

Description: The trail makes a large loop through city-owned Palmer Park. The majority of the trail has rock features, making for difficult, technical terrain.

Why Watson likes it: "That trail has a lot of technical aspects — both climbing and descending. It's not necessarily a downhill trail; it's got a little bit of everything."

Ute Valley Park

Recommended by: Casey Norton, employee at ProCycling Warehouse

Length: Various

Level: Various

Good to know: Ute has a lot of small loops, meaning you can ride for half an hour or all day.

Description: This open space on the northwest side has rock formations that may have you thinking of Utah. There are fun technical features, lots of fast ups and downs, rocky sections and steep climbs.

Why Norton likes it: "It's just kind of a nice off-the-radar [spot] ... I like that there's no real long climbs and no real long descents."

  • Local cycling luminaries name some off-road gems

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