White River National Forest


The White River National Forest is one of the wellsprings of modern mountain biking.

Near Aspen: Pearl Pass between Aspen and Crested Butte is one of the renowned trails of mountain biking history. While actually just outside the forest, Crested Butte is a renowned mecca for mountain bikers.

The Government Trail is on the top of everybody's list for good biking near Aspen. The trail ventures from Aspen to Snowmass. You should have your biking skills down to tackle the switchbacks near the beginning. Your reward? Pleasantly rolling terrain, scenery and glorious Rocky Mountain wildlife.

Government Trail is closed during elk rutting season, but all is not lost—far from it. Basalt Mountain Trail offers a satisfying jaunt through pine forest and meadow, with terrific views along the way. Kobey Park is another comfortable ride with a lot of twists for those who like to tackle curves. In fact, this old forest road zigs and zags so much it's sometimes called "Christmas Tree Road." If you want good views of peaks, and a thrilling single-track descent, go for the Sunnyside Trail.

Near Vail: The Two Elk National Recreation Trail offers another tingling single-track descent. This is the start of the Vail Pass to Redcliff bike route, which treats the rider to a view of Mount Holy Cross. Try the Red Sandstone to Piney Lake for happening views (this trail can be crowded).

If wildlife is your bag, Meadow Mountain delivers wildflowers, a beaver pond, and some rocking single track.

Summit County: Just over the pass from Denver, this is an immensely popular biking area, with a well-developed biking community. We strongly recommend picking up a copy of the Summit County Bike Trail Guide, available for free at any bike shop. The work of the Summit Tire Fat Tire Society, this is an excellent tip sheet to for terrific trails that are also kind to the land. Get it.

No discussion of biking in the White River National Forest would be complete without mentioning the Glenwood Canyon Trail. This is a 16-mile paved trail that follows the Colorado River through dramatic Glenwood Canyon. The canyon is seriously marred by I-70, which you'll also be following, but if you can, try to ignore the interstate and enjoy the canyon walls, the young Colorado River, and the whirl of anglers, kayakers, hikers, rollerbladers that you'll be encountering. Think of it as the Champs Elysees of outdoor recreation.

Hard to believe, the last forest plan in 1984 made scarcely a mention of biking. The sport was still in its toddlerhood, if not infancy, and it slipped through the radar screen of forest planners. Since then, mountain bikers have created many "desire trails" that may follow old mining or animal trails, but aren't official. Do the forest a favor and stick to the recognized routes. There are plenty of good ones.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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