|Mountain Biking in Buena Vista|
|Articles - BV Outdoors|
by: Mark WolffSomeone recently asked me what I liked most about living in Buena Vista. Of course, the first words to roll from my tongue were, "The mountain biking." I knew from the first time I scrambled to the top of the Whipple Trail and turned right onto the old railroad grade that I had discovered a very special place. But it wasn't simply the combination of the expansive views of the Sawatch Fourteeners, the powerful river ripping below the trail, the deep blue skies, or the friendly greetings I exchanged on my way to the top. There was something else, an intangible quality that everyone who lives and recreates in this very special place knows.
Sitting here now, I still can't articulate just exactly what it is that makes Buena Vista such a remarkable place. It's just a feeling that swells within me when I'm here, a feeling that returns every time I make the drop into the Valley from US 24/285. As soon as I get a glimpse of Mt. Princeton on the horizon, I feel it. It beckons, welcomes me with open arms. It makes me feel great calling it home.
From the perspective of an off road cyclist, the greatest aspect of living here is the effortless access to so much remarkable, varied terrain. From rugged pinon desert to classic Colorado pine and aspen forests to high alpine terrain, most of it can all be accessed from my front door without having to load any bikes onto a car. All I have to do is pedal.
The first place to explore is the Fourmile Recreation Area. This vast playground east of town is packed with a wide variety of riding options. You have the choice of riding jeep tracks, shared multi-use OHV trails, or single-tracks open only to non-motorized users. Several popular trails, including the Midland Railroad Grade, the Gentleman's Loop, and the Shields Gulch Loop, share a common trailhead at the footbridge at the River Park at the east end of Main Street.
To better appreciate the grand scale of the Fourmile Recreation Area, however, I suggest sampling some of the lesser known rides in the northern reaches of the area. The ultimate test piece is the Davis Meadow Trail, a relatively little-known stretch of single-track nestled behind the prominent granite wall of the Davis Face. Providing both stiff aerobic and technical challenges, this trail will give you something rave about as you share post ride beers with your riding buddies.
For a less technical yet equally aerobically stimulating outing, try climbing Fourmile Road (CR 375) to the intersection of FSR 377. From there, continue climbing on FSR 377 until you reach the saddle of the ridge and the spectacular overlook of Buena Vista on the other side.
More information on the Fourmile Recreation Area can be found here. (http://www.garna.org/friends-of-fourmile.htm)
The scenic River Road (CR 371) provides place to spin your wheels at a relaxed, carefree pace along the banks of the Arkansas River. Rambling for approximately 9 miles north of town, this is one to ride with the family while taking the time to absorb your surroundings. In addition to coursing through four old rail tunnels, the unpaved road passes several popular rock climbing areas and gives you intimate spectator views of the area's considerable recreational opportunities.
If classic, forested Colorado single-track is what you seek, perhaps the best ride in Buena Vista is the segment of the Colorado Trail between the Young Life Frontier Ranch and the South Cottonwood Trailhead. Along this line, you'll surf the eastern flanks of Mount Princeton on a spectacular rollercoaster line that twists in and out of dense stands of aspen and pine. Hot springs resorts close to each trailhead provide you with the best way to unwind and prepare yourself for your next outing.
For an exhilarating challenge, expert riders may want to try pedaling up the Mount Princeton Road to its end in Bristlecone Park (12,100'). The extreme gain in altitude and the lightening-fast descent make this a challenge for experienced riders. Those with legs of steel may want to throw in a hike to the summit (14,197') along the way.
For a beautiful change of pace, a quick twenty-minute drive north will take you to Twin Lakes. There you will find the Interlaken Loop, a trail that circumnavigates the lakes along spectacular, primarily moderate single-track. En route, you'll enter the historic Interlaken Restoration Project. Widely considered one of Colorado's best historic sites, the only way to reach this once exclusive resort is via the trail or by boat. In addition to the Interlaken Loop, segments of the Colorado Trail extending north and south of the lakes provide miles of pristine single-track open to bicycles.
Mark Wolff is the author of Arkansas Valley Mountain Biking and works as a bicycle mechanic at The Trailhead (http://www.thetrailheadco.com) in Buena Vista.
Photos courtesy of Mark Wolff
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