Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colorado Springs offers an entirely different style of riding when compared to the majority of the American Midwest. While fast flowing, shreddy dirt comprises most of the trails in Montana and Wyoming, almost all of the trails in Colorado Springs are formed from decomposed granite, or as I affectionately refer to it, ‘Kitty litter.’ The riding style in Colorado Springs is best described as loose, forcing even the most experienced rider to re-learn their bike and accordingly themselves behind the wheels. Beefier tires with big lugs that dig into the granite provide more traction and play to the rider’s advantage when going for speed.
The front range provides a really unique terrain for two-wheeled play in Colorado Springs, and so it follows that a lot of rides will feature a sustained and steep climb, leading to a sustained and steep descent. This kind of riding can exhaust bikers who are not used to this style, and justly, I recommend dipping your feet in before embarking on some 20 plus mile long mega ride in this area.
I personally had to learn to start braking for corners the moment they became apparent, since most trails are steep, exposed, and, on tight corners, you run the risk of sending it over the side of the mountain. This was a pretty dramatic change for me, having come from South Dakota, where almost all of the riding is exclusively tacky dirt.
But don't let this freak you out! The trails there are every bit as fun as they are pucker-worthy! And a good pair of knee and elbow pads can eliminate a lot of fear, as I learned the hard (and scarred up) way.
As you read, you will uncover the fact that there is actually quite a wide variety of trail types in Colorado Springs. Fast & flowy trails for the speed demon. Chunky & technical trails for the challenge lover. Bermy & lined with pumps & jumps for those riders who gush over well-built trail. No matter who you are or what kind of riding you love, you’re sure to find something ShredWorthy in Colorado Springs.
North Cheyenne Cañon
A huge trail system with over 50 miles of trail, loose and flowy terrain, and days worth of exploring to be had.
Perhaps Colorado Springs’ most classic and noteworthy trail is Captain Jack’s. This 3-mile long, down-hill only trail is chock full of fun little technical sections, just hard enough to make you think, but do-able enough that the average rider should be able to ride the whole thing. The local way to ride the Capt’n is by parking at the Trail Head and riding the road up to the road split/upper parking lot for approx 2.5 miles. For a bigger, much more demanding ride, I often will ride the Spring Creek Trail to upper Columbine to get to Jack’s, adding approximately 3 tough miles to my loop. These trails are incredibly well built and offer a lot of amazing views, but the granite on the Columbine trail is ultra-loose and the exposure is made very evident on this side of the mountain. This option offers a much shorter uphill road ride (0.6 miles) to connect to Jack’s. From here, Gold Camp road is closed off to cars, and offers a wide area of double track open to hikers and bikers alike. This 1.5 mile stretch will lead you to the start of the Buckhorn climb. This trail is perhaps my favorite climb in town. This trail boast a pretty sustained grade, and features a fair amount of well-spaced techy root sections and tight switchbacks. It’s definitely a challenge, but the feeling after conquering this heart-pumping 1-mile section of trail is exhilarating (not to mention the awesome downhilling it sets you up for)!
A rocky, fun, technical playground for MTBers with over 20 miles of trail.
Palmer Park - Nestled right in the middle of town, Palmer Park offers perhaps the most technical and easily accessible riding that Colorado Springs has to offer. Classic trails include Kinnickinnick and Palmer Point (both blue trails). For the shredders who like a real challenge, Templeton Gap is a great trail to go put the try-hard face on as it abounds with places to stop and session hard lines. While nothing in Palmer Park can be considered easy, the difficulty is somewhat heightened by the inter-woven trail system that scatters throughout the park. For as small of a park as it is, the builders sure squeezed a lot of trail in there. My best recommendation is to ride around the park and get lost. Enjoy the varied landscape, the rocky, techy lines, and make sure your phone is fully charged for when you become ready to weave yourself out of the park (thank you Trailforks!). If you set out with the intention of getting yourself lost, you just might end up finding some magic.
United States Air Force Academy
A few miles north of town, the USAFA boasts an incredibly flowy, fast rolling 13-mile loop called the Falcon Trail. This is perhaps my favorite ride in the Springs. There are a few technical chunky sections, that, if gone wrong, could easily rip off a derailleur or send you over the bars. BUT, if walked, they’re over in a few moments and you’re none the worse for. The vast majority of this trail is intuitive, and flowy and downright fun. This trail is a must-do while visiting the Springs with a mountain bike, and clockwise is definitely the preferred direction.
Where to eat:
Dos Santos is a Denver based taco joint that recently opened a restaurant here in Colorado Springs. While their menu is not incredibly varied, they offer the best damn tacos that I have ever had the pleasure of eating. I can highly recommend ordering at least one of their beer battered Mahi tacos with a side order of Mexican street corn. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
For a relaxing date night, or simply for a full meal on a ravished stomach, 503W offers, in my opinion, the best bang for your buck. Their portion sizes are pretty decent on the Bangkok Belly or the Food Truck Satay. I usually order the Lucky Belly Sliders, a pork & bao bun combination that is just too well done for me to stray far from that menu option.
Thai Mint is the go-to place in town for a pretty unbeatable Massaman Curry. That’s enough on that topic. You’ll thank me later.
Where to camp:
Camping is free for up to 14 days anywhere in Pike’s National Forest. I recommend going up to the Rampart Reservoir area, setting up camp there & riding that trail. Is there really a better way to camp than a few minutes ride away from singletrack? While it’s a significant ways away from the majority of the riding in Colorado Springs, it is the closest established campground to town and the views are certainly worth the drive.