Warm Days, Cool Nights, Hot Trails. Not so Wintery Winter Park.
Winter Park is a town located an hour and a half or 67 miles west of Denver. It’s an amalgamation of two towns with a history based on logging, ranching and a railway tunnel. Then in 1948 the city of Denver decided to open a ski Resort (Winter Park Resort) just south of the town that then became the City of Winter Park. Winter Park itself sits at 9000ft so people unaccustomed to this elevation would be wise to take their time to acclimatize and not exert too much.
Our friend Greg Mazu, a resident and professional trail builder, has been encouraging us to come and visit for quite some time. We’re glad we did! His company Singletrack Trails has been involved in many projects in this area and throughout North America building and maintaining trails and we found that he’s rightfully produ of the diversity and density of trails; many of which are accessible right from town with minimal or no driving..
For an overview map of the area check out the Chamber of Commerce link here. Mountainbiking opportunities are represented by two bike parks – Trestle Bike Park at Winter Park Resort and Granby Ranch . Also in this area are 600 miles of Cross Country trails in 4 areas – Elk Creek/Fraser West, Idlewild, Fraser Valley and Granby XC area. We spent four days in this area and could have easily spent more. All these trail networks are supported by private landowners, Grand County and the towns of Winter Park, Fraser, Tabernash and Granby. The only thing that might perhaps have been lacking in proximate access to high alpine epics (Winter Park is surrounded by Wilderness which in a quirk of US lawmaking is verboten for bike access).
In our opinion, Winter Park trails made up for lack of alpine epics by diversity of experiences by way of trails which required little to no driving to access. And for those of us coming from sea level, we can only get so epic.
Local Winter Park trails
We started exploring by riding from town on the area known as Tipperary Creek or Winter Park West Side. This area has civilized access via a nice grade of a climbing trail and a variety of both fast cruisy pedalling trails as well as some slow technical trails.
Joining us on this ride was Greg, our good friend Kevin from Grand Junction and Meara. Meara is with the Headwater Trail Alliance, a non profit advocacy group dedicated to trails in the Winter Park Area. She does everything from grant writing to chainsawing out dead fall so watch out for her energy! This organization helps maintain 300 miles of trails in the Grand County area through Adopt-A-Trail programs, funding via USDA/Forest Service, BLM, Town of Winter Park, Fraser, Grand Lake, Chamber of Commerce, Grants, other public sources as well as Private Donations. Also joining us was Keith Sanders who owns a local bike shop (more on that below) and who is President of the local IMBA representative in the Grand Valley (GMBA – Grand Mountain Bike Alliance) who also helps with trail advocacy and various trail days.
This area is pretty much a perfect way to get a feel for the area and see the diversity of terrain and trail choices particularly for sea-dwellers looking to acclimatize. There’s an interesting discussion in the TGR Forums about Biketown USA and Canada concerning the best cities to live in for MTB in North America. .I’d have to say that based on even this first taste of local trails Winter Park wins in terms of proximity; literally within 5 minutes pedal of town you are on a legitimate singletrack of a decent size. Winter Park also wins in terms of diversity. The trails were interesting. The tech trails in particular demanded concentration and attention albeit without having the are-you-going-to-tomahawk nature of our home North Shore/Whistler trails
Kevin, Meara, Sharon, Greg and Weston joined us on our ride. Greg is carrying Weston so he can save his paws on the slight downhill road cruise to dirt trailhead
The trails in the Winter Park Town area are well signed
Meara by an Headwater Trail Alliance Adopt-A-Trail sign in the Forest Service area
Some fun optional play stunts on this two way trail
Natural rock features on Akima’s way are probably left-overs from far gone glaciers. They’re incorporated into the trail as options
Most Colorado close-to-town trails are neutered of technical challenge so it was surprising for us when we got to LeapFrog. This is a former social trail ie an unsanctioned trail that got adopted into the system. Good to see the town allow some challenge in the bike trails.
Leap Frog trail
Then some fast swoopy trails on Take D’Leap with optional small hits and air
Winter Park Strip with snow blanketting the 13000ft peaks
Where to stay, where to eat and where to get bikes
During our four days we stayed at the Timber Run condos in the Vista Building. This was booked through Stay Winter Park. It was well stocked if you want to cook. Ours was an older one bedroom unit with minimal bike storage but with the ability to keep bikes on the balcony. It’s an out of the way complex so we felt like it wouldn’t be prey to much break and enters. Timber Run is about 1 mile from downtown Winterpark so it’s nice to have a car, but you could bike to two of the mountain bike areas from the town. Apparently in the winter season the Winter Park Resort Shuttle does run to this area but not so in the summer.
As we were travelling light we decided to eat out for breakfast and dinner. The options in town are plentiful! Our first day we ate at Carvers, a nice little place on the main strip. Breakfast was huge and tasty.
Apres-ride we ended up at Hideaway Park Brewery, which is at the cusp of very well-received trend of enthusiastic skilled small scale breweries. Conveniently located next to it is Fraser Valley Hot Dog – a perfect complement to beer.
Sharon, Kevin and Greg outside their natural habitat
Fraser Hot Dogs right outside the Hideaway Brewery FTW!
Where to get bikes
Beaver Sports Shop is the place to go to get quality bike rentals. For our trip I was on a Trek Remedy and Lee was on a Trek Fuel. Skyler and Keith set us up well and we had a great time on these exceptionally well-maintained bikes.
Keith (the shop owner and GMBA president, his son, and Skyler (the head mechanic)
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