Paper Trail

Published on: September 10th, 2009

Cooler temperatures, fewer thunderstorms and the brilliant burst of aspens make September the ideal month for mountain biking. Here are three rides that offer miles of fantastic scenery and the comforting crunch of fallen leaves.

Buffalo Creek
Along the second “leg” of the Colorado Trail is Buffalo Creek in Pike National Forest. This fast, intermediate single-track offers a startling contrast in terrain—a 1996 fire scorched 12,000 acres of the forested trail system giving some sections the appearance of a World War I battlefield. Ponderosa Pines burned to eerie blackened stumps, and among them, small groves of regenerated aspen stand like vibrant, multi-colored ghosts among the dead. The intersection of the Shinglemill and Morrison trails provides a panoramic view of this no-man’s land. Along the gently rolling Colorado Trail, thick pine forests give way to glowing aspen tunnels. Jump across FR 543 to hit the popular Sandy Wash, Gashouse and Baldy trails. From Denver, west on Hwy 285 to Pine Junction. Left on CR 126 to Buffalo Creek. Left on FR 543.

Centennial Cone
This 12-mile, 2.5 hour loop of rolling single-track is perfect when you want your fat tire fix but need to get back for kid duty by noon. Less than an hour from the North Metro area, the Cone’s combination of not-too-steep climbing and quick descending seems just about right. The tight switchbacks will challenge your skills on the up or downhill. Pockets of aspen dot the Travois Trail section along with some commanding views of the Front Range. Note: On the weekends, even days are for riders; hikers odd. If you want to end on a descent, go counter-clockwise. Hwy. 93 to Hwy. 6. Through the light at Hwy. 6 and 119 toward Black Hawk for a half mile. Right on Douglas Mountain Road then right on Centennial Cone Road to the trail head.

Kenosha Pass
Though the Kenosha Pass ride is thin on air—starting at 10,000 feet—it’s thick with aspen groves and impressive views of South Park. You can ride this part of the Colorado Trail out to Georgia Pass and back for 24 miles or as a point-to-point 32-miler ending in Breckenridge. Either way, the trail is challenging because of the steady climbing, altitude and high wind above tree line. For peak tree viewing, ride it on the second or third weekend. Also, be prepared for cold weather to roll in at any time. To get an early start, stay at Kenosha Pass campground next to the parking lot. Dress warmly as temperatures drop considerably at night. And bring plenty of food—the closest store is 10 miles away. From Denver C470, go 40 miles west on Hwy. 285. Parking is on the right at the pass, just off the highway.

[Gear]
+ Topeak One Up Bike Wall Mount

We know you don’t want to think about it, but cold weather is looming. At some point, you do need to hang up that bike. $40, blueskycycling.com

[Tips for Trail Riding]
+ Check the weather forecast.
+ Make a mental list of what to bring and check it off before you leave. Nothing like realizing you forgot your helmet when you’re at the trailhead.
+ Pack: Camelback, spare tube, pump, patch kit, multi-tool, tire levers, gels/bars, rain shell, map, Advil, phone and camera.
+ Tell or text someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
+ Take lots of pictures.

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