Elevate your mountain bike experience in Winter Park, CO

Over 600 miles of mountain bike trails? I just didn’t believe Winter Park — a ski mountain just over an hour from Denver — could really have amassed this much mileage.

So I went to investigate and, well … got my socks knocked off.

Photo: Courtesy of Winter Park & Fraser Chamber

Photo: Courtesy of Winter Park & Fraser Chamber

It all makes sense now that I see it on the map, which includes inset after inset for one of the most diverse riding areas I’ve sampled in my lifetime.

Winter Park, which has trademarked itself Mountain Bike Capital USA, has done a very clever thing.

Photo: Courtesy of Winter Park & Fraser Chamber

Photo: Courtesy of Winter Park & Fraser Chamber

Engulfed by Arapaho National Forest, the town has partnered with the adjacent communities of Fraser and Granby Ranch, to connect existing cross-country and hiking trails, expand from-town lunch loops, tie up loose ends between seemingly disconnected trailheads and even pull in two downhill bike parks and relationships with iconic ranches to make one big playground.

It couldn’t be a more ideal place for a group of riders with various interests and talents. Send your experienced downhill buddies to Trestle Bike Park right at Winter Park ski resort.

Bike park two is past Fraser at Granby Ranch, a ski, golf and new-home community, which has staged its own lines for those who feel the need for speed, as well as a recently expanded network of cross-country trails serving all ability levels.

Photo: Courtesy of Winter Park & Fraser Chamber

Photo: Courtesy of Winter Park & Fraser Chamber

For those who prefer the challenge and pace of cross-country riding—with some climbing, some natural obstacles and some earned credits for a screaming downhill — the options are endless.

You can ride right from town into the newly expanded Idlewild network, a matrix of moderate to steep loops that feel close in, yet far away. The day we went we just missed three moose on the trail.

Photo: Courtesy of Winter Park & Fraser Chamber

Photo: Courtesy of Winter Park & Fraser Chamber

On the other side of town are the equally close-in circlets off Vasquez Road and the Twin Bridges Trailhead around northwest Winter Park. Further out is the epic Tipperary Creek ride, west of Fraser, yet still just minutes from Winter Park.

If you tackle the whole thing it’s almost 30 miles with 4,386 feet of climbing — and that’s your day.

But really that’s just a warm-up of stuff to do on your bike in Winter Park.

Photo: Courtesy of Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa

Photo: Courtesy of Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa

You can ride paved paths in town and between towns to access short loops for morning or evening add-ons. You can drive to two local guest ranches for more: Snow Mountain Ranch, already a cross-country skiers haven, or Devil’s Thumb Ranch, a private facility with public access to about 10 miles of wild riding.

We hit the later with a staffed guide, a former racer, who whipped us into shape, then we soaked, massaged and drank in indulgent, sustainable style among Devil Thumb's unmatched fairyland of upscale refurbished barns.

Photo: Courtesy of Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa

Photo: Courtesy of Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa

Six hundred miles of trails could never fit into a 600-word post, but take my word for it. I left Winter Park feeling like over the course of three days that I had ridden only a tiny fraction of what was out there. In case you go to exploring, too, here some tips:

Get oriented: Head to the Visitors Center on Main Street in Winter Park to grab a map of resort, town, ranch and forest trails. Plus there's bound to be a staff biker in-house to deliver the low down on current trail conditions. Downhillers can get the dirt on park terrain right at the base of Winter Park or Granby Ranch ski areas.

Get food: There are a lot of restaurants here for one thin strip of downtown.

For breakfast, try Rise & Shine, where you can get real bagels, eggs or easy bakery items and decent coffee. A fish taco joint and deli are in the same central strip mall for quick post-ride lunches.

Worthy splurges for dinner include Deno's Mountain Bistro, a local favorite for consistent, flavorful dishes and drinks; Di Vinci for a modern take on European fare; or impeccable Heck's out at Devil's Thumb Ranch. For a group, head to Hernando's Pizza and always funky, The Foundry Cinema & Bowl.

Photo: Courtesy of Winter Park & Fraser Chamber

Photo: Courtesy of Winter Park & Fraser Chamber

Get creative: With so much to explore, mix up your riding itinerary with a little bit of everything. Plan a massive cross-country loop by connecting a few different areas back through town for grub, or consider a shuttle if you want to get way off the grid.

Plan a downhill session at sunset to experience the speed parks without crowds and with a nice mountain breeze, then stay at the base for drinks and apps. Summer is sweet here, but honestly my favorite time to ride in the Colorado high country is fall. The air is crisper, the aspens are on fire and the angle of the autumn light turns mountain biking into something magic.

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