The Best Mountain Bike Towns in Colorado

July 06, 2017

  • by
  • Drew Zieff

When those in the know make lists of the best places to mountain bike in the United States, Colorado towns always earn at least a couple spots. Anyone who has cranked through the Centennial State knows that to do otherwise would be the equivalent of mountain bike blasphemy. But what are the best towns for mountain bikers in Colorado? It’s a difficult question, as there are seemingly endless hotbeds for bikers in the steep and spectacular Rocky Mountains. 

The following four towns are—in our eyes—surefire destinations for two-wheeled wanderers. Whether you’ve lived in Colorado for years or are planning your first visit, we suggest keeping these mountain bike havens on your radar.

To be considered one of the best mountain bike towns in Colorado, we took a few things into account: 

•Proximity to Trails
•Trail Quantity and Quality
•Town Vibes
•Camping Options

We also analyzed sites like singletracks.com and MTBproject.com, who have avid mountain bikers ride, rate, and rank individual trails, in order to make our top picks. Of course, this list could easily be expanded upon, but if anything, the difficulty of picking four favorites is a testament to the abundance of solid riding in this state of ours. Here is Active Junky’s list of the four best mountain bike towns in Colorado.

Crested Butte

Crested Butte holds noteworthy status in the hallowed halls of mountain bike history. While adventurous tinkerers in Marin County, California were crafting a new sport from scratch, so too were a crew of bike builders in Crested Butte. Today, the surrounding trail networks—as well as a town character that’s arguably unparalleled by any town in Colorado—make Crested Butte one of the best places to bike in the United States. 

Highlights

•A historic mountain biking town with unbelievable trails minutes from town

•High-alpine rides through fields of seasonal wildflowers, banking trails through dense aspen forests and even desert-style stone and sand in nearby Hartman Rocks

•Downhill trails criss-cross the Evolution Bike Park at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, and they can be accessed both by human-powered purists for free, and dedicated downhillers via chairlift for a price

The Best Trails

A definitive Crested Butte classic that makes the quads burn and the jaw drop, 401 Trail Loop is a high-alpine treasure trove of banking berms, speedy descents through corridors of wind-rippled wildflowers, and some of the best views you’ll find in Colorado. It’s not particularly technical, but falling isn’t an option as you traverse diagonally down the steep middle section.

While not the highest rated ride in Crested Butte and the surrounding area, Snodgrass-Lupine-Lower Loop Combo is a fun ride because you can tackle it right from Elk Ave (Crested Butte’s main street), and it gives you a taste for the variety of riding the valley offers. 

Camping & Dining

There are several pay campgrounds in the area, as well as dispersed camping options off Kebler Pass, Slate River, and East River. Check out Travel Crested Butte’s guide to camping in the area. Another stellar choice for riders looking for free camping and excellent trails is Hartman Rocks, which is technically located in Gunnison before you arrive in Crested Butte. 

The Secret Stash Pizza is a perpetual favorite of locals and visitors alike. Don't be surprised if you have to wait an hour to get a table on a hopping summer night—but trust us, it’s worth the wait. 

Fruita 


Drew Zieff

While Fruita may come in a little short on the “town vibe” category, it’s lacking nothing when it comes to the caliber of its high desert trails. For mountain bikers who don’t want to venture all the way to Moab—or who are simply overwhelmed by the motorized masses that flock to Utah’s constantly plundered, not-so-secret treasure—Fruita is a closer, often less-crowded option that supplies a similar type of riding. When Fruita’s trails turn tacky after a light summer rain shower, you’re hard-pressed to find better riding in the state.

Highlights

•The start of the famed Kokopelli trail

•Desert-style riding that’s not as mobbed as Moab

•A balanced mix of technical classics and scenic intermediate trails

The Best Trails

The Kokopelli Trail is a gorgeous and long loop ride that has more than its fair share of canyon vistas, flowy singletrack, and technical rock features.

Also check out the Zippity Loop, an 18 Road classic. The entirety of the 18 Road trail system is worth checking out, but 8.5-mile Zippity Loop is especially beloved by the MTB Project community. 

Looking to go a little longer? This one isn’t solely a “Colorado trail,” as the infamous Kokopelli Trail starts in Fruita and ends 140 miles later in Moab. A challenging desert odyssey that should only be attempted in May or October due to desert temperatures, snow, and water availability, the Kokopelli demands to be taken seriously. Read about the Active Junky team bikepacking the Kokopelli Trail.

Camping & Dining

There are tons of camping options on BLM land in Fruita, so don’t feel obligated to pay for a campsite. Try your luck at 18 Road or Rabbit Valley.

The Hot Tomato loves bikers, and bikers love the Hot Tomato. Drop by for a mouthwatering pizza after a day on 18 Road or the Kokopelli Loop in this bike-inspired bistro. Rather than a no shoes, no shirt, no service type of establishment, Hot Tomato is more muddy bike shoes, dirty jersey, good service.

Winter Park

One of our favorite Colorado ski resorts, Winter Park turns into a mountain biker’s dreamland come summer—in fact, they’ve boldly claimed the moniker “Mountain Bike Capital USA.” You may have heard about the famed gravity tracks at Trestle Bike Park, but that’s not the sole reason Winter Park makes the list: there are also miles upon miles of cross-country trails that make this a must-visit town for mountain bikers. 

Highlights

•Trestle Bike Park is often considered the best bike park in the nation

•If downhill’s not your speed, there are plenty of cross-country trails snaking through the valley

•Ample camping options and a close proximity to the Front Range make this a great choice for a spontaneous weekend trip

The Best Trails

For the cross-country rider, the 20-mile intermediate Fraser Loop gives plenty of bang for your buck, with highlights being the flow of the Givelo, Chainsaw, and Flume segments.

Downhill, anyone? Trestle Bike Park is no joke. While there are beginner trails that first-time downhillers can enjoy, there are also plenty of drops and features that will make an expert think twice—or even three times. 

Camping & Dining

Try Vasquez Ridge. Just make sure to pack out your trash and to practice leave no trace principles, as Vasquez can see a ton of traffic due to its proximity to town. 

Idlewild Spirits Distillery pairs an extensive offering of cocktails with a small but delectable menu of tapas—perfect for the hungry (and thirsty) mountain biker.

Salida

The lauded Monarch Crest IMBA Epic Trail is reason enough to put Salida on your mountain bike bucket list. But forget about Monarch Crest, forget about Salida’s additional trails—ranging from lengthy traverses across the Methodist Mountains to quick, adrenaline-pumping spins just outside of town—and the town itself is enough of a reason to stay and play: Salida’s a sweet home base for any outdoor lover thanks to a surprisingly charming downtown, plenty of camping options, and endless recreation available on the mighty Arkansas River.

Highlights

•Monarch Crest is a test-piece for Colorado riders and one of the state’s finest sections of singletrack

•A welcoming and fun downtown

•Non-stop views of fourteeners, whether you’re out for a ride or grabbing a brew in town

Monarch Crest Trail

You’re going to want to shuttle this one—otherwise you’re looking at biking up Monarch Pass, which will leave you absolutely bedraggled and in no shape to take on the 35-mile certified epic Monarch Crest Trail. One of Colorado’s most celebrated rides, this behemoth starts at nearly 12,000 feet and gives riders over 6,000 feet of vertical nirvana. Extreme weather, remote trail sections, and gnarly terrain shouldn’t dissuade you if you’re an intermediate rider, so long as you have excellent fitness and top-notch decision-making skills—a good ride to take on with a buddy or two.

Camping & Dining

O’Haver Lake Campground is a favorite, and there’s also dispersed camping right off Poncha Springs Pass if some of the campgrounds closer to town are too crowded. 

Moonlight Pizza is a must in downtown Salida. Their craft beers aren’t too shabby (the Moonlight Cream is cheap and sessionable), and their pizzas are the absolute truth. 

Additional Resources for the Colorado-Bound Mountain Biker

Singletracks' ranking of the best trails in Colorado

MTB Project’s fantastic trail directory

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