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  1. #1
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    Denver visit in January - need ride advice

    Greetings all,

    Apologies if this is one of those "why didn't you do a search instead of ask" kind of threads. I have been browsing the Front Range forum for information, and have gotten some good starting info, but would to get more recommendations given the time of year and limitations of weather.

    I'll be in Denver (Centennial) on a biz trip and I've got three full days on my own time to mountain bike as much as possible. Arriving late Friday Jan 18 and can ride 19/20/21. I have a place to rent a bike lined up, although not sure if I'll go HT, FS or "snow bike". Depends on the weather conditions when I get there.

    Looking for the best places to ride in January that will give me:
    - maximum amount of riding without spending too much time driving.
    - widest variety of trail experiences I can find, given the limitation that it's January.
    - great views and scenery (I ride with both still and video cameras).
    - more miles on drier ground rather than fight to get a few miles on snow and ice.
    - group rides would be great, but I'm OK exploring on my own.
    - night rides OK too... I'm bringing lights.

    To give you an idea of my experience level: I live in Asheville, NC, on the edge of Bent Creek and Pisgah NF. I would describe myself as having Intermediate level skills (by Pisgah standards), with tons of endurance (have done Shenandoah 100, 6/12 hour and multiple all day adventure races). I like smooth fast and flowy maybe a bit more than technical. In short, XC/AM, but not so much DH; not afraid to climb. I'm originally from Ohio, riding in cold is not a problem.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    I'm guessing the search would have told you Buff Creek, bike depends on weather. FTW?
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  3. #3
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    Yup! ^^^^what he said!^^^
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  4. #4
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    ski?

    January is not the optimal time to ride in CO. Of course, Buff Creek might be ok when you get here. Do you ski?

  5. #5
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    More folks are riding snow bikes these days. You might need one at Buffalo Creek. You also might be interested in the TITS ride - Thursday nights I think near the city. They post often - like each week it seems.
    "Don't take life so serious, son . . . it ain't no how permanent." - Porky Pine

  6. #6
    endorphin junkie
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmy View Post
    January is not the optimal time to ride in CO. Of course, Buff Creek might be ok when you get here. Do you ski?
    Yeah, I know. I didn't get to choose my time of year to visit, since it's a business trip. So I gotta make the best of whatever Mother Nature gives me. I do ski, but in an Ohio/Indiana/North Carolina kinda way.

    In other words... not really.

    Would much rather ride than ski anyway. Sounds like Buff Creek is at the top of the list so far. That was one place mentioned by a friend of a friend here in NC. Here's his comment from Facebook:

    "Google the Jeffco open spaces site. The open spaces that I rode at or were recommended were:Alderfer/Three Sisters and Elk Meadow near Evergreen. White Ranch near Golden. There is Green Mountain and Dakota Ridge and Red Rocks near Morrison. Also about an hour from Denver is Buffalo Creek area."
    Another friend mentioned Salida, but he hasn't actually been there.
    "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by dobovedo View Post
    Yeah, I know. I didn't get to choose my time of year to visit, since it's a business trip. So I gotta make the best of whatever Mother Nature gives me. I do ski, but in an Ohio/Indiana/North Carolina kinda way.

    In other words... not really.

    Would much rather ride than ski anyway. Sounds like Buff Creek is at the top of the list so far. That was one place mentioned by a friend of a friend here in NC. Here's his comment from Facebook:

    Another friend mentioned Salida, but he hasn't actually been there.
    The wild card is: it's the dead of winter when you're coming. Any and all of the trails we've mentioned could be completely snowed under. If you were asking about a trip in June, all the trails would be fantastic.

    Did I mentioned it could be cold? Real cold. It's 21 degrees right now, up from a low of 4 at my place last night. Most trails are at even higher elevations and colder.

    Yes, there's always a chance we'll be in the middle of a "warm" spell, like 40s-50s and the trails will have dried out from the snow we just got, but just sayin' come here ready to visit brew pubs and such. And ski!
    Last edited by xcguy; 12-27-2012 at 11:05 AM.
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  8. #8
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    Closer to Denver at the lower elevation is the highest probability for trails clear enough to ride without a fat bike. Check out Green Mountain, Matthew Winters and Bear Creek Lake Park. You can combine them as one big loop if you want a long ride.

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  9. #9
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    I would definitely scratch salida off the list right away. It's around a 2 1/2 hour drive in the summer and 285 can get pretty darn icy. I am guessing the trails will be holding snow too but you never know.

    I think your best bet is a snowbike at buffalo creek.

    2nd best option is elk meadows/bergen peak/3 sisters and get a snowbike. Lots of people hike there so it might be better than other spots.

    Green Mountain will bore you to death but it is definitely a place to ride. It's the only local jeffco trail that you can ride at night. Unless you have ample room i would ditch the lights.

    Another option is pueblo. It's two hours from denver but lower in elevation and now that i think about it, probably your best bet for snow free riding.

    Shoot me a pm a few days before your arrival date and i can give you the lowdown on what to ride. If it's on the weekend I might be able to give you a tour as long as you bring the beer.

  10. #10
    endorphin junkie
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    Quote Originally Posted by cbrock450 View Post
    I would definitely scratch salida off the list right away. It's around a 2 1/2 hour drive in the summer and 285 can get pretty darn icy. I am guessing the trails will be holding snow too but you never know.

    I think your best bet is a snowbike at buffalo creek.

    2nd best option is elk meadows/bergen peak/3 sisters and get a snowbike. Lots of people hike there so it might be better than other spots.

    Green Mountain will bore you to death but it is definitely a place to ride. It's the only local jeffco trail that you can ride at night. Unless you have ample room i would ditch the lights.

    Another option is pueblo. It's two hours from denver but lower in elevation and now that i think about it, probably your best bet for snow free riding.

    Shoot me a pm a few days before your arrival date and i can give you the lowdown on what to ride. If it's on the weekend I might be able to give you a tour as long as you bring the beer.
    I'm definitely seeing recurring suggestions from various sources, and thanks for the evaluation of Green Mountain. I got that impression as well.

    I'm gonna go ahead and reserve a snow bike... that way I'll be sure to have one, but can switch to HT if it's unusually dry. The days I can ride are a Sat/Sun/Mon, so definitely open to guided tours and of course I'd bring the beer. I hear ya got a couple decent ones out there. (BTW, I just checked out the new Oskar Blues location in Brevard, NC yesterday. Awesome!)
    "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
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  11. #11
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    Checked the 10-day forecast and it's looking pretty sweet for next weekend. See attached. Of course the forecast can change drastically, so I"m not holding my breath.

    Based on the advice I've gotten here and elsewhere, I have a rental lined up for a snow-bike. I figure even if there's no snow and the trails are dry, at least I'll have something to ride. And I can probably change the rental last minute to a non-fatty.

    Here's my current plan for trails/breweries:
    Saturday - Pick up bike > AM Marshall Mesa/Doudy Draw > Lunch @ Avery > PM Walker Ranch > Sunset on Flagstaff Mtn > Dinner @ Twisted Pine
    Sunday - Buffalo Creek pretty much all day > Dinner @ Downtown Denver area pubs TBD
    Monday - AM Alderfer/3 Sisters and/or Bergen > "Lunch" @ Strange > PM Mathews Winters/Green Mountain (w/ lights) > drop off bike > Dinner @ Breckenridge

    Alternate plan: If I can pick up bike on Friday night and have more time Saturday morning, hit Heil Valley instead of MM/DD.

    This seems to group things together somewhat and gives me a variety of ride experiences (I think) and should hit some good scenic highlights/vistas. All subject to change of course, and I can add/drop trails as time allows.

    Anyone see any flaws in my plan?
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by dobovedo View Post
    Checked the 10-day forecast and it's looking pretty sweet for next weekend. See attached. Of course the forecast can change drastically, so I"m not holding my breath.

    Based on the advice I've gotten here and elsewhere, I have a rental lined up for a snow-bike. I figure even if there's no snow and the trails are dry, at least I'll have something to ride. And I can probably change the rental last minute to a non-fatty.

    Here's my current plan for trails/breweries:
    Saturday - Pick up bike > AM Marshall Mesa/Doudy Draw > Lunch @ Avery > PM Walker Ranch > Sunset on Flagstaff Mtn > Dinner @ Twisted Pine
    Sunday - Buffalo Creek pretty much all day > Dinner @ Downtown Denver area pubs TBD
    Monday - AM Alderfer/3 Sisters and/or Bergen > "Lunch" @ Strange > PM Mathews Winters/Green Mountain (w/ lights) > drop off bike > Dinner @ Breckenridge

    Alternate plan: If I can pick up bike on Friday night and have more time Saturday morning, hit Heil Valley instead of MM/DD.

    This seems to group things together somewhat and gives me a variety of ride experiences (I think) and should hit some good scenic highlights/vistas. All subject to change of course, and I can add/drop trails as time allows.

    Anyone see any flaws in my plan?
    Heading to Pueblo on Saturday, if you want to meet up and come your more then welcome to go.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by dobovedo View Post
    Checked the 10-day forecast and it's looking pretty sweet for next weekend. See attached. Of course the forecast can change drastically, so I"m not holding my breath.

    Based on the advice I've gotten here and elsewhere, I have a rental lined up for a snow-bike. I figure even if there's no snow and the trails are dry, at least I'll have something to ride. And I can probably change the rental last minute to a non-fatty.

    Here's my current plan for trails/breweries:
    Saturday - Pick up bike > AM Marshall Mesa/Doudy Draw > Lunch @ Avery > PM Walker Ranch > Sunset on Flagstaff Mtn > Dinner @ Twisted Pine
    Sunday - Buffalo Creek pretty much all day > Dinner @ Downtown Denver area pubs TBD
    Monday - AM Alderfer/3 Sisters and/or Bergen > "Lunch" @ Strange > PM Mathews Winters/Green Mountain (w/ lights) > drop off bike > Dinner @ Breckenridge

    Alternate plan: If I can pick up bike on Friday night and have more time Saturday morning, hit Heil Valley instead of MM/DD.

    This seems to group things together somewhat and gives me a variety of ride experiences (I think) and should hit some good scenic highlights/vistas. All subject to change of course, and I can add/drop trails as time allows.

    Anyone see any flaws in my plan?
    All the rides you've listed are good. Make sure you get to Walker as early as you can. It's not that epic a ride but it is steep and if you're having to deal with ice it could take forever.

    Remember Vine Street as a place to get great brews and food (17th and Vine, Denver).

    Going from Bergen back to Denver to go to Strange (yes, a great place but it's really a long drive from Bergen) to then go back up to Matthews/Winters, that's a lot of driving.
    A blind man searches in a dark room for a black hat that isn't there. Dashiell Hammett

  14. #14
    endorphin junkie
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    Quote Originally Posted by xcguy View Post
    All the rides you've listed are good. Make sure you get to Walker as early as you can. It's not that epic a ride but it is steep and if you're having to deal with ice it could take forever.

    Remember Vine Street as a place to get great brews and food (17th and Vine, Denver).

    Going from Bergen back to Denver to go to Strange (yes, a great place but it's really a long drive from Bergen) to then go back up to Matthews/Winters, that's a lot of driving.
    Thanks for the tips. Should I swap AM & PM on Sat. to do Walker first? The only reason I picked it the way I did was sunset @ Flagstaff, which isn't that big a priority. I'd rather optimize the riding.

    Vine Street is on my list to hit later in the week (the biz portion of my trip).

    Strange does involve a lot of driving, but I figure by then I'll need a break after 2 1/2 days of riding. And Mathews Winters is close to where I have to return the bike in Golden. If I'm short on time I can hit Golden City instead, and go to Strange later in the week.
    "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by dobovedo View Post
    Thanks for the tips. Should I swap AM & PM on Sat. to do Walker first? The only reason I picked it the way I did was sunset @ Flagstaff, which isn't that big a priority. I'd rather optimize the riding.

    Vine Street is on my list to hit later in the week (the biz portion of my trip).

    Strange does involve a lot of driving, but I figure by then I'll need a break after 2 1/2 days of riding. And Mathews Winters is close to where I have to return the bike in Golden. If I'm short on time I can hit Golden City instead, and go to Strange later in the week.
    Go hit Ironworks in Lakewood instead of all that driving. Or go hit up the new Cannonball Run brewery in Golden.

  16. #16
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    That's a big three days for someone out of state, especially with lunch @ brew pubs in between. Let us know how you do.
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  17. #17
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    I saw a couple of guys working on their bikes at around 9am one summer's morning on a neighbor's lawn. Was going to be 100 degrees later. They were from out of state, this was their one and only day for riding and told me their itinerary: (something like) Walker Ranch, then Heil, then Golden Gate State Park then finish up at Deer Creek Canon. All in one day. And it was 9am already and their bikes were in pieces on the grass.

    I said, good luck with that!
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  18. #18
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    Looks like a good itinerary, however personally I would make one small change. When you ride Matthew winters, I would definitely loop it up with Dakota Ridge rather than/in addition to green mountain. It's basically a short 10 minute climb up to a ridge, followed by some glorious rocky tech along the ridge. One of my favorite trails on the front range. Pm me if you want more info on how to loop it with MW, it's quite simple.

  19. #19
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    Not to be a buzz kill ! BUT, regardless of your age and fitness, not having ridden out here, your itinerary is rich. I hope you can do all you have planned but consider you may not be able to fit all these rides in. Besides drive time, riding out here is strenuous at best, riding in cold temperatures and very varied conditions this time of year ups the difficulty. See how you feel after the first ride or two and gage what you have left, ou might be surprised !

    I've heard Buffalo Creek has a lot of snow, a big day out there is, well, a big day. Heil, pretty demanding if you do all of it, add Hall for a good sized day. Walker could be treacherous if it's icy. Mathews/Dakota, short but demanding, most techy riding around here.

    If you do two Jeffco parks in a day, I'd say, that's a day ! Choose wisely and have a great time.

  20. #20
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    Idea: one ride, rest of day in a brew pub. Repeat as necessary. It is January after all.
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  21. #21
    endorphin junkie
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    Quote Originally Posted by danaco View Post
    Not to be a buzz kill ! BUT, regardless of your age and fitness, not having ridden out here, your itinerary is rich. I hope you can do all you have planned but consider you may not be able to fit all these rides in. Besides drive time, riding out here is strenuous at best, riding in cold temperatures and very varied conditions this time of year ups the difficulty. See how you feel after the first ride or two and gage what you have left, ou might be surprised !

    I've heard Buffalo Creek has a lot of snow, a big day out there is, well, a big day. Heil, pretty demanding if you do all of it, add Hall for a good sized day. Walker could be treacherous if it's icy. Mathews/Dakota, short but demanding, most techy riding around here.

    If you do two Jeffco parks in a day, I'd say, that's a day ! Choose wisely and have a great time.
    I'm picking this reply to quote in particular, but thanks to everyone who has provided feedback. This information is invaluable because I have two big unknowns:
    1 - Average Speed: I don't have any clue how fast I will ride these various trail systems, compared to what I ride here in WNC. What we have here is called "Pisgah Miles". A whole lotta steep, super hard techy miles of trails with lots of hike-a-bike, and tough trail conditions year round. We use a rule of thumb that Pisgah miles = 5 mph. Other areas, like Bent Creek in my backyard I'm more like 8-9 mph, even with a typical elevation gain of 150' per mile. Some trail systems around here are faster/smoother and it almost seems like road riding (which I also do a lot of as well).
    2 - Altitude: I don't know how this will affect me. Here at home I spend a fair amount of time at 3500-5000', which is close to the top end of what we have for mountain biking. I've also spent the past couple weekends on the Blue Ridge Parkway on my road bike, with lots of time between 4000-6000'. Even so, I'm expecting this to be a factor.

    Another big factor will be scenery. I may spend half my time stopping and taking pictures. LOL

    I have a feeling that most of you are correct, I've overestimated how much I can do. I'm fine with that. My approach is to over-plan and drop stuff if I run out of time or energy, rather than under-plan and waste time figuring out what to do or where to go next.

    Just about everything is expendable. If I'm having a blast out on the trails, I'll skip the brewpubs, grab a quick bite, and keep riding. If I'm spent or otherwise content with riding, I'll leave it to just one trail system and go drink some beer.

    Thanks also for the various tips about trail conditions and suggested options. I'm makin' notes and keeping an eye on your trail conditions thread. Everything here is flexible and I'll see what develops in the coming week.

    Cheers!
    "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
    T.S. Eliot

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by dobovedo View Post
    I'm picking this reply to quote in particular, but thanks to everyone who has provided feedback. This information is invaluable because I have two big unknowns:
    1 - Average Speed: I don't have any clue how fast I will ride these various trail systems, compared to what I ride here in WNC. What we have here is called "Pisgah Miles". A whole lotta steep, super hard techy miles of trails with lots of hike-a-bike, and tough trail conditions year round. We use a rule of thumb that Pisgah miles = 5 mph. Other areas, like Bent Creek in my backyard I'm more like 8-9 mph, even with a typical elevation gain of 150' per mile. Some trail systems around here are faster/smoother and it almost seems like road riding (which I also do a lot of as well).
    2 - Altitude: I don't know how this will affect me. Here at home I spend a fair amount of time at 3500-5000', which is close to the top end of what we have for mountain biking. I've also spent the past couple weekends on the Blue Ridge Parkway on my road bike, with lots of time between 4000-6000'. Even so, I'm expecting this to be a factor.

    Another big factor will be scenery. I may spend half my time stopping and taking pictures. LOL

    I have a feeling that most of you are correct, I've overestimated how much I can do. I'm fine with that. My approach is to over-plan and drop stuff if I run out of time or energy, rather than under-plan and waste time figuring out what to do or where to go next.

    Just about everything is expendable. If I'm having a blast out on the trails, I'll skip the brewpubs, grab a quick bite, and keep riding. If I'm spent or otherwise content with riding, I'll leave it to just one trail system and go drink some beer.

    Thanks also for the various tips about trail conditions and suggested options. I'm makin' notes and keeping an eye on your trail conditions thread. Everything here is flexible and I'll see what develops in the coming week.

    Cheers!
    If you ride Pisgah and bent creek you will be fine riding here except for maybe getting used to elevation but your not heading to the mountains so you should be fine, If you can do 25+ mile days in ashville you can do it here. Have a Blast
    Come back in the summer and its a whole new world with mountain resort riding add in some fruita and maybe curt gowdy and you might not ever go home.
    Last edited by richccc; 01-13-2013 at 06:58 AM.

  23. #23
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    Do your best to hook up with local riders (like through pms here), ride wherever they're riding. Like richccc says, there's a world of difference between mid-January and summer riding here. Save hitting all the epic spots for the right time of the year and this visit, just connect with locals and get a feel for the area. And the beer.
    A blind man searches in a dark room for a black hat that isn't there. Dashiell Hammett

  24. #24
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    If you are going to eat in Denver and like good beer. I would go to Falling Rock. Its were all the brewers go to drink beer during the GABF (Great American Beer Festival). They have an amazing beer selection and the staff actually have good beer knowledge. On the riding side in January I wouldn't even want to suggest anything because conditions can change so quickly. Maybe southern New Mexico??

  25. #25
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    I did not read through every post above^ but Green mtn can be turned into plenty of fun if you hit the right trails and add in Dakota if you want some tech. (btw -GM is Lakewood and not jeffco.) so you can ride there at night.

    Evergreen has some good trails that get lots of foot traffic therefore can be ridden on regular ol mountain bikes- weve been riding "all season" long for years on these bikes

    buff creek is great in the winter!
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