PINE and BUFFALO CREEK — There’s something about asking a local. Whether it be skiing, snowboarding or mountain biking, getting tips from a local can turn the average day into something epic.
So when I met a local mountain biker near the Pike National Forest work station in Buffalo Creek, I hoped for a few pointers. I got about 30.
If you’re like me, always looking for new trails to pedal, there are seemingly endless possibilities around Pine and Buffalo Creek. For those living along the 285 corridor, Evergreen or along the Dakota Ridge Hogback, these are destination trails worth the short drive.
Chug up 285 to Pine Junction and take a left on County Road 126, driving down toward Pine and Buffalo Creek. The three trails I selected below give a nice mix of riding and should satisfy a variety of tastes and experience, while opening the door for more adventure.
The first two rides begin a few miles past Buffalo Creek. Up the big hill on the other side of town, there is a turnoff to your right with signs for parking and the Colorado Trail immediately on your right.
The last trail is closer. Just as you get to Pine there are brown signs pointing to your right toward Pine Valley Ranch open space.
Colorado Trail to Green Mountain Trail
Looking for an easy start with rolling terrain, a few technical spots and forgiving – albeit a tad long at times – climbs? I really enjoyed this ride, which comes in at a little less than 20 miles and takes you along the famous Colorado Trail, through the shade of the Pike National Forest.
This is a ride that should scare away only the timid. The ups and downs come in short bursts and the trail is mostly wide singletrack with few rocks and roots.
Riding out of the parking lot, you take the Colorado Trail as it meanders to the left. The forest, the rocks, the ruts and small pockets of sand will be your hosts for the entire ride.
When the forest opens you can catch great views of the surrounding mountains. The Colorado Trail descends and eventually is met by the Green Mountain Trail on your left. Skip this and continue down toward the Meadows campground, where you will again meet the start the Green Mountain Trail, again on your left, which you take and work your way back up to the previous junction before retracing your tracks back to the parking lot.
If you’re not sure about completing this ride, you’ll want to make your decision by the time that you reach the junction for the Shinglemill Trail. This is about the halfway mark and you’ve not descended enough to get in any trouble.
The downside to this ride is that you do spend the majority of your time on the same trail, just riding the other way. I love a trail that gives me new scenery and challenges the entire time, but those rides are luxuries.
I rarely ride on the weekends, but I’ve heard the Colorado Trail can become very crowded with bikers, hikers and horses.
I can’t tell you where the name for this ride came from, but when reading a map it’s the Colorado Trail, to Shinglemill Trail, to the Morrison Creek Trail, to Buffalo Creek Road and back on the lower half of the Shinglemill.
This is a great ride. Fabulous singletrack with plenty of the thrills – nice technical spots, intense downhill, sweeping vistas and nearly two miles of creekside doubletrack. At just under 14 miles, it’s not too laborious, although you can add some extras for more mileage (see below).
You get to ride between huge boulders and experience riding through extensive burn areas, which can make you feel a little conspicuous when a thunderstorm rolls your way.
You start the same as the previous ride, taking the Colorado Trail for an easy start before you pedal on the Shinglemill Trail. You cross Forest Road 550 and begin your descent toward the Morrison Creek junction. There are a few tricky spots, but things get even more interesting once you take the Morrison Creek Trail, as the sandy washes become more frequent and deeper.
You fly down this trail until you reach the doubletrack. Hang a right and look for the Shinglemill Trail on your right, which points you back home.
The lower part of the Shinglemill is a huge burn area with washes and a few mild switchbacks. If the skies are clear, this is a beautiful climb.
If you have the mind for exploring, when you hit Buffalo Creek Road you can turn left and head toward Baldy Trail. Baldy has an uninviting start, but it evolves into a great ride with a downhill finish along Sandy Wash Trail that will cure any ills. At the end of the Sandy Walsh, you would take Buffalo Creek Road to your right, back to Shinglemill for your return.
Buck Gulch Trail
Before I began this ride, I met a friendly park ranger. He reaffirmed my directions before laughing.
“Horrible,” he said of the coming ride. “I did it last year and I thought I was going to die.”
Just the kind of encouragement you want to hear. But fear not, it’s not that bad.
Buck Gulch is found inside Pine Valley Ranch open space and begins on the banks of the Platte River. It’s a classic loop trail measuring about 13 miles, with a very steep initial climb, a little slickrock, some great views – including large sections of burn areas – and only mild technical sections. If you don’t blink at the 1,200 feet of elevation gain in the first three miles, you will love this ride for its singletrack and bang-up finish.
By way of a map, you’re riding Buck Gulch, to a left on Skipper, to a right on Homestead, to a left on Charlie’s Cutoff, to a left on Homestead, straight to Skipper and right back to Buck Gulch. Sounds complicated, but it’s just a simple loop.
Again, riding to the higher elevations where there is ample burn area, you need to be cognizant of any storms rolling your way.
The only downside, again, are the regular spots of pea gravel. These washes can really sap your power on the climb and keep you on your toes coming back down.
Out of the Pine Valley Ranch parking lot, follow the Platte upstream until you come to a bridge. Cross over the river and ride straight to the Buck Gulch Trail and your ascent to Skipper Trail.
At your farthest point (Charlie’s Cutoff) you are not far from improvising, if you desire. There is Miller Gulch Trail nearby and you could try to connect with the trails that circle Redskin Mountain. You could even find your way back to the Colorado Trail and go just about anywhere.