9 places near Denver to learn the sport

Mountain biking is often described as a sport for thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies who throw themselves down breathtaking slopes where danger lurks around every corner. The Front Range has plenty of trails to satisfy those appetites.

But many mountain bikers aren’t driven to test themselves on the Apex Trail at Lookout Mountain, for example, or at White Ranch Park in the foothills west of Arvada, both of which climb hundreds of feet over rocky terrain. and where downhill accidents can be severely punished. . Some just prefer enjoyable off-road riding, while others may be looking for good places to learn essential skills before testing themselves in more daunting terrain.

The Front Range has plenty too.

Golden’s Jay Bolllinger is an avid mountain biker who used many of these gentler trails to introduce his 13-year-old son, Isaac, to the sport. Now, Isaac is an avid mountain biker who can’t wait to race in high school, and his 8-year-old brother, Sam, is also joining Dad on the trails. Bollinger helped us compile a list of comfortable trails for beginners and those who just want to ride without getting scared.

Mountain biking is my passion and something I’ve really enjoyed for the past twenty years,” Bollinger said. “These trails are where I can share that love with my boys. If you can do the things you love with the people you love, that’s the best.

Natalie Raborn, an Evergreen-based mountain bike coach, also helped out. She is the Race Director of the Beti Bike Bash, a Team Evergreen race aimed at introducing more women to the sport in a welcoming, non-intimidating setting. This event is held annually in October at Lakewood’s Bear Creek Lake Park, which, according to Bollinger and Raborn, is ideal for beginners and people who prefer not to be afraid on the bike. There are a few fun climbs, but nothing too difficult.

“There are no rocky features or intimidating drops,” Raborn said. “It’s beautiful, but it’s still challenging enough that you feel like you’re riding a mountain bike, not just riding on a dirt road. You have pretty good visibility there so you don’t have to worry about coming around the corner and running into another biker or hiker. You can’t really get lost, which is sometimes a fear for a beginner, and there is cell phone service. There are all those things that you don’t think are a big deal, but they kind of are when you’re a beginner.

Bear Creek Lake Park is also a beautiful natural setting and, after all, it is one of the main attractions of mountain biking over road cycling. It brings you closer to nature.

“Colorado has so many forests and open spaces where you can disconnect from society a little more,” Raborn said. “You’re really out in nature, so you’re more likely to see animals and ride near waterways. You can connect more with the outside. It adds more of a challenge, mental and physical, because you’re not just propelling a machine forward. It provides a full body workout, so you condition your core and upper body more than you typically would on a road bike.

Here are some other non-intimidating mountain biking destinations in or near the foothills to consider:

Table Mountain South Park: There are several starting points to climb this mesa in Golden. The easiest ways are on the south side of the mesa from Quaker Street, Golden Hills Road, or Camp George West Park. All three routes offer moderate climbs of around a few hundred feet to the top of the mesa, where there are miles of relatively flat trails with great views, especially on the east and west edges of the mesa.

South Valley Park: It’s one of Bollinger’s favorites among the easiest mountain biking destinations in the Front Range, in part because of the beautiful rock formations there. It is located just west of the hogback, south of Ken Caryl and north of Deer Creek Canyon Road.

Green Mountain (Hayden Park): Located on the west side of Lakewood, there are some good beginner trails around the perimeter of the mountain, best accessed from a trailhead on Rooney Road. The trails to the top are not technical but require 800 feet of climbing to reach the top. There are other trailheads located along the Alameda Parkway.

Marshal Mesa: Located south of Boulder, just east of Colorado 93, there is good driving on the mesa, and the trails there connect to a trail system with easy driving across Highway 93 which includes Community Ditch and Doudy Draw. Another option: From Marshall Mesa, head south via the Greenbelt Plateau and across Route 93 to Flatirons Vista.

Anya Semenoff, Denver Post file

Alderfer/Three Sisters Park near Evergreen has a nice network of trails for kids, beginner mountain bikers and people who prefer to avoid steep descents.

Alderfer/Three Sisters Park: This park near Evergreen has a good variety of mostly flat trails and great scenery. “There are some technical spots that would be bike rides (places where the rider briefly gets off the bike), but you don’t have the classic Front Range thousand-foot climb and get off,” Bollinger said. “It’s more of a network of trails that you can explore.”

Hildebrand Ranch Park: Both Bollinger and Raborn recommended this park, which is near South Valley Ranch but is located on the east side of the hogback near Chatfield Reservoir.

Elk Meadow Park: Located just south of Bergen Park and north of Evergreen, there are some good trails here for beginners. Just leave the Bergen Peak trail (which climbs 1,700 feet in less than 3 miles) to the experts.

Flying J Ranch Park: Located near Conifer, Raborn suggested this one as a good place to get out of town and ride. “Not heavily trafficked by bikers,” Raborn said, “but very beginner-friendly.”

Final remarks: Beginner mountain bikers should educate themselves on trail etiquette. Courtesy and communication are important, especially on single track trails, but there is an accepted hierarchy when riders approach each other. Mountain bikers are expected to yield to all other users – hikers, runners and riders – and when two mountain bikers approach, downhill cyclists must yield to uphill cyclists.

There’s another important rule: “It’s never okay to go off the track,” Raborn said. “If you can’t pass another rider while both of you stay on the track, one or both of you must stop.”

Bear Creek Lake Park has mostly flat trails and the descents are generally gentle with no technical challenges.

Helen H. Richardson, Denver Post file

Bear Creek Lake Park has mostly flat trails and the descents are generally gentle with no technical challenges.

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