One local rider dispels a common myth—and divulges his favorite Estes area rides.
By Corey Keizer
I’ve loved two things consistently in my life: Estes Park and riding bikes.
My family has had property here for three generations, since the early 1900’s, and I’ve been spending long stretches of time here my whole life. The summers I spent here as a teenager shaped my love of the outdoors—and my reluctance to leave for any amount of time, no matter how short. The mountains and protected land that surround the town have always been my escape, whether I’m on foot or on two wheels.
Two wheels have always been my preferred method of transportation, though, and I’ve been racing bikes on and off for 25 years. Even during the times when road racing felt like work, getting on my mountain bike has always been about just pedaling outdoors somewhere and having fun. Let me tell you, there’s a lot of fun to be had around here.
Meanwhile, lots of riders on the Colorado’s Front Range will tell you there’s no mountain biking in Estes Park. That’s just flat wrong. From the YMCA Trails to Pole Hill, the brand new bike park in Stanley Park to the lesser-known trails I’m about to tell you about, there are lots of options. The trail systems I tend to ride are Hermit Park, Pierson Park, Homestead Meadows and Crosier Mountain.
Here’s what’s up with each of these areas:
Hermit Park is where I’ve been spending most of my time lately. Located just east of Estes Park off highway 36 these trails are brand new multi-use trails built with Mountain Biking in mind. The Limber Pine and Moose Meadows trails provide about 14 miles of out and back single track riding. Beautifully designed and well planned, the trails are approachable for riders of all levels and have challenging problems and “alt-Lines” for the more experienced mountain biker. Both trails are solidly “Blue” as there aren’t any long sections of extremely difficult problems or steep climbs and descents. Expect to see elk and deer in the late summer and fall as the trails are well shaded and stays cool during hot days. Parking in Hermit Park is $6.00 per day, and the riding there is absolutely worth every penny.
A beautiful area with rolling hills and mountain meadows. The area is dotted with a number of historic homestead cabins complete with mile markers and trail signs. You can connect to Homestead Meadows through Hermit Park via the Moose Meadows trail and an OHV road, or via Pierson Park (see below) if you’re looking for a big day on the bike. Be ready for a work out as there are steep grades you’ll have to climb to get there, and more once you’re in. Use the OHV roads and double track to access the numerous stretches of single track crisscrossing Homestead Meadows including the Brown Homestead trail, Lions Paw and the infamous Lions Gulch trail, which is a long challenging descent that drops you out on Highway 36.
Pierson is a collection of OHV roads, a purpose-built downhill line (AKA made for mountain biking) and challenging backcountry trails. You can access it by riding up Fish Creek Road to Little Valley Road. You’ll arrive at a gate that is meant to limit motor vehicle traffic with signage that shows allowable access, which includes bikes (Motorized vehicle access beyond this point is limited to property owners in the Pierson Park area). Cross the gate and continue the climb up the dirt road into Pierson Park. There are any number of un-marked trails that shoot off the main “Pierson Park Road,” and I find new ones each time I’m riding there. These are backcountry multi-use trails that are steep, chunky and highly technical. It’s easy to feel lost here so unless you’re familiar with the area I recommend riding with at least one other rider.
Pro tip: The ride I typically do there is a big, 3-5 hour adventure where I ride from town into Pierson Park as described above, and then connect some chunks of single track and double track that turns into the Lionshead descent; a magical, seemingly endless ribbon of twisting singletrack that drops you into Homestead Meadows. From there I ride through Homestead Meadows and connect with Hermit Park via the Moose Meadows trail, ride Limber Pine or the dirt road through the campgrounds and then ride home on highway 36. I can’t possibly describe with words how to find some of these trails, but you can poach my ride on Strava.com to find it.
Located in the hills between Devils Gulch Road and Highway 34, this system includes 15+ miles of extremely rugged, backcountry trails with multiple trailheads in Glenhaven, Drake. Crosier Mountain’s trails are by far the most rugged of the systems I ride in Estes Park but have the best pay out with its long sweeping descents. There are a number of ways to ride this trail system, and each one is equally difficult and rewarding so I’m not making any recommendations on how to attack it. These trails are all solid black and double black, so make sure to come prepared for a tough day on the bike. You can find Parking for Crosier Mountain here.
What I’ve covered, is just a taste of what Estes Park has to offer the knobby tire enthusiast. We’ll be bringing you regular dispatches from this relatively unknown and underutilized zone, including ride stories, trail maps, and detailed write-ups on these and other trails in Estes Park and neighboring towns. I hope to see you out on the trail, or maybe one of the great breweries or bars post-ride!
When Corey Keizer isn’t recruiting the best engineers in the world, he’s out getting lost in the woods in the northern end of Colorado’s front range. Corey’s been riding and racing bikes for over 25 years and has stayed connected to the bike industry through his work as a photographer and consultant while juggling day jobs in HR and Talent Acquisition. You can usually find him crashing his bike on a trail he helped build or at his desk drafting strongly worded e-mails. Find him on Instagram, Strava and Linkedin.