- Cory Sutela
- Cory Sutela, president of Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates
Of course, the program doesn’t give you all the insider tips that are handy when exploring a new area’s trails. A lot of times, you’ll need a rider familiar with the area to guide you onto the best path, or perhaps the wisdom of the folks at a local bike shop. Another resource in Colorado Springs is Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates (medwheel.org), our chapter of the International Mountain Bicycling Association. The nonprofit advocates for trail access, and helps build and maintain quality trails for riders. We checked in with the group’s president, Cory Sutela, to get his tips on the best trails to ride, how to ride them safely and politely, and what new singletrack is coming our way in 2018.
Colorado Springs has an abundance of open space parks, and you’re likely to find trails at every level in most of them. (For tips on riding in different seasons check tinyurl.com/CS-seasonal.) But Sutela notes that beginners and intermediate riders will find lots of fine riding at Red Rock Canyon Open Space on the city’s Westside. Sutela explains that the master plan process for the city open space led to the creation of less technical, but still challenging trails. And, of course, the area is also beautiful.
“The geology is amazing there,” he says, “and you get up to some fantastic views of the city.” Red Rocks is a continuation of the Garden of the Gods red rock formation, so there’s plenty of gorgeous sights in the park as well.
Sutela notes that nearby, in Manitou Springs, Iron Mountain Trail is a great trail for beginners (who are willing to do some climbing). Start at the trailhead on Pawnee Avenue and climb to the top, then turn around and go back for a less technical ride. Those who don’t mind some tight switchbacks and a difficult set of stairs (that can be walked) may want to continue down the trail to where it ends in the Crystal Hills neighborhood. Cross the street, and you can ride into Red Rocks, or just head down Crystal Park Road into central Manitou Springs.
Intermediate riders are sure to enjoy Ute Valley Park on Colorado Springs’ northwest side, Sutela says. “It’s undulating with lots of power moves, power climbs and has a very secluded feeling,” he says, noting that’s unusual considering the park is in an urban area. And Ute is also a good choice because there are many A and B lines, meaning you can choose a technical line or avoid it. Ute will also be fun for those who enjoy the rocky terrain you might find in Fruita — even if the trails aren’t as extreme. And Sutela notes that the northeast side of the park hosts some new trail.
Advanced riders, meanwhile, will want to hit Upper Codell Trail in Red Rocks and the Palmer Trail-Section 16 loop, both on the city’s Westside. Jones Park (Forest Service Trail 667) is also a fun ride, though the trail isn’t the technical beast it was before a recent rebuild, and moto riders also use the path. Those looking for an unrelenting climb will also enjoy the Barr Trail on Pikes Peak to Heizer Trail. While there’s some hike-a-bike involved for most riders, the area is beautiful, and you’ll certainly earn your dinner.
Finally, Sutela says that Palmer Park Open Space in central Colorado Springs has a lot of advanced trails for the masochists among you.
Looking to get off the beaten path? Well, let’s start with the obvious: Avoid weekends. Colorado Springs is home to many weekend warriors, and getting out during normal working hours means you may get the trails to yourself (or at least more to yourself).
Sutela also points out that Pulpit Rock Park, Austin Bluffs Open Space, and the property around the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs has many unimproved trails that are a lot of fun and not heavily used.
A master plan for the area is in the works, but for now, these hidden gems on the north side of town offer a way to get away from the crowds.
Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Sutela notes, is also often uncrowded on weekdays. Meanwhile, Buckhorn Trail and Captain Jack’s in North Cheyenne Cañon — while a fantastic ride — are probably our most overused trails, especially since Captain’s is open to moto riders. North Cheyenne Cañon is undergoing a master planning process that promises new trail opportunities in the area, Sutela says, including some very technical routes. So keep that in mind for future riding.
- J. Adrian Stanley
- Iron Mountain offers a fun ride with great views for beginners.
Also coming in summer 2018 are downhill trails in Ute Valley Park, the first in the area to be professionally built, single direction, and for bikes only. While short, the trails will feature a 3,000- to 4,000-foot drop, he says.
Medicine Wheel is also working with county parks to build trails in Black Forest, north of town, and to build a kids’ skills park in the Hillside neighborhood east of downtown. Dates on those projects are less certain.
And here’s a big question mark as of this writing: A property near Blodgett Peak on the city’s northwest side could one day become a huge public bike park.
While there’s plenty of great riding to enjoy in the Pikes Peak region, Sutela says it’s important to exercise caution and courtesy. Know when it’s best to get off your bike and walk. Ride in control and yield to hikers, equestrians or riders traveling uphill.
And understand that not everyone follows the rules. There are people hiking with headphones on who won’t hear your bell (please use a bell) and many hikers don’t follow our leash law, so beware of loose pooches.
Also, be aware that ebikes are not allowed on singletrack.
Otherwise, have fun, and be nice to everyone. “We have good relations with other park users,” Sutela notes, “So help us maintain that.”