[Charlie] “Babe, should I bring my camera? I’m not going to bring it, I don’t need it…do I?” This is a typical conversation I have with Malorie (and myself) before we mountain bike now. Malorie’s buddy Marco and I are grabbing the last few things we need before I take him on a grand tour of the Colorado Springs’ best single track. Marco is adding water to his backpack and I’m debating whether or not I should carry my Sony camera with 3 lenses or go light and scout the trip for future photos. I opt to go light, I’m sure we’ll just be riding and I won’t have time for photos. The photos below are from my iPhone. We load the bikes and gear in the truck and head out for the Pikes Peak Highway.
Mal’s been sick all week and she’s letting Marco ride her bike so he doesn’t have to rent. We wait for our friends Natalia and Manuel to meet us at the entrance of Pikes Peak Highway and then we depart. The trailhead for the beginning of our tour is called Elk Park and it sits just below 12,000 feet. Above tree line, we find an open spot on the side of the road and we unload all of our bikes. We have a total of 7 riders and our two drivers patiently wait while we gather ourselves, our gear, and prep for our long day of riding ahead. Patches of snow are intermittent on the mountain but we’re optimistic and descend down the road to the trail head. Spirits are high and smiles are wide.
We hit the trail and it’s beautiful. It’s flowy and fast and a combination of beautiful front range single track and high alpine views. The weather is perfect and our ride is off to an incredible start…for 500 feet. We hit our first snowbank 2 minutes into the ride and we immediately realized that this was going to be a type 2 sort of ride. The patches of snow are deep enough that you have to throw your bike over your shoulder and hike through the snowbanks. This is already a daunting task but hiking over and through snow with flat bottomed shoes makes it even more challenging. Despite the lack of initial riding, we all smile and enjoy the adventure we’ve plunged into. Who would’ve thought that we’d be hiking our bikes through waist deep snow in June? We pass a couple of girls who were trail running and they give us great news, “it gets even gnarlier further down.” Obviously we’re stoked to hear that the snow gets worse and we slowly push on.
Once we drop into the tree line, we realize what the girls we passed were talking about. The mixture of high elevation and shade from the trees has left a steady trail of 3 to 4 foot deep snow. We push on and accept the terms of our ride. It’s been about an hour and we’ve only traveled 2.5 miles. The riding further down the trail will make up for the misery of hiking our bikes through the snow.
The first descents on the trail are technical and rowdy but everyone loves it and we’re relieved to be out of the snow. The ride has become an actual ride now and the lack of traffic on Elk Park has left the trail in supreme condition. No blown out corners and no braided cheater lines, just tacky single track with fun, rocky downhills. We were treated to some creek crossings and eventually rode to the friendly and cozy Barr Camp.
Barr Trail is the main hiking route up the 14,110′ Pikes Peak and Barr Camp is the halfway point. Barr trail was built between 1914 and 1918 by Fred Barr. The trail served as a route for burro rides to the top of Pikes Peak and in 1924 Barr camp was built as an overnight stop for those burro rides on their way up to the summit. Now the route is primarily used by hikers from all over the world looking to summit one of Colorado’s most notorious 14ers. Sometimes you’ll catch some hooligans on mountain bikes utilizing the trail as well.
After a quick stop at Barr Camp to munch on energy gels and granola, we had a hiker snap our picture and we pushed down the mountain towards the recently finished Lake Moraine Trail, formerly known as the Missing Link Trail.
We bombed down Barr Trail and found our turn off for Lake Moraine Trail. Ease of access is always nice for a trail but sometimes remoteness of a trail adds to the quality of it. When people can’t park their truck and immediately ride out onto the trail, especially in the front range, it keeps traffic low and trail quality high. Lake Moraine is an example of this. The trail was in prime condition. No ruts, no shitty corners, no trash, just superb trail and stunning scenery in a seldom traveled portion of Pikes Peak. We ripped down the initial descent, crossed the now defunct Cog Railway, and began our climb out of the trail. After crossing one of the forest service roads, I decided to stop and take a break and wait for the rest of the crew. I also figured it’d be a good time to piss since I’d been holding it in from the beginning of our ride. The problem with using the bathroom while wearing a bib is that I had to take my shirt off (now I look like an incredibly pale Big Show), drop my hip pack, unbutton my shorts, and slip the shoulder straps down along my side just so I can piss. It’s an incredibly vulnerable position, even when you’re alone in the “remote” Pikes Peak wilderness. Not to mention it’s a lengthy process. Luckily I’ve put enough distance between myself and the rest of the riders that I can comfortably urinate in peace.
After the climb out of Lake Moraine/Missing Link, we’re rewarded with Trail 667, otherwise known as New Jones. While the trail is a little loose from dirt bike travel, the overall ride down is fast and rowdy. We pass a couple of dirt bikers and hikers and continue our ride down into the depths of North Cheyenne Cañon. I’ve ridden the bottom of this trail before, but never the upper portions and oh my, I’m in love. The single track is narrow, exposure is substantial, the views are epic and the speed is fast. I’m a dog chasing a trash truck and I’m experiencing pure bliss. My peripheral is blurred, my eyes are watering and I’m 99% sure I’m drooling on myself but holy shit I’m in heaven. The Jones descent ended pretty quickly and we proceeded on to the Kineo Mountain Trail which is just more of Trail 667. The 667 flow continued and the trail leads us through some beautiful aspen groves before dumping us back into the loose, exposed descents that had become home throughout this ride. The end of Kineo Mountain Trail spit us out at the top of Buckhorn, which is the climb that leads to the top of Captain Jacks. Jacks is a Colorado Springs icon in the mountain biking community and I was excited to show Mal’s friend, Marco, a piece of the Springs’ mountain biking culture. We ripped down Jacks and slowly rolled up to the parking lot on Gold Camp road. I looked back and watched as Marco came up behind me, nodding his slightly-too-large full face helmet in approval and excitement. He was sold.
We took off down the dirt road towards the end of our ride. Rudy’s BBQ was our designated meet-up spot and cool beverages awaited us. But first, more single track. Natalia lead us down Stephanie’s trail which has a pretty good rock garden. Marco cleared it first time and we descended to Bear Creek road. From there we climbed up Stephanie’s to Gold Camp road where Natalia left us for Rudy’s and I tortured Marco with a little bit more climbing. We ascended up to the Section 16 trail where we caught the Garbage Chute Trail and rode our tired asses into Red Rocks. Marco was awe struck when we came in sight of the notorious red rocks of…Red Rocks Open Space with the famous Garden of the Gods glowing in the distance. We stopped for a quick panorama and pushed on, riding the incredibly fun Killing Field Trail followed by the Rim Cutoff Trail. We rode out of Red Rocks and limped into Rudy’s BBQ a couple hundred feet down the road. The temperature at the beginning of our ride flirted with 60 degrees. It was now approaching 90 degrees and we were dehydrated, albeit dehydrated and proud. Marco had just come from South America (he’d been traveling for the past 3 months) and had recently gotten over a bad case of food poisoning. He rode the 28 miles like a champ, despite some comical crashes towards the start.
The night ended with showers, lots of water, and some of Malorie’s dad’s famous burgers which are beef mixed with chorizo, stuffed with pepper jack cheese and topped with pepper jack cheese. The man is a saint and an incredible host and we couldn’t have asked for a better ending to the day. If you’re interested in the ride described in this post, here is the trailforks link!