Mountain biking in Steamboat Springs

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of August 15-21, 1996
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Mountain biking in Steamboat Springs
Question: I will be in Steamboat Springs in August. What are some good mountain biking trails in the area? And what about fly-fishing?

Charles Mahoney
San Francisco, CA
[email protected]

Hit the heights near Steamboat,
but get acclimated first.

Adventure Adviser: Well, Chuck, in the fat-tire department, I'd start out with a 15-mile loop ride on the Wyoming Trail, located about 15 miles northeast of town along the Continental Divide. Starting at Buffalo Pass near 10,300-foot Summit Lake Campground, you'll pedal uphill along Forest Service Road 310 to a left-hand turn onto the Wyoming Trail. It's another 5.5 miles of rolling singletrack--plus a couple of rocky climbs--to the junction with Trail 1102. Turn right here and enjoy a mile downhill run to Long Lake, where you'll pick up a four-wheel-drive road northwest to Fish Creek Reservoir. The parking area is a five-mile spin from here on FS 310. You'll be at roughly 10,000 feet for most of the ride, so it's a good idea to spend a day or so acclimating to the altitude before attempting this moderately challenging, not-very-technically-demanding ride.

For an upgrade, you can't do much better than the out-and-back ride from Rabbit Ears Pass to Long Lake. Despite the innocuous-sounding name, this is an epic, 20-plus-mile singletrack grunt over water crossings, footbridges, and exposed tree roots. Riders in the superhuman category nix the out-and-back element and instead attempt the nothing-short-of-gnarly ride from the Fish Creek Falls junction to the eponymous falls--a feat that entails carrying your bike over a boulder-strewn, three-plus-mile descent. Warning: This section requires finely tuned technical skills, quads of steel, and a whole mess of mental stamina--not to mention a shuttle car at the Fish Creek end, just outside of town.

Either way, you won't be disappointed by the scenery: The first nine miles to Long Lake will take you through wildflower-studded meadows and past subalpine lakes. Start the ride on Base Camp Road (FS 311), a forest service road that you can pick up at Dumont Lake Campground, about 25 miles southeast of Steamboat on U.S. 40. From there, pedal about four and a half miles to a right-branching singletrack (FS 1102 or the Base Camp Trail). Take this about three miles to Round Lake, where you'll pick up the Fish Creek Trail along the north shore of Long Lake to the junction with Fish Creek Falls trail. Here's where you'll turn around and retrace your route or, if you're feeling especially ambitious (read: gonzo), you'll brave the descent into town.

For additional ride ideas and trail maps, stop by Sore Saddle Cyclery (970-879-1675) in bustling downtown Steamboat, call the Routt National Forest rangers at 970-879-1722, or pick up a copy of Linda Gong and Greg Bromka's The Mountain Biker's Guide to Colorado (Falcon Press, $14.95).

To feed your fly-fishing habit, try the Elk and Yampa rivers or rainbow-stocked Dumont and Steamboat lakes. Fishing licenses, local know-how, and equipment rental can be found at Straightline (970-879-7568).

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