Spring, summer, and fall are good times to mountain bike in Golden,. Summer can be baking hot, so ride early or late in the day. Spring and fall are susceptible to a snow dump, but that often dissipates quickly. Also expect big crowds in spring, as everyone is anxious to get out after hibernating all winter. And fat biking in snow is big in winter.
Although most of the mountain bike trails closest to Golden are relatively short, the foothills they follow rise abruptly from the flat plains, giving these rides some lung-busting kick. So if you're looking for quick rides that will work you hard, Golden may be your destination. Golden is also the Colorado mountain bike destination closest to the state's largest metro population, so it's great for people with limited time who don't want to drive too far from DIA. If you're in the Denver metro area on business, stay in Golden for a few extra days to sample some great Colorado mountain biking and an Old West vibe improbably close to a major city.
The foothills of Colorado's Front Range rise steeply from Golden's backyard, and you can ride to grinders such as Apex and Chimney Gulch (a.k.a "Chimpex" when combined as a loop) right from downtown. North and South Table mountain combine flat, flowing rides and gentle climbs, the former with a few lung-busters. Many other trails are within a 15-minute drive, with some hearty climbs (White Ranch, Deer Creek) and technical challenges. White Ranch is a favorite among masochistic locals who ride it from the lower parking lot for a butt-kicking climb.
Driving another 20 or so minutes gets you to at least a dozen more trail systems, including Elk Meadow (with its grind up Bergan Peak) and the sweetly mellow, beginner-friendly Flying J Ranch in the upstream towns of Evergreen and Conifer. For a little more solitude, intermediate to advanced mountain bikers can head to Golden Gate Canyon State Park, which is typically shunned due to the minimal entrance fee. Several trails (like Mountain Lion) provide climbs and technical thrills amidst a beautiful setting that is particularly gorgeous in the fall. Brand new Staunton State Park is great for those who prefer wider, smooth trails within fewer rocks.
The Colorado Trail is another epic, especially from Kenosha Pass, and is also within driving distance from Golden. Singletracks.com ranks the Colorado Trails as the #1 Best Mountain Bike Trail in the World! So don't miss it! And yes, that photo on their web page is taken from Kenosha. Packed during the fall for the changing colors, this trail is great any time of year. Do it as an out and back or take it all the way to Breckenridge!
If you're looking for some rider-built, mountain biker-only thrills, check out Golden's new Tony Grampsas Park. You'll find a downhill flow trail, bi-directional access trail, skills area, and beginner pump track. The gravity-fed flow park features rollers, berm turns, and table-top jumps that are suitable for beginners, and options for advanced riders to launch their bikes.
The Jefferson County parks site, Golden Parks and Open Space site, the COMBA site, and the Colorado State Parks site have everything you need to help make Golden a great mountain biking destination! And although we seldom do it as a matter of principal, if you're here in winter or looking for some close, easy rides, a short drive north on Highway 36 will take you to the Flatirons Vista and Marshall Mesa trails. But since you will have just barely crossed into Boulder County, you'll have to pay for the privilege if you're not a Boulder resident.
Many of the local trails are short, making them good for half-day rides (shared by many trail users). If you want something longer, head to Buffalo Creek, Kenosha Pass, or Golden Gate State Park. And although the area has its beauty, don't expect the scenic grandeur of Crested Butte,Nederland, or Durango. Golden and JCOS trailsare in the Front Range foothills, which are charming but not on par with the Continental Divide or Colorado's other famous mountain ranges.
The western edge of the Denver metropolis noses right up to Golden, which means JCOS trails get a lot of use. Expect to encounter mountain bikers, hikers, and equestrians. Trail user conflicts have intensified in recent years. As a result, JCOS has separated uses on certain trails by time or space, such as Apex, Centennial Cone, and Mount Falcon. Know the restrictions before you ride, the JCOS website has all the info. It is also imperative that you adopt proper trail etiquette. Don’t just slow down for other users; stop and let them pass. A smile and a friendly word won’t hurt, either. Your consideration of others will go a long way to creating a positive image of mountain biking in the minds of others.
Golden embraces outdoor pursuits wholeheartedly, including mountain biking. You’ll find plenty of like-minded souls riding the trails (yup, don’t expect solitude). Strike up a conversation and you’re bound to meet new friends – Coloradoans are quite amiable. Heck, you might even get invited on some rides. And if you’re in need of repairs or a rental, the Golden Bike Shop offers service and demo bikes, but they are closed on Saturday (no doubt so they can go ride!). Don’t worry, there are plenty of mountain bike shops in the nearby Denver ‘burbs if the need arises.
The Buffalo Creek area offers a staggering amount of trails that can be combined into seemingly endless loops. Most of these rides are non-technical and perfect for advanced beginner and intermediate riders. The Sandy Wash downhill is a rollercoaster thrill everyone should experience: fast, flowy, and deliciously long! At the complete opposite end of the spectrum, the area's new Black Jack trail gives technical riding a whole new meaning. If you like riding (crashing?) off crazy big drops, that's the trail for you. Our only gripe is that there's nothing in between these two extremes. However, new trails are opening, such as the delightful Little Scraggy, and more are in the works, much thanks to COMBA! With so many options, Buffalo Creek sees loads of riders during the shoulder seasons (spring and fall due to the heat). But don't despair if the parking lot is jammed! There are so many trail options, riders are easily dispersed among them.