Sanders: Take a ride on Elk Creek Loop
August is here. You’ve been riding throughout the summer. Maybe you’ve ridden most of the trails as you establish your “local” status or you could be visiting for a few days and are anxiously anticipating taking some amazing rides that I often get to do on a daily basis. In either case we are so fortunate to be able to enjoy the amazing trails we have here in Winter Park AKA Mountain Bike Capital USA!
My last few articles have been on different rides. I’m going to keep that theme but this time it’s time to get out those climbing legs as this ride has a touch of elevation to be gained.
Our goal is the Elk Creek Loop. This trail sits high above the Elk Creek area. My route to get there will include singletrack, a touch of road and some two track. This ride is moderate in skill but you do need to have some fairly good fitness to do the entire ride. One thing that is great about our trails is the ability to cut almost any ride short due to the way the trails interconnect with forest service roads.
Start your ride
I like to start out in the Town of Winter Park due to the trail access being so close to town. Begin your ride at Hideway Park next to the Winter Park & Fraser Chamber building. Head west through the light, past McDonalds and then left on Lions Gate Drive. Turn right on Vasquez Road and ride this until the pavement turns to dirt. Ride on the dirt for about 200 yards then turn right on Sunset Pink. Continue on Sunset Pink, it will merge with D3 continue climbing. D3 merges with D4. Turn right on D4, yep that’s still up. Turn right again on WTB. WTB is a great singletrack that was rerouted a few years ago with the help of the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). Look for the rock features on the trail if you are up to trying out some of your technical skills. After a short descent, you climb WTB. This is your most technical climb of the day due to the heavy erosion on the trail. A short descent and you are now on D2. Descend D2, it’s fast and fun but do pay attention, as ruts from rain can be very deep. You will climb a bit up D2 to the Elk Creek Road. Turn left on the Elk Creek Road, cross USFS 159 and begin the main climb of the day the Elk Creek Loop.
You will start out fairly easy but be sure to save your legs, as it is a fairly long climb. Go past the Upper Elk Creek turn (it’s actually lower but named before the Elk Creek Loop was established). Continue climbing, you will see Winter Park Resort to the south, the Continental Divide to the east and glimpses of the valley that seems far below. The two-track turns into purpose built trail near the top. You enter a high alpine forest and soon you are at the top of the climb. Prepare for a fun and long descent. Swooping trails may distract you from the scenery; take a few moments to enjoy the environment that you worked so hard to reach. You will reach an intersection as the trail merges with the Upper Elk Creek Loop. Stay left and you will roll to the top of the “Hump”. Continue descending and, yes, you still have a ways to go. After a bit of a technical descent you reach the Upper Elk Creek road. Have fun on the road but pay attention as this seemingly easy road has claimed many a victim. Cross USFS 159 and descend Sunken Bridge. Sunken Bridge will end at the Elk Creek Road. Turn right, then left on D2 (you were here earlier). Descend D2 and turn left on Elk Meadows. One last singletrack smile inducing trail and you are back on the Elk Creek Road. Turn right on the Elk Creek Road and roll back into Fraser. At the traffic light you will pick up the Winter Park/Fraser trail that will take you back to the town of Winter Park. Give yourself some high fives as you just completed a hard ride!
Grand Mountain Bike Alliance is having its monthly meeting 6:30 p.m., Tuesday August at the Headwaters Trails Alliance offices in Fraser. This meeting we will be discussing the review of Twisted Ankle, options for adding trail difficulty in places, the Phases trail system and our Tuesday Night Trail work as well as other topics. We hope to see you there. The more people that are involved the better our trail system can be.
Beavers Sports Shop does a weekly group mountain bike ride every Friday at 6 p.m. from Beavers Sports Shop at the Best Western Hotel in downtown Winter Park. The ride is open to anyone of intermediate ability and above. The pace and type of trails are determined by the group. Come join us! Call 970-726-5988 for more info.
Looking for more information or want to get involved as a mountain biker? Like Grand Mountain Bike Alliance (GMBA) on Facebook. GMBA is your local mountain bike group. Check out Mountainbikecapitalusa.com. Great site by the Winter Park Chamber!
Keith Sanders is the President of the Grand Mountain Bike Alliance, 3x US National Mountain Bike Champion and owner of Beavers Sports Shop. You can reach me at email@example.com.
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Winter Park Resort announced an adjustment to the reservation system for pass holders that will allow guests to ski after 2 p.m.