For anyone living in or nearby Golden, the town serves as a gateway to some of the best mountain biking in the area. With trails that are perfect for beginners and advanced riders alike, there’s something for everyone to enjoy and test their skills on.
Whether you’re just getting started with mountain biking or are looking for a break from rockier, rowdier trails, North and South table mountain are great options. Both sit on the east side of town and feature mellow singletrack and doubletrack trails. If you’re looking for early/late season riding, these trails are also a good choice due to their exposure and tendency to dry out fairly quickly. That being said, keep an eye on conditions because these trails do not handle water very well and can get very slick.
North Table Mountain
With views of the Coors brewery and the front range, North Table mountain rewards beginner riders with an amazing look at the area around Golden, sustained climbs, and fun descents on smoother singletrack. As your skills increase there are even technical sections you can test yourself on.
To start, ride the North Table loop. This trail is accessible from the main parking lot on 93, or there is alternative parking on Wyoming Circle, in the residential area on the south side. This loop is best ridden counter clockwise. Be warned – there is a steep fireroad climb to start. But, after this you’ll be rewarded with flowing trails and gentler climbs.
South Table Mountain
If you’re up for a bit more exploring, head to South Table Mountain. While there is no clearly defined loop like there is on North Table, there are still plenty of trails to be linked together. You can mix and match these trails to come up with your own routes.
Access to South Table Mountain is mostly through residential areas with no defined trailhead. There’s a small parking area on Golden Hills road that lets you access the trail from the south.
Now that you’ve gotten your bearings and tested your skills on some easier trails, it’s time to step it up. Fortunately for you Colorado can offer just what you need. Add in some more rocks, make the trail a little steeper, and maybe sprinkle a little exposure on the side. This next group of trails is the perfect way to sharpen your climbing and descending technique.
The trails at Mt. Falcon can be leg and lung busters that test your willingness to keep going. Don’t let that scare you away though! Throughout the 7.9 mile Castle Trail there are places to recover and look at your surroundings every once in awhile. In between all of that you’ll discover technical rock climbs, steep singletrack, and tight turns along the way. None of this is impossible though – it’s a great trail to keep coming back to to see how you’ve been progressing.
At the top there’s a small hut with a park bench to take a break. If you take a seat you can look down the trail for uninhibited views of Denver off in the distance. If you keep following the trail up you’ll eventually end at the Walker Castle Ruins. This short lived home of John Walker burned down in 1918, only a few years after it was finished and offers a look back in time to the early days of Colorado.
When you’ve recovered from the climb, point the wheels back down the mountain and hang on! Castle Trail can be fast, but if you’d rather cruise it down to the bottom, it’s enjoyable at any pace. We will say, the faster you go the smoother the rocks feel since you can skim over the top of them.
Located just off of the I-70 exit for Morrison, Matthew Winters has a combination of single track and rocky, technical trails. From the main parking lot you’ll head out on a bikes only trail. This winds up a short climb, then levels out at the top before rejoining the hikers trail. From there, you ride a connector to the next fork in the trail. Go left and stay low, with rocks to navigate throughout the trail. Go right, and you’ll start climbing. Both of these trails eventually re-connect, it just depends on how much of a challenge you want that day.
On the other side of the climb, the trail eventually dumps you out into Red Rocks park. While you can’t roll into the amphitheatre and catch a show, if no one is playing that night you can head in and have a seat and experience the grandeur that is Red Rocks.
Lair o’ the Bear
This is one of my favorite trails within the Golden and Morrison area. While it isn’t overly technical, it has something for everyone and I like to use the ‘F’ word when describing it – Flowy.
Lair o’ the Bear can be treated as an out and back or as a larger loop that is connected with Mt. Falcon. If it’s an after work ride I’ll do the out and back so you can treat yourself to the descent back to the parking lot.
When you start, you’ll roll along Bear Creek for a few minutes. At the end, you’ll come to a hairpin turn which proceeds to take you up a nice steep pitch. After that, you’ll climb for a bit, covering technical rock features, switchbacks, and mellow steady hills. All in, heading out this direction is about 6 miles with an elevation gain just under 1,000 feet. In the middle of that, about 3-4 miles in, there are some descents so it’s not all climbing.
When you hit the end you can turn it back to ride back to your car or you can hit a few back roads and descend Mt. Falcon. When making this decision, remember that the Mt. Falcon descent is rocky and the Lair o’ the Bear decent is flowy. Choose wisely!
After getting some rides in and practicing your turns, drops, and proper braking technique (no skids!), it’s time to step it up and test yourself. This next set of trails will do just that. Don’t be alarmed though – while some locals absolutely rip these trails, their just as fun at any pace.
Apex trail is the epitome of front range riding. It’s fast, it’s rocky, and at speed can feel like you’re riding the edge. If you’re a fan of Yeti Cycles like I am, it’s also one of their popular lunch ride routes. So if you’re there on a weekday afternoon you just might be lucky enough to catch the boys in turquoise.
One of our favorite routes starts with the climb up Argos. It’s mellow and has plenty of switchbacks to tame the hill. From there, you’ll pop onto Pick-n-Sledge which you’ll ride for about a mile. At the end, you’ll swing a left and descend Sluicebox before climbing up Hardscrabble and eventually Apex. At the end of all this there is a small clearing where you can take a break – if you need it. After that, the fun begins!
Head onto Enchanted and make sure your brakes work. On this trail you can really open it up and let your bike roll. There are berms, jumps, roots, and all sorts of features you can play around on. And while Enchanted is a riot, it’s just a warm up for what you’ll find on Apex.
If Enchanted tests your brakes, Apex will put your suspension through the ringer. Rocks galore keep your squishy bits in constant motion. That being said, it’s the kind of trail you can pump and unweight your bike to help smooth things out. All else fails, when in doubt, air it out.
One quick note before you head out – on odd days bikes are only allowed one direction, uphill. So to enjoy all that Apex is, go out on an even day.
Another Golden classic, White Ranch will get you in shape – quick. From the parking lot you’ll head up Belcher Hill. The difficulty of this trail stays true to its name. While it’s most definitely not a hill, I’d recommend not eating too much before riding it, otherwise you will be belching. In the 3 mile climb you’ll gain about 1,400 feet in elevation.
But, the juice is absolutely worth the squeeze. One of my favorite loops is Belcher, to Maverick, to Longhorn. At some point up Belcher you’ll see a trail off to the right called Maverick. Drop into this for a quick descent with some fun corners and features. Maverick then eventually connects to Longhorn.
Before you head down Longhorn, know this – it is fast and rocky (like everything else out here), but turns it up to 11. At no point on this trail can you look at the pretty foliage or say hello to the deer staring at you wide-eyed. It requires full focus until the bottom.
With the disclaimer out of the way, go for it. There’s no other trail in the area that gives you the kind of rush Longhorn provides. Many a times will your bike disappear beneath you off of a drop and the rocks and roots will kick you around. Ride it enough times though and you’ll figure out how to tame it. Find the right lines and you can wait to brake just a little longer or carry a bit more speed over the rock gardens. At the bottom you’ll find that your suspension has used all of it’s travel and you’ll probably need to shake your hands out. You’ll also want to head straight back up to the top and do it again.
If you’re in Golden and you look West, you’ll see Lookout Mountain. It’s hard to miss with it’s giant M on the side and line of cars cruising up to the top for views. Lucky for us mountain bikers though you don’t have to deal with the traffic. You can hit the dirt and ride up the side of it!
Chimney Gulch isn’t overly technical, but some sections are fairly steep. So steep that if you stand up and get your weight in the wrong spot your rear tire is going for a spin.
It’s also an out and back, so while on the way up you might be cursing and suffering, you can at least revel in the fact that you get to ride back down the same route.
Just like with most front range trails Chimney Gulch can get pretty packed with hikers and other riders. If you want to ride it, try and get out early or wait until later in the day. I’ve always had luck starting around 6 am or getting the wheels on the dirt by 5 or 6 in the evening. Granted, those were weekdays. Weekends you’ll probably just want to go somewhere else.
Tips for Mountain Biking in Golden
Before heading out on your Golden mountain bike adventure, here are a few final tips –
- Wear a helmet. This should be obvious, but keep yourself safe! You’ll be riding on technical terrain and through trees at speed.
- Pack plenty of water. Most trailheads don’t have water sources, so you’ll want to take your own to keep yourself hydrated.
- Yield to other trail users. Most, if not all, of these trails are multi-use which means you’ll come across other bikers, hikers, and even horse back riders. All uphill users have the right of way, but use your judgement at other times. Be sure to say hello, too!