Dogs allowed on leash.
Walker Ranch is one of the rides that every Boulder-based mountain biker has ridden. It's a great ride for someone visiting, offering fun singletrack and great scenery. And it's located up Flagstaff road, which is worth the drive on its own!
This is a fairly challenging ride despite its somewhat short distance. There's a mix of fast flowy singletrack, technical rocky sections, and even a somewhat difficult hike-a-bike down steep steps to a creek.
Need To Know
Nobody seems to agree which direction is best. I prefer counter-clockwise as mapped, but others are adamant that clockwise is best. And another option is to ride one direction until you reach the hike-a-bike, then retrace your steps and ride the other direction to the hike-a-bike. This allows you to skip the steep walk with your bike, and makes for a longer ride.
A third option is to start at the other parking spot northeast of the main lot (see map) and ride counter-clockwise, out to the hike-a-bike and back. That other lot is a bit harder to get to though by car.
(Note: another Boulder rite of passage is to ride "Super Walker" which involves riding up the paved Flagstaff climb you'd otherwise drive up to reach the trailhead. It's a few thousand feet of elevation gain and definitely not for everyone!)
Riding counter-clockwise as mapped, you'll start out with a nice fast descent for quite a while. The trail is fairly wide for most of this descent, and it's tempting to really fly, but keep an eye out - there are many dry sandy spots along the way, and some short rocky sections that pop up quickly.
Once the descent is finished, you'll cruise along the creek for a bit on a nice flat cruise. But that doesn't last long before you find yourself climbing steeply again. The climb is all rideable, but sections are quite steep, and you'll be on the point of your saddle trying to keep traction. There are also a couple of more technical rocky sections that add a nice challenge for some, or a short walk for others.
Keep climbing your way up until you hit a couple of switchbacks, then emerge near Gross Damn road. This is a nice spot for a quick rest, as you take in nice views from the only open part of the trail. Keep riding along, and you'll twist along the hillside trending downhill.
Eventually, you'll dive back into the woods. Enjoy a fun flowy descent for a while here. There are some switchbacks, but the surface is mostly tacky dirt. Plenty of traction so you can let it fly here. Just watch out for folks coming up - the ones who prefer the clockwise direction!
Things will get a bit more technical with a couple of very steep sections down sandy rock - rideable, but you might be behind your saddle for a few feet here and there.
You'll then come to the hike-a-bike section. It's a set of stairs leading down a couple hundred feet to the creek. It's rocky and steep here - definitely not rideable unless you have some serious trials riding skills. And it can even be a bit tough to keep your footing. Not the most fun part of the ride. But when you reach the creek, there are some great spots to soak in if you need to be refreshed by the COLD water.
From here, climb up a loose two track for a bit, then take a left to get on the last bit of singletrack. In this direction, the singletrack flows a bit over mostly flat terrain, then climbs very steeply on tight switchbacks which are another fun challenge for some, or a walk for others.
Finally, you'll pop out of the trees for another 1/2 mile of mostly downhill singletrack over some technical rocky features to get back to where you started.