“A perimeter tour of the maze that is the West Magnolia trail system.”
— Michael Ahnemann
The West Magnolia trail system has always had a bit of a cult following. It's an area that is generally praised by those who know it well, and either hated or completely avoided by those who don't. The main reason for this is that it's a maze of short trails that dump out onto dirt roads or into campgrounds, they can flow well when pieced together correctly, but they can also leave even the most confident navigator completely turned around and frustrated.
This ride as mapped doesn't cover every trail in the area, but it gives a good suggested route around the area, and flows pretty well in the direction shown. Feel free to use this as a general guide, but go explore and find a route you like even better! If this guide helps riders avoid some frustration and find the joy that can be West Mag, it's done its job.
Need to Know
An important though unpleasant development for this area has been a major deforestation project that was completed in 2012. The forest service clearcut a large part of the area to remove dead trees killed by the pine beetle infestation that's plagued much of Colorado.
One of the things that's always made West Mag unique is that it was mostly in deep forest. Though some trails haven't changed, several old favorites are drastically different. Shade and a cool tacky trail surface are now traded for hot sun and dry, dusty trail. But the views are spectacular in places that used to be closed in.
Note: There are a bunch of designated first-come, first-served campsites all around this area, along Hwy 132 east of the trailhead.
Start at the trailhead that's right at the intersection of the Peak to Peak highway (Rte. 72) and Magnolia road. Some of the best riding, in my opinion, is just outside of the trailhead. Ride along Magnolia road for about 3/10 mile and look for trail 927 off to the left. That's your trail.
The first section cruises through dense forest constantly twisting back on itself as it navigates through the dense trees. It then opens up a bit, and advanced riders will enjoy some short rocky sections and 3 big technical moves over larger rock formations along the way. See the photos for examples.
You'll then join up with Hobbit 1, 2, and 3.
Hobbit 1 is one of the casualties of the deforestation. This one used to be a twisty turning roller coaster ride through dense trees. Now the trees are all gone, but the trail still follows the same constantly turning path back and forth. It's a shame because this was one of the most fun trails here, and now it's just a trail in the open with random switchbacks. But there are some little techy challenges, and over time, I'm sure these trails will be built into something interesting again.
Hobbit 2 continues from Hobbit 1, and winds around nicely with a nice flowy descent. It's generally intermediate, though some of the descent can get a bit fast and somewhat loose. For the most part, there's not much to worry about.
Hobbit 3 is also generally an intermediate trail, though it has one climb that is quite steep and somewhat loose. It's tough enough to challenge most riders with a high heart rate, although it's not particularly technically challenging.
Next you'll ride a short bit of dirt road and hookup with Lookout Trail. This one works well in either direction, and you could tack on an extra loop here if you combine it with 926F
. But for this ride, you'll climb up through the trees and pop out at the highpoint back into clearcut. The views are fantastic as you descend.
Next, pop out at Haul Rd. and consider your options for a moment. For a little extra riding and one of the best trails in the area, stay on Haul road until you see singletrack on your left. This is Sugar Magnolia - it's been recently redesigned and it's great fun, with plenty of fun technical moves and optional jumps, then a technical rock garden at the bottom. It's worth the out and back if you have the energy.
But for this ride, turn immediately right without going out to Haul Rd, and get onto a short section of 926F
, then take a left at the first junction which is the Observatory Trail. This one is short, but fun as it twists through green grass and aspens.
Ride another short bit of road, make a left on Haul road, then drop down to the right on the first singletrack you come to, Aspen Alley. Another unfortunate casualty of the clear cutting, aspen alley used to be a super narrow blast through tight aspen trees unlike any trail around. But the alley is now 100 feet wide and not nearly as interesting. The trail then climbs 100 feet over a short distance, with excellent views on the way up.
Turn left at the top of the climb and get ready for a fast, steep, loose descent back down to the trailhead.