Excellent singletrack circumnavigating around a scenic reservoir in the Rampart Range of Colorado.”
— Kevin League
Some of the best singletrack in the Colorado Springs area: the Rampart Reservoir Trail is a local warm season favorite for riders of all abilities. It features mostly smooth sections of trail with periodic obstacles, winding through unique rock formations, a variety of wildflower filled meadows and a portion of recently burned forest along the shore of a very scenic reservoir in the Rampart Range of southern Colorado.
Need to Know
The route described here is from the the Rainbow Gulch Trailhead, the most common starting point for most mountain bikers. The parking here is free, but it adds a short, less than two mile, descent and climb back to the the trailhead. Paid parking and direct access to the reservoir trail is located in the Rampart Reservoir Recreation Area a few miles away.
The reservoir is a very popular recreation area for many different user groups, especially for the fishing contingency. On any given summertime weekend or holiday, you are likely to see parking at near capacity, but do not let this discourage you from riding. On the busiest summer days you're likely to only see a few people either hiking or riding the trail. Most users of the recreation area are there for the boating, fishing, and picnicking.
Leave the trailhead on a wide dirt road heading downhill. About a half mile later, you'll reach a fork: a singletrack trail goes left and parallels the road. The road or singletrack will take you to the same location, but I recommend the singletrack, its more fun! Follow the singletrack until it intersects with the road again a short time later. To continue on the singletrack, cross the road by turning right and an immediate left where the aqueduct pours into a canal. Follow the singletrack now paralleling the canal and road, through the willows to the intersection of the Rampart Reservior trail, which crosses the canal via a sturdy bridge.
Turn left, crossing the bridge and then turn right back onto the road that quickly turns into singletrack. Travel clockwise around the reservoir. The trail travels around each and every arm of the reservoir. Occasional obstacles interfere with the flow of the trail, requiring dismounts for all but the most advanced riders. You'll encounter a few small creek crossings as well.
At the 9 mile mark you'll reach the reservoir dam. Cross over the dam, reaching the south shore of the reservoir and pass the guard shack. Pick up the singletrack immediately after the guard shack and gate.
The south shore of the lake interacts with more recreational infrastructure like picnic sites and fishing access to the shore. You'll encounter more foot traffic from these users and the trail is a bit more worn. The south shore has also seen the most impacts of the Waldo Canyon Fire and you'll pass through a few burned sections. A few dismounts may be required to cross some flagstone paved stormwater drains that intersect the trail.
After riding through the burn and then into a deep mature forest, you'll return back the the bridge where the loop begins and ends. Take either the singletrack or road back to the trailhead. I prefer to take the trail downhill in the beginning and the road at the end for the short climb back.
As described here, many riders enjoy traveling around the reservoir clockwise. However the trail heading around the lake counterclockwise is also very good. For a longer ride, finish a lap around the lake going one direction and then finish with another lap going the other way.
Finally, while the trail is perfectly suitable for even beginner riders, skilled riders also enjoy the trail for the somewhat frequent technical challenges. Most riders should expect to dismount and walk some of the more difficult sections located in a dozen or so spots along the trail.
History & Background
Rampart Reservoir or Rampart Range Reservoir supplies domestic drinking water for the City of Colorado Springs. Water for the reservoir originates from the Colorado River Watershed and is supplied through a series of transcontinental pipelines buried under the Rocky Mountains. Planning for construction of the reservoir began in the 1960s as the population of southern Colorado and its need for drinking water increased. In 1969, the reservoir's dam was built and five years after its completion, the reservoir was opened to the public as a recreation area.