The Bear Creek - Dakota Ridge Loop connects suburban singletrack through multiple Southwest Denver urban parks.
This ride is both on and off road, requiring some time on roadways with traffic. The trails at Bear Creek Lake Park, Red Rocks, Matthews-Winters and Dakota Ridge are busy urban trails - beware of holidays and weekends. These trails are multi-use so be prepared to encounter hikers, dog walkers, trail runners, tourists and even horses.
Starting from the roundabout on Simms, pedal across the overpass and jump on the first singletrack on your left. It's a short section before crossing the paved path and then continuing on doubletrack. Look for another singletrack on your left again - this is Mt Carbon Loop
. Contour across the hillside and cross another paved path before hitting more doubletrack in an open field. If you're lucky you might see the coyote that patrols this area.
Duck into the trees and stay right at the fork. You'll cross a small creek and then stay straight through intersections to your left and right. Afterwards, follow the trail to the right and up to a road crossing. Continue straight, then head right onto Cottonwood
Trail. Super fun section ahead with lots of carving turns. Connect back with Mt Carbon by turning right and then a quick left up a loose hill. Stay right to ride trail parallel to road.
You'll be heading to the west towards Morrison. Dip down and cross road to intersect a paved trail. Ride to Morrison and look for a Y intersection on the road. Take care when crossing to the far right side - watch for traffic.
Ride along the shoulder of the road to the first entrance to Red Rocks Amphitheatre and take a left. Look for Red Rocks trail on your right which climbs gradually to a parking area.
Cross the road here and get ready to ride through monolithic sandstone formations. The ride gets more technically challenging now with steeper grades, rocks and water bars. At the fork with Morrison Slide trail, stay right and get ready for steep, technical trail. After the hike-a-bike section you'll come to a saddle with great views east of the Denver metro area.
From here the trail contours north along the dry grasses and sandstone of Matthews-Winters park. Stay straight when the route bends to the west and intersects with Morrison Slide trail again. Be prepared for a quick descent and climb out of a drainage. This section is difficult due to other trail users, steep grades and rocks.
From here the trail surface smooths out - watch your speed. Look for the bike only trail on the right. Enjoy this fun, flowy, and relatively rock-free section of trail to the Matthews-Winters trailhead.
Cross the road and climb doubletrack to tackle the most challenging part of the ride - Dakota Ridge. Once your legs are burnt from the steep ascent, bear right onto singletrack that climbs along a contour to top of ridge. From here it's difficult to stay on your bike for the entire section - be prepared for sand covered rocks and drops.
The ridge drops down to a saddle and intersection with Zorro
trail. Turn left here. The first part of trail is a serious of big rock steps which most riders walk. Afterwards the trail is smooth with several switchbacks down to Rooney Road.
Cross road here and ride through the Green Mountain trailhead parking lot. Ride up paved trail and turn right to continue on paved path. *If you want to add more mileage to the ride you can access the trails on Green Mountain here.
This is a long section of bike path the travels south back towards Bear Creek Lake Park. Be prepared to cross Morrison Road near the Conoco. Turn left to get back on the bike path and back to the trails.
From where you left off earlier, take a left back onto Mt Carbon trail. This section takes you along the north side of Bear Creek. Approaching the lake you'll bear left at an intersection with a fisherman's trail and head across an open field, cross the road, continue straight around a gate. Take the first right and parallel the road.
From here the trail follows the edge of the golf course around the dam to the base of Mt Carbon. The climb to the top is grinding but never too steep. Once the trail reaches it's high point, enjoy the views west. Continue down around the hillside, stay left at the intersection on the turn, and retrace this last section back to the start of the ride.