During July and Aug. start early and bring lots of water. This can be a really long, hot ride if caught in the blazing sun.
For a bail out option, start in Lyons.
Classic start from Heil Ranch
Here are the turn by turn directions. Further down are trail descriptions.
Basically, ride the Heil and Hall Loops in the clockwise directions but make sure to ride up Antelope Trail
and down Bitterbrush - Upper Section
when doing the Hall Ranch
1) Climb 2.57 miles up Wapiti Trail
2) Turn left onto Ponderosa Loop
riding in a clockwise direction
3) At the overlook/bench, stay to the left to continue on Wild Turkey Trail
4) Head down Picture Rock
trail for 5.5 miles
to Hall Ranch
5) Turn right on the pavement (Red Gulch Rd)
6) Turn right on Old St Vrain Rd then another right onto 5th Ave and ride past the town of Lyons
7) Turn left onto Apple Valley Rd just before the bridge
8) Make your first left onto Antelope Drive and ride to the end/parking area
9 ) Climb one mile on Antelope Trail
10) Stay straight/right on Bitterbrush - Upper Section
11) I like to do the Nelson Loop
clockwise, but it can be done in either direction
12) Head back down Bitterbrush - Upper Section
after completing the Nelson Loop
13) Instead of heading down Antelope Trail
turn right to briefly climb, then descend the rocky, technical Hall/Bitterbrush - Lower Section
Connection from Hall Ranch
back to Picture Rock
14) Left on the paved road then make your first right onto Old St. Vrain Rd
15) Left onto Red Gulch Rd to Picture Rock
Heading back from Picture Rock
through Heil Ranch
16) 5.5 miles up Picture Rock
17) Continue climbing left onto Wild Turkey Trail
18) Left onto Ponderosa Loop
for a short climb
19) Final descent on Wapiti Trail
to the Heil parking lot
This trail climbs, mostly gradually, right from the trailhead. You'll start out on a rough dirt road, but don't worry - the singletrack starts just up ahead.
Once you hit the singletrack, it's a steady climb for about 2.5 miles, all the way up to the junction with the Ponderosa Loop
. The trail mostly runs through a heavily forested area, so there's plenty of shade. You're likely to see deer or other wildlife along the trail - maybe even a black bear.
The area is extremely rocky, but the Boulder Mountainbike Alliance and others have done a lot of work to clean up the trail, make it flow better, smooth out the rocks, and keep it sustainable.
Halfway around the loop, you'll find a scenic overlook with a park bench - perfect for a breather and a snack. The overlook provides a far-off view of Hall Ranch
below - which you can ride to by joining up with the Picture Rock
The trail was designed and built by professional trail builders with a goal of making a sustainable trail that would entertain advanced riders, but still be rideable by most. The upper section of trail is quite rocky, just like the rest of Heil Ranch
, and it can take quite a bit of energy to ride in either direction.
Descending from the connection with the Wild Turkey Trail
at Heil, be prepared for about 2.5 miles of constant small rocks with some larger obstacles thrown in. Some beginner riders may have a hard time with this section.
About halfway down, you'll reach an old grain silo at the side of the trail, and the riding becomes smoother and generally easier from here. For advanced riders, the remaining section down to Lyons is flowy, fast, and very fun.
The most commonly ridden trail (Bitterbrush - Lower Section
) has a challenging technical rock garden that only fit, expert riders can clean bottom to top. The Nelson Loop
has some beautiful views of the Arapahoe range and Longs Peak in addition to beautiful, flowing singletrack. Intermediate riders can find some suitable terrain by starting on the Antelope trail, that also leads to the Nelson Loop
, but bypasses the technical rock garden on Bitterbrush - Lower Section