“The bigger and badder tour of West Magnolia featuring the School Bus Trail descent.”
— Jason Vogel
This ride takes in most of the newly rebuilt close-to-town trails in the West Mag area profiled in the Rhythm & Blues
featured ride and then adds one of the best climbs and descents in the West Mag area.
This is a more rugged and remote trail experience that requires an adventurous spirit, plenty of extra food and water, and a willingness to get lost and find yourself again. Much of this trail system will be updated, the intersections made more intuitive, and the eroded sections of trail rerouted or hardened due to the Boulder Ranger District's Magnolia Non-Motorized Trails Plan - so get out there to experience the "old school" Mag backcountry experience while it still exists.
What comes in the future is likely to be more navigable, less eroded, and more pleasant for the average mountain biker. Note: the West Magnolia trails area has many short trails that are disjointed by brief segments of road which can be disorienting. Do not despair if you make a wrong turn. There are as many good ways to do this ride as there are opinions on the internet. The key features of this ride are the Lost Meadow Trail #355
/ Roots and Rocks Trail
/ School Bus #929
link up to get the big climb and descent. The rest can be improvised.
Need to Know
This loop takes you far into the backcountry and away from civilization. Because the road and trail network is not well designed, you should expect to get lost and find yourself again. Come prepared with a map, plenty of water, and a sandwich. If you don't like exploring, don't do this ride without someone who knows the area well.
This ride can be done from the RTD Park and Ride in Nederland, the parking at Nederland High School, or the parking at the West Magnolia Trailhead on the Peak-to-Peak Highway just south of Nederland. The route here starts from the Peak to Peak Highway, but you can modify these directions to work for the other parking areas.
From the trail kiosk at the Peak-to-Peak Highway and Magnolia Road parking lot, head up the newly rerouted Aspen Alley Trail #342A
(thanks Boulder Mountainbike Alliance!). Climb this nice singletrack until it tops out and begin descending. There is one trail intersection where you'll want to bear right and stay on the new Aspen Alley Trail #342A
and another to stay left. This part of the trail is extremely fun - with rollers, jumps, and berms with a number of alternate lines with features. Continue on Aspen Alley and cross Sugar Magnolia #926
. Aspen Alley will spit you out at the far end of Haul Road - cross the road and begin to climb the newly rerouted Lookout Trail #926
(thanks NATO!). Lookout currently dumps you out on an old road (reroutes are in the works). Keep on the most heavily used route until you come to a gate and then hang a right on the road.
Not too far along there will be another right hand turn on Hobbit 3 #927
. This bit is slightly confusing because you hit a trail that feels like a reclaimed road for maybe a quarter mile. That trail then ends at a road. From here, bike uphill a short distance - maybe 100 feet - and look to your left for the extension of the Hobbit 3 #927
trail. This section of the Hobbit trail is mostly uphill and at the very top (before you begin to descend again) you'll see an unmarked trail taking off uphill to your right. Go up this trail. You are now heading away from civilization. If you thought the core West Mag areas were difficult to navigate, reconsider heading up here. If you are looking for some adventure, let's start the climb!
This trail is variously called the Lost Meadow Trail #355
or Roots and Rocks Trail
. After about a mile in the forest, the trail opens up into a meadow with nice views. You'll pass a few singletrack trails along the way, but don't take them. They are mostly descents that will either be a horrible climb, or take you back downhill. Feel free to explore this area if you have an adventurous spirit. Many of these trails will be "obliterated" as part of the Magnolia Non-Motorized Trails Plan, so enjoy them while they still exist - we hope to see equally awesome trails developed in the future that do not cross private property or go through sensitive habitat.
At the western edge of the meadow, there is a 4x4 road the enters from the north. Continue up the old road to the southwest crossing a small stream and tackling many exposed roots and steep eroded tread. You'll come across several intersecting roads, and you'll usually do well by taking the one that looks most well worn, and, sadly, the steepest option. Doing so will eventually take you to a spot where the road levels out and spits you out on the 503
road. Go uphill on this road for about a quarter mile then turn left on the 109
road for about 0.4 miles. Look to your left for a short climb through some aspens - this is easy to miss, so don't get excited and start heading downhill on the road!
From here, take a left and head east onto a short singletrack climb that is the School Bus #929
trail. A couple hundred feet later you start to descend. This is a long, and gnarly descent that is heavily eroded in the upper sections due to fall line construction, past (and sometimes current) motorcycle use, and poor erosion control. If you like going fast through chunder, you'll love the upper parts of this descent. At the bottom, turn right on the 105
road to a flat open area. Take a left onto a singletrack that parallels the road and come back out to a trail kiosk. Turn right past the kiosk onto Hobbit 2 #927
. Finish with Hobbit 1 #927
and Re-Root #927
to end up back where you started.
History & Background
The Boulder Mountainbike Alliance (BMA) has been working in this area for a very long time, from getting the original social trails legitimized when the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) was considering what to do about them back in 2003 to advocating for a dramatic expansion of the legal trail system when the USFS decided to tackle the issue of social trail proliferation in a process that came to a close in 2016.
The USFS recently approved the Magnolia Non-Motorized Trails Project, and BMA is helping to secure funds to help the USFS implement that project. This long-term involvement of BMA with the USFS has allowed for some very creative and progressive trail design and construction on the near town trails. In the coming years, this work will continue to head uphill to address many of the trails on this ride. Look for significant improvements in this ride in the years ahead. The Nederland Area Trails Organization (NATO) is helping with trail work, too.