Most likely bicycles do not come to mind when the Dunraven trailhead gets mentioned. You may even get weird looks from the backpackers and horseback riders when you pull up with your own trusty steed. But, if done creatively, you can access some pretty sweet, less-traveled singletrack where bikes are permitted.
There is no parking and no trailhead at the beginning of Miller Fork Trail #997
. Park at the Dunraven trailhead. Other nearby trails do not allow bikes. From this trailhead, you can access the North Fork Trail and the Bulwark Ridge Trail
. These both enter wilderness areas and bikes are not permitted.
Park your car, mount your steed, and immediately bomb back down the road you just drove in on. You're gonna need to do a little road riding to get to the singletrack. I don't normally condone this, but in this case I'll allow it. It's all gravel grinding and these roads do provide some pretty nice views and fun speed on the descents.
You'll take the first left (don't confuse a private driveway for a road) on Bulwark Ridge Drive. You're just gonna follow this road for a ways, though some of the intersections can be confusing. Eventually, you'll take a left on Miller Fork Road. Follow this down to the beginning of the trail.
The Miller Fork Trail #997
is immediately impressive in its beauty and how rideable it is. It's a fun ride through the trees, small meadows, and along a creek. You do get the occasional rocky or root-strewn section that will throw a curve ball at you, but as long as you stay on your toes, you'll do great. The trail criss-crosses back and forth over the creek with varying caliber of bridges. Sometimes it's a fun ladder bridge, other times it's two or three logs laying side by side. Just be sure to not let your wheel slip in between those logs if you decide to try to ride them!
Pedal past the intersection with Donner Pass Trail #926 - Glen Haven Segment
and keep climbing up the side of the creek (all of the trail intersections in this area are well signed). Keep following the trail for about another mile and you'll come to the intersection with the Donner Cutoff Trail #926-1
. Take the right turn here. You can keep going straight if you want, but the trail almost immediately becomes obscure and tough to follow.
Mountain goat your way up the ridge here, carefully negotiating the occasional rocky spot - there is a little bit of exposure on the downhill side. Do take note of the amazing vista growing before you as you climb higher and higher up the ridge. You'll eventually intersect with the Donner Pass Trail #926 - Glen Haven Segment
trail again. You could choose to climb (turn left) here, and it does look tempting. But, that's another ride all on its own. This ride takes you straight.
You'll start bombing down the mountain on this tight and fun singletrack. Keep an eye open for fallen trees as this trail doesn't quite get the attention of others in the area. After some hair-raising descending, you'll eventually link back into the Miller Fork Trail #997
. Take a left at the intersection and retrace your steps back to the car.
It is a bit of a bummer to end your ride on a slow, uphill climb, especially on a road, but it will have all been worth it to get a taste of some lesser-known mountain singletrack!
Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quinn succeeded to the title of 4th Earl of Dunraven and Mountearl in 1871. He visited this area in 1873 and 1874, during which he decided to acquire all of Estes Park, by legal – and sometimes questionable – means by inducing itinerants to establish homestead claims, which they promptly sold to him. Lord Dunraven was a controversial figure in history, both for his land grabbing antics as well as for his "wild living."
Unrelated to Lord Dunraven, but still cool: the "dandy horse" was the first human-powered vehicle to make use of the two-wheeler principle. It is considered the forerunner of the bicycle. So mount up your dandy horses and go take back what Lord Dunraven stole so long ago!!