This is a great adventure with substantial mileage and vertical gain. Your reward will be three spectacular climbs to test your fitness and three outstanding downhills that will challenge your nerve.
This ride is ideally suited for the individual (or mountain biker gang) that have made the classic 24.5 mile "Big Loop" and are ready to step it up another notch and incorporate the Little Scraggy Trail
into the whole enchilada... or burrito!
The keys to success for this undertaking will be lots of water, a variety of food, and of course a bit of fitness! The great news is if you arrive back at the bottom of the Shingle Mill Trail
Downhill and aren't feeling "up to snuff" you can always turn RIGHT and ride down the Forest Service Road back to where you started and avoid the final climb up Baldy
. This also serves as a great bailout if weather moves in during your ride.
This is a REALLY big ride with a lot of vertical gain. If you plan to ride in the middle of summer be sure to bring enough water, electrolyte replacement drinks and food (goes without saying but you never know...).
Additionally beware of the nearly "clock-work like" summer afternoon thunderstorms that build quickly (often out of sight due to the terrain)—failure to adequately check the forecast could have you caught far out on this ride during intense rain, thunder, lightening and possibly even golf-ball size hail (or even larger).
Best times to tackle this beast are during the middle of the week when biker traffic is extremely low compared to weekends; even better during fall—"peep some leaves"!
Finally, your fitness level (or that of your group) will dictate what time to "get the show on the road." During the summer, plan to start riding no later than 8:30am (which should help reduce the chance of getting caught in a nasty storm). When in doubt, forego hitting the snooz
This featured ride is a giant loop WITH NO BACKTRACKING!
Begin at the Main Buffalo Creek Trailhead parking lot with the large area map, extra helmets, bike pump, and, of course, porta-potties. Leave the parking area riding up the forest service road (passing around a gate) until you reach the steel bridge. Go LEFT here and start the first climb of the day on the "supa-groomer" Nice Kitty
—one of the best uphill routes in the area and the most direct route to the Colorado Trail from the main parking area.
The climb up Nice Kitty
is divide into three parts:
Part 1: "The Lower Section" travels through the forest providing a shady warm-up, but also has the steepest climbing.
Part 2: "The Burn Scar" segment begins with the only "real" technical obstacle—a left turn onto a large boulder where you pop out of the forest canopy and into the open area that burned many years ago. After negotiating "the obstacle" and a bit of traversing, you'll be rewarded with a break in the climbing action as the trail wanders gently downhill for a while. Once the trail turns back uphill, you'll encounter two gentle switchbacks as well as the third and final part of the climb.
Part 3: "The Flow Climb" is the last segment of Nice Kitty
and tends to roll faster than the previous. Roll along the gentle uphill track with occasional "S-Turns" arriving at the Colorado Trail intersection. Take a breather here, drink and grab something to eat, then continue RIGHT along a flowy section of singletrack, eventually arriving at the upper trailhead parking area for the Little Scraggy Trail
. There is a pit toilet located here—the last bit of "civilization" before venturing onward and upward!
Leave the parking area by passing through the cable fence near the parking lot entrance off the highway. After passing through the fence, begin the climb up Little Scraggy. The climbing begins slowly and you are rewarded with two great—albeit short-lived—downhill segments that break up the climbing action. Eventually, the trail ascends unbroken through a few minor technical sections all the way to the broad saddle in the forest.
Refuel here, tighten the shoes, and cue your favorite track since the downhill off Little Scraggy is one of the area's best. Descend through the pine and spruce, over baby heads, swooping turns, and of course the sprinkling of "kitty litter" to eventually arrive at the Colorado Trail Junction.
Take a RIGHT and meander along the CT Trail for 1-2 miles until reaching the Shingle Mill Trail
junction. Take a LEFT and begin the initial descent crossing over the dirt forest service road. Continue descending back down to the "front side" of Buffalo Creek.
Arrive at the bottom of the valley at the forest service road junction and take a LEFT here.
Ride the road up to the beginning of Baldy
Trails. Climb up Baldy
(RIGHT turn) and pedal for several miles to a large intersection. Take the sharp RIGHT turn and begin the descent (be sure to avoid barreling past the LEFT turn to Charlie's Cutoff
). After this initial flowy downhill, take the LEFT turn for Charlie's Cutoff
(avoid heading straight and descending Miller Gulch
—it isn't worth it!!!). Charlie's Cutoff
will lead directly to Homestead Trail
, so go RIGHT (or for a harder variation, continue straight onto Strawberry Jack
and take the "double black diamond" Blackjack
Assuming you took Homestead, bomb down this, making the abrupt steep drop into the creek and even steeper climb back out to eventually arrive at a large open area with incredible views. Take your "been there done that snaps" and hop back on the steed for the final downhill along Sandy Wash
—the perfect "Grande Finale" with fast ripping sections, thought provoking "S-Turns," and boulder roll overs! Once arriving back down at the forest service road take a LEFT and downhill back to the parking area, high five, change (or not, gross) and go eat a Big Burrito—you earned it! Oh yea, and maybe a beer (or two)!