Steamboat Springs calls itself Bike Town USA, and it’s safe to say that cycling is in this town’s blood. Residents commute to work, run errands on two wheels, and take their bike-centric recreation very seriously. Not surprising, then, that the League of American Cyclists named it a Gold-Level Bicycle-Friendly Community.
Dirt lovers, especially, have plenty to love, with more than 500 miles of trails, 50 miles of which are lift-assisted in the world-class Steamboat Bike Park. That’s a lot of trails to explore—and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. To help you get started, here are a few must-hit trails when visiting this fun-loving mountain town with your mountain bike.
1. Emerald Mountain Loops
Distance from Steamboat: Two blocks Mileage: Varies Difficulty: Intermediate Climbing: Varies
These loops offer the perfect warm-up and intro to the area, as the trails start just two blocks from town. Mountain bikers can’t go wrong with any of the trails in this spider web of loops, which are mostly intermediate and relatively flat. It’s a good place for kids and beginners, but it’s also fun and scenic enough that advanced riders won’t be bored.
2. Spring Creek
Distance from Steamboat: One mile Mileage: 10.4 miles Difficulty: Intermediate to advanced Climbing: 1,435 feet
This trail was rerouted in 2019 to be a downhill-only route. Riders who want to make it a loop can access the trail at several points along the route. Fast, flowy, and breathtakingly gorgeous, the route lets riders whip through dense quaking aspen groves, pedal along a serene creek, and traverse across meadows filled with the state flower, the columbine. Note that while the bike traffic is downhill only, this is still a multi-use trail, so be aware of other trail users.
3. Bike Park Trails
Distance from Steamboat: Four miles Mileage: Varies Difficulty: Varies Climbing: Usually none
The Steamboat Mountain Bike Park features more than 50 miles of trails ranging from beginner to expert. All are solid choices, since they’re purpose-built by professionals for mountain bikers. From casual cruises through the woods to full-on freeride and downhill trails, this is the place to be for gravity-assisted fun and adrenaline fixes.
4. Mountain View to Fish Creek Falls
Distance from Steamboat: Four miles Mileage: 13 (at least) Difficulty: Expert Climbing: 500 feet
The best way to get up to the start on Mountain View is to take the lift up. That way, it’s a gentle, mostly downhill ride to the Fish Creek Falls Trail. That’s the real business here, though Mountain View is aptly named with distractingly magnificent scenery. But Fish Creek is techy, steep, and hard, and it goes downhill for six glorious miles. Expect great views of Rabbit Ears Pass and the valley far down below.
5. Flash of Gold/Grouse Ridge
Distance from Steamboat: 6 miles Mileage: 21 Difficulty: Expert Climbing: 2,500 feet
This trail should get five stars for scenery alone, as it cuts through lush ferns, dense aspen groves, and across wildflower-covered meadows. The climb to the top of Buffalo Pass is casual, and the views are stunning. Top out at 10,150 feet and get ready for a gnarly ride. Grouse Ridge is a steep, hard, technical trail that drops 1,500 feet in 3.5 miles. It’s rocky, exposed, and a ton of fun for expert-level riders. If you are looking to add more mileage, vistas, wildflowers, and excellent riding, this can be done from town via the Spring Creek Trail. It adds 11 miles and 1,500 feet of climbing.
6. The Divide Trail
Distance from Steamboat: 22 miles Mileage: 26 Difficulty: Advanced Climbing: 1,700 Feet
This ride is classic high-mountain Colorado riding at its best. Starting from Rabbit Ears Pass at 10,400 feet and descending 4,400 feet down into the Steamboat Ski Area, it’s long, remote, and 100 percent worth the effort. A little bit of everything awaits intrepid riders here: roots, rocks, slabs, and flowy, high-speed tree runs.
7. Beall-Ridge-Rotary Loop
Distance from Steamboat: 8 miles Mileage: 21 Difficulty: Intermediate Climbing: 2,200 Feet
This one is all about the flow. A gentle, rolling climb takes riders to the top of Emerald Mountain, whose views are remarkable. It’s a great place for a breather, but you can also take a longer break over a picnic lunch, too. Then, it’s a ripping descent down to Cow Creek that seems to be made for mountain bikers with nice, sweeping turns, and plenty of whoops to catch air off of. The route can also be ridden from town via the Emerald Mountain Loops.
8. Mad Creek/Red Dirt Loop
Distance from Steamboat: 7.5 miles Mileage: 10 Difficulty: Advanced Climbing: 1,300 feet
This hardcore loop is another fine choice for the advanced riders in the group. It’s short, but what it lacks in distance, it makes up for with fun, technical action. As is par for the course with most riding in Steamboat, you’ll find stellar views in a postcard-worthy setting. Tight singletrack, impossibly lush green vegetation, and dense aspens await lucky riders on this loop.
Distance from Steamboat: 6 miles Mileage: 1.5 Difficulty: Easy Climbing: 137 feet
Looking for a casual family jaunt with younger riders? This one fits the bill, and with a name like Panorama, it’s safe to assume the views are amazing. (They are.) The Yampa River Valley, Flattop Mountains, and the Continental Divide are in full, glorious view. If you happen to visit during the fall, the trail should be a must-do when the aspens are turning. Bring a camera and prepare to be wowed.
In a state with so much stellar riding, it’s hard to prioritize the next road trip, and this short list of rides in Steamboat barely scratches the surface of the riding the area has to offer. And because the town itself has so much going for it, it can be easy to get distracted: After all, the abundance of hiking, rafting, climbing, hot-spring soaking, and camping, not to mention downtown pursuits like dining and shopping, can keep a visitor plenty busy. But for adventurous types, getting in the saddle and riding any of these trails all but guarantees that a first trip to Steamboat will not be the last.
Written by Shaine Smith for Matcha in partnership with Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.