Six years ago, the Steamboat Springs community voted “yes” on Referendum 2A to build new bike trails in the area. As a result, four new bike trails have been built on Buffalo Pass and riders are very pleased with the results.
In 2013, Steamboat locals proved that biking is a priority for the community. 71.1% of voters said yes to Referendum 2A, a ten-year, $5.1 million project that uses taxes to build new trails around the town. Immediately after the bill passed, the 2A Trails Committee formed, and they soon got to work on proposals for multiple areas surrounding Steamboat.
Originally the committee drew up a wish list to expand Emerald Mountain, Mad Creek, Rabbit Ears Pass, and Buffalo Pass. But if we fast forward to 2019, much of the money has gone to Buff Pass. After six years of hard work from many people, such as the committee, Routt County Riders, and handfuls of dedicated volunteers, Referendum 2A has gone from a dream to a reality– with multiple fantastic new trails. And the results are in: cyclists are over the moon about them.
Where does the money come from?
It may seem surprising to hear that anyone would vote to spend taxes on a recreational activity, but here’s the kicker: Steamboat has a 1% accommodations tax, or lodging tax, which is an ingenious way for visitors to play a part in bettering the town. The government uses the money from rentals of less than 30 days ($600,000 per year) to improve varying aspects of Steamboat– which is a win for both residents and tourists alike. And what better way to improve Steamboat than with some amazing, built out bike trails? Let’s take a look at what they have to offer:
Flash of Gold
This flowy route has quickly become a fan favorite because it provides an easier uphill coupled with a seamless downhill– filled with fun bank turns and spectacular views. Flash of Gold begins at the Dry Lake Trailhead– take the Spring Creek Trail from the top, and shortly thereafter turn left (North) to wind your way up through whispering aspen trees, colorful wildflower fields, and lush ferns for 11.8 miles.
Watch the wildlife go by with surprising ease- the trail is built to rise 1,000 feet, but it sure doesn’t feel like it with the steady, subtle grade at which the route was built. The trail is great for both the ascent and descent, but if you’re looking for a loop instead of an out-and-back, FoG connects to a number of alternate downhills– such as BTR, GEM, and Grouse Ridge. For those that used to have to schlep it on dirt road CR 38 to access some of these more difficult trails, FoG is a huge upgrade.
Pro tip: Opt to bike Flash of Gold in late September, and you will understand its namesake.
Grouse has become the staple “black” trail on Buffalo Pass, and for a good reason. It is universally loved by experienced mountain bikers: the five black stars on Mountain Bike Project are quantified by the cliffside edges, big rocky drops, wall rolls, and steep maneuvers through narrow passageways. Once you make it through this 3.6 mile tricky downhill, you may walk away with a little bit of fear in your eyes, or desperately wanting more.
If you seek expert downhill terrain with a quick uphill, you can bike up CR 38 from Dry Lake Trailhead– Grouse will appear on your left-hand side. However, the most preferred way to get to Grouse is by taking Flash of Gold, which connects with Grouse after 11.8 miles, making for a 21 mile loop total.
Pro tip: Shuttle this route with a friend– leaving one car at the top and one at the bottom– to get the same fun descent of a mountain bike park without having to pedal uphill.
Family-friendly with a gorgeous view, Panorama is a popular new addition to the Buff area. The route kicks off from Dry Lake Trailhead– soon after one begins the descent of the Spring Creek Trail, it pops up on the right-hand side. Make sure to skip the first trailhead sign and go to the second entrance in order to appreciate a better downhill section.
At 1.3 miles, this quick lap can be a great add-on to Spring Creek or Flash or Gold. Alternately, Panorama is perfect for little kiddos who are learning to crush it, or beginners who are still trying to get their feet under them. Do a singular circuit if you are pressed for time, or push newbies to loop it over and over again in order to get some practice with bank turns, shifting, and the overall feel of a mountain bike.
Pro tip: Panorama is known for its stunning panoramic vista (shocker) of the green Yampa Valley below and the rolling ridges of Buffalo Pass above. If you want to have a classy, casual ride, bring some cheese and crackers and head out to the overlook about halfway through the trail– there are plenty of rocks to sit on, so watch the sunset and enjoy your backcountry charcuterie board.
Spring Creek Alternate
Bikers, hikers, and runners alike have long awaited this in-demand 5.2 mile downhill trail. For years, all three groups have used the original Spring Creek trail– a popular recreational destination due to its proximity to town and multi-usability. In order to mitigate the traffic and alleviate the congestion, the 2A Trails Committee designed an immaculate “bikers only” descent route– complete with built-out bank turns, optional jumps, and flowy rollers.
Ascend the old route for 5.1 miles, and as you near Dry Lake Trailhead there will be an option to turn left to the downhill. Enjoy the fast-paced freedom of a trail built with bikers in mind, and don’t forget to challenge yourself on some big jumps along the way.
Pro tip: If you’re looking for an all-day ride, continue up Flash of Gold from the original Spring Creek trail, and then take the new Spring Creek Alternate all the way down to the bottom on your way back.