Cherish Every ‘Last’ Ride
Take a deep breath — only three more weeks until Steamboat’s opening day! As mountain bike season is wrapping up and the top of Mount Werner begins to accumulate snow, I often wonder as I grind up the next hill on my bike, “Could this be my last ride of the season?”
Many people outside of the Yampa Valley don’t realize that you can often mountain bike on the lower-elevation trails until early to mid-November in Steamboat. The sporadic ski teaser storms sweep in, dusting the ski area, whetting our ski taste buds, and making a mess of the local mountain bike trails for a day or three. It’s only a matter of time before the snow stops melting and we hang up the bikes for the season.
The mountain biking is still fantastic as long as you stay in the valley and lower elevations. Yesterday, I was looking for something fresh since I’ve ridden the staples (Steamboat Bike Park, Emerald, Spring Creek, Buff Pass) more times than I can count on my fingers, toes and individual skis in my garage (18 to be exact). I decided on an oldie but goodie: the Hot Springs Trail.
The Hot Springs Trail is an often-overlooked bike ride located via a 10-15 minute drive from downtown Steamboat on Elk River Road. The ride is a quick 45-60 minute out and back. Park at the Mad Creek Trailhead and ride your bike a couple hundred yards back toward town, take a left up the first dirt road, immediate left at the fork, and follow the road up to the first singletrack on the right, clearly labeled Hot Springs Trail.
This is one of my favorite trails a short drive from town. It has a little bit of everything: smooth, fast, technical, good climbs and fast decent. The “technical” sections are all very rideable for mid-high skill levels, and the climbs are more than manageable.
The trail winds up the valley alongside the creek, climbs are broken up nicely, trail varies from smooth and windy to rocky straight shots. The trail was in superb condition as it is south facing and dries quickly after moisture. My favorite part of all, I didn’t see one person the entire ride!
The trail ends at a local’s favorite: Strawberry Park Hot Springs. If you’re feeling adventurous, pack a backpack, bring your swimsuit and some cash (entrance fees vary from $8-$20 per person), no need to worry about the ride back, it’s all downhill to the car!
If you didn’t bring a suit and are looking to extend your ride, try adding Mad Creek trail to Red Dirt trail, which will add another 45-60 minutes to your ride.
Cherish each of those “last” rides of the season because Steamboat’s opening day is ONLY 21 DAYS AWAY! And I know I’m not the only one counting them down!
Byron Carney, mountain biker
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