Mountain Biking in Rifle, Colorado
Words by Aaron Mattix of Gumption Trail Works
If you are looking for a change from homogenized machine built flow trails, Rifle offers a throwback to an earlier era, where trails were created by riding them in; following the contours of the land, dodging juniper trees, dancing through sage, and pirouetting through rocks. But the grace doesn’t always come easy. Tight squeezes and punchy technical climbs pepper the mostly intermediate level singletrack, alternating organic flow with disintegrating chunder.
Accessibility is the other perk to Rifle’s local mountain bike trails; getting to singletrack takes roughly the same amount of time whether pedaling from downtown, or exiting I-70.
The Hubbard Mesa Open OHV area is the evolution of 20 years of user-created social trails weaving through juniper forests, and sage meadows, pigmented layers of adobe, and sandstone boulder gardens. A maze of double track jeep roads, and moto-blazed singletrack traverses the mesas and gullies of this high desert playground. Multiple unmarked intersections make a trail finding app such as Mtb Project invaluable for finding your way around; even better, hit up a friendly local for a tour guide. The Facebook group Rifle Area Mountain Biking Organization often has group ride postings, and is a great way to reach out for trail info and meet local riders.
When the heat of summer makes desert rides less appealing, high country alternates are less than half an hour away. Three Forks / 2150 follows the headwaters of Rifle creek through spruce trees, aspen groves, and wildflower meadows. The trail is not particularly technical, but the deep grass and dense foliage reduce it to a narrow, at times nearly invisible thread of dirt below summertime wildflowers grazing your handlebars. Further east, the West Elk collection of trails provides a more extensive menu of options. Cherry Creek is an excellent shuttle run, or challenging climb to loop Mansfield Ditch; Clark Ridge provides an additional extension.