Bike Trail in Boulder. Courtesy photo

Off the Beaten Path: Bike-Friendly Trails in Boulder (and Where to Avoid)


Boulder’s biking scene is intense. And we don’t mean there-are-lots-of-athletes intense. (Though that’s true, too.) We mean everyone from barely walking kids to their great grandparents own a bike, and regularly use it.

Luckily, Boulder’s built for a large biking community. It offers bike lanes, parks and frequently participates in biking events, such as Bike to Work Day. It’s so bike friendly that it’s been in the top-ten-cities-for-bikers lists from Thrillist,, CNN, the Travel Channel and more.

But not everyone loves city biking. There’s something special about getting out of town and riding through forests, with a mountain view in front of you and the wind in your hair. Both Boulder County and the Open Space and Mountain Park division offer a variety of trails that are designated bike-friendly or multi-use. If you’re looking for those magical mountain moments, you’re in the right place.

Trails in and around Boulder range from very easy to very difficult, but all have certain rules you have to follow. Be sure to follow posted signs. Not all trails are bike friendly. Be sure to stay on trail. Bikes are not allowed off-trail, and you could be issued a summons if you are caught by a ranger off trail.

There are also some common courtesies you should follow when biking anywhere in Boulder:

  • Yield to all non-bikers, and other bikers traveling uphill.
  • Be aware of trail conditions; avoid muddy spots, hard braking, skidding and shortcutting. These behaviors result in trail erosion and eventually lead to closures.
  • Respect others on the trail. Signal your approach and approach blind corners with caution.
  • Leave your dog at home. You may trust your dog unconditionally, but biking with him around others is not safe.

Once you’ve got these rules down, all that’s left is to plan your trip.

Here are some quintessential Boulder trails to try (and trails to avoid) for a great biking experience.

The High Plains Trail. Courtesy photo

The Best Trails in Town

Open Space and Mountain Parks: Open Space and Mountain Parks has more than 50 miles of trails designated for bicycle use. Not all trails are bike friendly, so be sure to check the signage and stay off trails that aren’t specifically marked as being bike friendly.

The Spring Brook Trail is a moderate trail, with both a north and south look. Both are just over a mile long. The trail passes through both grasslands and forests. You’ll have the chance to see a lot of native foliage. These areas are also rich with wildlife. They are home to many rare and sensitive species. Keep your eyes open to see what you can catch a glimpse of.

The trail attaches to several others, which gives you the option of increasing the length of your ride, while still getting a chance to check out the natural beauty this trail offers.

The High Plains Trail is great for those interested in bird-watching. It is an easy, 2.5-mile trail. It goes through the Southern Grasslands Habitat Conservation Area. Be on the lookout for western meadowlarks and vesper sparrows on the grassy plains and northern oriole or blue grosbeak in the shrubs along Coal Creek. You may even catch a glimpse of a bald eagle or an elk.

A bike at Boulder Res. Courtesy photo

City of Boulder: The city of Boulder also manages many bike-friendly trails in and around town. These multi-use paths are pedestrian, dog and skater friendly, so be extra aware of your surroundings.

Riding around Boulder Res is a great way to get in some exercise while enjoying amazing views. There are several different route variations you can use, so plan your route ahead of time. This trail is easy and not too long, making it perfect for a family outing.

The Boulder Creek Path is another city-maintained trail that’s great for a summer ride. This path is split into north and south halves, but you can easily connect the two for a longer route.

Keep an eye open for creek wildlife, such as fish and ducks. You may also spot elk and deer enjoying a cool drink of water. This trail is a great way to see a lot of Boulder’s highlights on bike.

The path goes through the University of Colorado and downtown and eventually ends at Fourmile Canyon. It connects to other trails at the canyon, if you’re looking for a longer ride.

Trails to Avoid

While Boulder is a bike-friendly city, there are places you should avoid when on a bike. The biggest place to avoid when biking is Chautauqua. The trails here do not allow bikes. They’re so heavily trafficked that biking here would be a nightmare anyway.

Many trails throughout Boulder are periodically shut down for maintenance or restoration. Be sure to check for closures before hitting the trails.

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