Years ago I was doing this ride on my hardtail with a good friend and excellent riding partner and we ran into this band out of New York City. They were chilling at the intersection of a couple of trails. The band cruised through Colorado once or twice a year, they told us and always did this one trail. When I asked them why, they replied that this trail, Walker Ranch, provided a consistent challenge to them.
No kidding. I’ve ridden Walker Ranch dozens of times, both in my 20s and now my (gulp!) 40s and lemme tell you something son, that is one tough intermediate ride. When done in a counterclockwise direction, this little 7.5 mile ride delivers over 920 feet in elevation gain. This gain is a result of heading down to and up from the South Boulder Creek twice. Our ride was a little longer because we parked at the Meyers Ranch lot across the road and pedaled in from 1.1 miles away.
It’s a gorgeous ride, and one you don’t want to do on the weekends. Popular trails are crowded trails.
Even though we rode this trail clockwise, in the opposite direction of what is usually recommended, we were pretty happy with our choice. The first mile or so is a tough, somewhat washed out singletrack that is littered with rocks intent on letting you clear this section. As a wise old woman, I no longer let these things bother me.
The next section is a fun descent through some killer forest as you navigate a quick-through-switchback section that ends in some fun rocks. Pedal, pedal pedal uphill slowly now up the fire road. Then down the fire road, which will eventually spit you out at your first meeting with South Boulder Creek. Dismount, take some photos and inhale that amazing cold, clean air. Scenery like this only happens in Coors commercials, so drink it in.
Stay dismounted because you’re about to enter into a field with these Boulder boulders. This is a great place to rest and have lunch. Resist the temptation to get in the water–it’s moving fast.
Now comes the true test of grit. Enjoy your lunch-snack, then toss your bike over your shoulder and get ready to climb dozens of rock stairs up hundreds of feet of elevation. This part sucks. (But imagine doing the ride counter-clockwise and having to navigate DOWN these stairs? No thanks.)
Now comes the soul-crushing part of the ride. It’s technical, it’s narrow, it’s full of awesome scenery, but it’s relentless and fully exposed. Rock here, rock there, everywhere a rock, rock. And elevation. The kind of elevation that you don’t even recognize, it’s so subtle and ominous.
But eventually you hit the open meadow–where I met that band over a decade ago…
Once you get here, most of the agony is over. Now it’s technical fun, fun, fun back down to the river again. This river can be waded into as long as your ankles are winterized. I took a quick dunk to stop the overheating.
Then you gotta pedal out. The fire road out is not demanding and lasts about a mile or so, although it will feel longer.
Once at the top, we hit the connector back to Meyers Ranch, which was hit by fire a few years ago and provides some surreal-ity to the whole ride.
More great trail reviews of Walker Ranch on mtbreview.com.