Breckenridge Bike Guide: Flume Trails (video)
These three Summit County bike trails are stellar for early season riding
June 8, 2017
By The Numbers
Distance: 1.6 miles (Lower), 2.2 miles (Middle), 3.2 miles (Upper)
Rating: Moderate to advanced
Time: 1-1.5 hours (loop)
Elevation: 9,515-9,916 feet (401 vertical feet)
Type: Loops system, singletrack
Season: Late May to early October
Extensions: Mike’s Trail connector, Slalom, Gold Run Road
The Highlands trail system, better known to locals as the Flume trails, is a system of singletrack switchbacks and ridges that runs between French Gulch and Gold Run Gulch on the northeast end of Breckenridge. The system consists primarily of the Upper, Middle and Lower Flume trails, plus short (and steep) connectors like Mike's Trail in the Highlands neighborhood and Tom's Baby outside of the Breckenridge Golf Club.
The Flume system is a stellar early-season ride for beginners and veterans alike, with flowy singletrack and hardly any demanding climbs through quiet neighborhoods overlooking Breckenridge Ski Resort. The trails are relatively simple, but sections can be filled with jagged rocks and tight aspen stands — keep your eyes up. Also watch for standing water on Middle Flume until mid-June, and be sure to check the mud meter at several road crossing before heading onto Middle and Upper flumes. It's a bit sloppy right now on the shaded and heavily wooded switchbacks along the northern edge of the trail.
A complete map of this trail system is available at the Breckenridge Welcome Center (203 S. Main St.) at (970) 547-3155, located at Breckenridge Town Hall or at area bike shops.
The three flumes run north-south and can be taken either direction to provide riders with a fantastic flume and forest experience. What's a flume, exactly? It's the hand-dug path miners carved into neighboring hillsides during Breck's mining heyday in the late 1800s. When the local economy switched from mining to tourism, trail builders took advantage of the aging infrastructure, which just so happens to look a lot like singletrack. Dozens of trails in Breck follow flume paths from dozens of abandoned mines.
To connect from Lower Flume to Middle Flume riding north, head left onto Highlands Drive for a brief section of downhill riding on pavement. Continue along this stretch until a sign for Mike's Trail is seen. This trail is quite steep but will take you to Middle Flume at the first intersection or to Upper Flume at the second. Last summer, trail crew added switchbacks on the first stretch of Mike's Trail to make the climb easier.
By following Middle Flume to the left (north), the trail winds eastward into the Golden Horseshoe area through the Highlands development. Eventually, after about 2 miles of mellow climbing through thick forests and bridged wetlands, Middle Flume joins up with Upper Flume to provide a loop. Upper Flume climbs gradually through tight aspens before opening up to berms, a stunning meadow and fast riding on a ridge overlooking the neighborhoods below.
From Upper Flume, there are also opportunities from the north end of the trails system to connect with Gold Run Road, Slalom and other trails in the Golden Horseshoe area.
The main access to the Highlands Trail System and Lower Flume is the Breckenridge Recreation Center parking lot, which is located on the west side of Highway 9 at Airport Road. To access the trailhead, ride east across Highway 9 to County Road 450. Take this road 1/4 mile (past the 7-11 and liquor store) to a small trailhead sign on the lefthand side of the road just before a condo complex. The trail weaves past construction before reaching the first ridge, with a connector to Lower Flume and Upper Flume.