Keystone Bike Guide: Keystone Aqueduct to Soda Creek Trail (video) | SummitDaily.com

Keystone Bike Guide: Keystone Aqueduct to Soda Creek Trail (video)

SUMMIT COUNTY — Mountain biking in Summit County is more than flumes and pine forests and mine tailings. When you get away from the Breckenridge area — home to the county's most popular trails — things open up to reveal rolling meadows and faded ranch buildings. It's the other side of life in the Rocky Mountains: alpine ranching, the High Country's last, great industry before the rise of ski tourism.

On the west side of Keystone Resort is a system of trails that weaves past the fairways of Keystone golf club and south into Horseshoe Gulch. The system eventually connects with the wooded routes many mountain bikers know and love — Blair Witch, Gold Run Road, the Colorado Trail — but, for a few short-and-sweet miles, it's a taste of riding not often found in these parts (unless you want to pedal high above tree line, that is).

All of this makes one of the final races in the annual Summit Mountain Challenge series, the Soda Creek Scramble, a welcome change of pace late in the season. The early-August race usually begins at the Keystone Stables before connecting with two of the area's finest rides: Keystone Aqueduct and Soda Creek Trail.

Highlights

Pedal uphill on Keystone Ranch Road for about 0.3 miles and turn left onto Aqueduct trail at an obvious (yet unmarked) trailhead at the crest of the hill. Aqueduct follows Keystone Ranch Road south on the hillside through luxurious neighborhoods, with wildflower meadows to your left and the Keystone Ranch Course fairways to your right. The trail is mellow singletrack, with occasional wooden bridges leading over the namesake aqueduct.

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After about 2 miles — right after a surprisingly steep and sometimes slippery descent — the Aqueduct trail ends at a three-way junction: Soda Creek trail to the southwest, and Hay Trail and Red Trail to the southeast. There's also a dirt road connecting the golf course with a smattering of refurbished ranch buildings on the shore of a small beaver pond. If you're riding with the family, turn north onto the road for a mellow return to your car on a mix of dirt road and pavement.

Soda Creek Trail and Hay Trail eventually reconnect via Horseshoe Gulch. Both are relatively flat and forgiving, with only brief climbs and moderate technical sections. Red Trail is steeper and leads to the Colorado Trail at the junction with Horseshoe Gulch.

Parking

From Dillon, drive east on U.S. Highway 6 toward Keystone. Pass the light at Swan Mountain Road and take a right at the next stoplight for Keystone Road (across from the Keystone Tennis Center turn.) Take an immediate left to stay on Keystone Road and follow for a few hundred yards to Soda Ridge Road. Turn right and drive about 0.75 miles to Keystone Ranch Road. Park in the dirt lots at the ranch.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in August 2016 and is annually updated for accuracy.

By the numbers

Distance: 5.5 miles

Rating: Moderate

Time: 1-2 hours

Elevation: 9,142-9,470 feet (328 vertical feet)

Trail: Singletrack, double-track

Season: June to late September

Connectors: Hay Trail, Red Trail, Keystone Gulch Road

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Soda Creek Scramble

What: The fifth race of the Summit Mountain Challenge MTB series, with a route from Keystone Ranch to Tiger Dredge and back through Horseshoe Gulch

When: Wednesday, Aug. 10 at 5:15 p.m.

Where: Keystone Ranch Road start line, Keystone

Cost: $25 pre-register, $30 race day, $15 juniors

All SMC races have divisions for men, women, juniors and singlespeed, with multiple age brackets for each. For more info on the series or to register for a race, see the Maverick Sports website at http://www.mavsports.com.