Park County bike trails await discovery
PARK COUNTY – Mountain bikers are constantly looking for a challenge and less crowded trails to explore.Riders who venture across the southern Summit County line can find both in the many trails across the mountain ranges in Park County. Though a bit secretive about their favorite trails, many bikers in Park County wax exuberant over the nearly pristine singletracks.
“You can ride through grass that is waist high and feel like you’re the only one to use the trail,” said mountain biker Kelly Gannon. “I can go out my back door after work and really get away from it all,” he said of a singletrack and forest road trail near his home just outside of Fairplay that winds through Thompson Park and up an old wagon road. After much gentle interrogation, avid biker Dave Aceto disclosed that one of his favorite Park County rides is Sheep Creek Trail. The 17-mile loop traverses moderate to difficult terrain and carries the rider from elevations of more than 9,600 feet to just under 11,000 feet and over Breakneck Pass – which some folks feel is aptly named. Even getting there is a bit of an adventure, and as the aspens begin to turn, the pass offers quite a fine view, even out of car windows. To reach the trail, drive south of Fairplay on Highway 285 to County Road 5 or Weston Pass Road on the right. Follow County Road 5 to the intersection of County Road 22 and continue to Forest Road 455.
Turn right onto Forest Road 455 and go about half a mile to the National Forest boundary gate. Turn up the road to the right that leads to the parking area, where you can unload your bike and begin the real fun.On this excursion into the wild country, you can expect to cross meadows of handlebar-high grass, encounter both moderate riding and technical challenges, surprise a wide array of birds, foxes, elk and other critters, and be treated to amazing views of craggy mountain ranges. Sheep Creek Trail (marked as 645) follows the blue diamond markers through aspen groves and over Twelvemile Creek on a wooden footbridge, (did I mention taking your camera?).Stay on the trail when you cross Forest Road 171 and continue for another mile or so to test your skill, as 645 climbs steeply for another mile to Sheep Park and joins Forest Road 175.
You can make a hard right and follow Forest Road 175 to the top of Breakneck Pass for some spectacular views of the pine forest and mountain vistas, or for those not faint of heart who love a technical ride, continue on Forest Road 175 to Forest Road 176 (a jeep trail) over Brown’s Pass (at about 11,400 feet) and down to the gate. Then retrace your ride back to Forest Road 175 and on to Breakneck Pass and the rest of the Sheep Creek Trail circuit. From the top of Breakneck Pass, descend three miles on Forest Road 175 down to County Road 5 (also Weston Pass Road) and turn right. You’ll relax for this six miles of the ride until you again begin to climb toward Forest Road 455. At Forest Road 455, turn right. It’s about a mile and a half to your car and the satisfaction of completing a beautiful and challenging ride of about 17 to 20 miles, depending on whether or not you want to make the detour to Brown’s Pass. Information on the many other rides in Park County are detailed in a fine, free trail guide published by Park County Economic and Community Development director Gary Nickols. The publication can be found at the ranger station in Fairplay on Highway 285. Also, check out Alpine Sports on Main Street in Fairplay for information and bike rentals.
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