Summit County Bike Trails: Three forks of the Swan River
By the numbers
Distance: 16-17 miles (route dependent)
Rating: Moderate – advanced
Time: 4-5 hours
Elevation: 9,600-11,500 feet
Type: Out and back, dirt road
Season: Mid-June to early October
The Swan River Valley, which is accessible from Tiger Road north of Breckenridge and offers multiple ride options, including routes along the three forks of the Swan River.
North Fork: From Highway 9, follow Tiger Road to the three-way junction at 3.2 miles, turn left on the North Fork Road. Ride along the left side of a meadow, through a gate and into the trees. A short distance farther, turn left onto a side road where the main road curves right and crosses the river. Begin climbing more steeply over sometimes rocky terrain. Connect with the main road again after about a mile and continue up the left side of the drainage. Continue straight past a gated spur on the left. The road narrows, climbs several short, steep pitches through dense forest and reaches some dilapidated cabins in a small opening at about 5.5 miles. Continue climbing, now over more challenging terrain. As you near timberline the valley widens, mountains appear and collapsed buildings marking the old Rexford townsite dot the hillside. Climb over rocky terrain into a spectacular high alpine cirque. Turn around at the three-way junction near a stream. Both spurs dead-end shortly beyond this point.
South Fork: From Highway 9, follow the Tiger Road. At the three-way junction at 3.2 miles, turn right toward the South/Middle Forks. Pass some private property, and at the next junction turn right and cross the river. Veer left and climb gradually into the trees. At about 4.7 miles, reach a major four-way junction near mining remains. Turn left, cross the river and climb more steeply along the left side of the drainage. Beyond a house the road becomes quite rocky as it passes some spurs on both the left and right. Ford the river at almost 6.7 miles and take either fork (they connect again shortly) up the first of many steep, technical pitches. Beyond a gate, pass two spurs on the right, then turn sharply left and drop into a meadow. More steep climbs that may require walking bring you to Georgia Pass for a well-deserved rest. Roads head in all directions — some dead-end, another accesses the Colorado Trail and traverses along Glacier Peak to connect with the Middle Fork Road, and the main road heads down to Jefferson and Highway 285 in Park County. Return as you came.
Middle Fork: From Highway 9, follow Tiger Road. At the three-way junction at 3.2 miles, turn right toward the South/Middle Forks. Pass some private property and at the next junction, continue straight, following the Middle Fork Road up the left side of the drainage. The road veers left and passes through a gate. Climb gradually through the forest, passing several side roads. Pedal up some short, steep pitches separated by level recovery areas. Beyond a spur on the right in an open hillside, at about 7.5 miles, the road gets steeper and more technical. It switchbacks upward past the remaining buildings of Swandyke. Climb into a beautiful mountain meadow. Pass a spur on the left and continue up the main road to a well-preserved building perched on a steep slope. Beyond this point, the road ascends steeply and connects with routes that drop into Montezuma. Expect to walk a lot if you continue. From the historic building, it is recommended to return as you came.
Parking: Parking options are available at trailheads along Tiger Road.
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