Top Hikes, Bike Trails and Beers Summit County, CO
Bikes, Hikes, Burgers and Beer: How to Enjoy Mud Season
Listen: do you hear that sigh? That low exhalation, tinged with a bit of wistfulness? It creeps across the valley, coordinating with the last swing of the last lift as it comes to a stop. The resorts are closing and, for 98% of the population, it’s time to put up the skis and snowboards and pull down the bikes and hiking shoes*.
*For the other 2% of the population (you know who you are), we know that you’ll actually spend the next few weeks at Arapahoe Basin or skinning up to the highest points, just to get in a few more runs. Good on you.
Spring is the time to start getting back into the summer groove, putting some miles on your bike and loosening up those hiking boots. Though the mountain peaks are still wearing their caps of snow, there are plenty of places that you can start biking and hiking. Of course, after all of the exercise and exertion, you’ll want to reward your efforts with a restorative meal and frosty beverage.
Summit County is filled with fantastic places to eat, from cheap and cheerful to haute cuisine. However, when you’re coming off of a hike or ride, certain elements can make all the difference. Things to consider include: location (how close is it to the end of your ride?), amenities (is there a deck to enjoy the sun and let the breeze waft away any exercise-induced aromas?) and overall vibe (will I feel out of place in my spandex bibs or mud-spotted attire?). Other decision points can include cuisine offered, happy hour deals and where you friends are heading. As a result, the following establishments are merely suggestions—not requirements.
Here are some of the best trails for early season exploring, paired with places that you can fill your belly.
The Oro Grande and Tenderfoot trails are the ones you want to ride in the spring, according to Danielle Tarloff, manager and bike fitter at Wilderness Sports in Dillon. These are some of the first to open in Summit County. The Oro Grande connects Dillon and Keystone; the rolling terrain of this trail is great for beginners. The Tenderfoot trail is popular with hikers (though you can bike it, too) and features great views of Lake Dillon and the 10 Mile Range.
However, Tarloff cautioned riders: “What’s probably more important than where to ride is how to travel.”
The trails are wet and muddy from melting snow—some will retain snowy patches in the shade well into May.
“A lot of people encounter that wet muddy spot and they go around it instead of going through it,” Tarloff explained. “It’s best to go over or through that wet or muddy or snowy patch instead of widening it up, keeping the singletrack singletrack for hikers and bikers.”
After your exploring, take your two wheels or two feet and head to Dillon for rejuvenation. Pug Ryan’s has two decks to choose so you can sit and sip one of their beers while enjoying the view. They’re also the folks behind the Lakeside Tiki Bar, which usually opens mid-May. If you’re in the mood for barbecue, the Arapahoe Café is the perfect spot to satisfy that urge.
In Frisco, take a turn around Lake Dillon on the Peninsula Long Loop. This trail melts out the earliest, according to Colin McDonald, the manager at Podium Sports in Frisco. With both singletrack and doubletrack portions, begin with a lakeside loop, followed by a tour of the interior of the peninsula, finishing in the Frisco Bike Park.
After this loop, check out the Island Grill at Frisco Bay—it doesn’t open until Memorial Day, but there’s no better view of Lake Dillon in Frisco. Wander down Main Street for options ranging from sushi at Kemosabe to Indian and Nepali favorites at Himalayan Cuisine. You’ll find a crowd at Greco’s for happy hour and Prost is home to a fabulous patio. Not just for ice cream anymore, Foote’s Rest has expanded and has a huge outdoor area featuring fire pits, a fish taco stand, horseshoes, a bean bag toss and, if you’re lucky, live musical entertainment.
Breckenridge is situated at the highest elevation in Summit County: town is at 9600 feet and the surrounding slopes are even higher. As a result, the trails here do tend to stay snowy longer.
“It’s the north facing aspects that take longer to melt,” said Thad Eldredge, owner of Carvers in Breckenridge.
However, there are places that you can hike and bike early in the season—if you know where to look. Eldgredge recommends the Flume Loops Trail, which winds through the Highlands neighborhood and incorporates Lower Flume Trail, Mike’s Trail, Middle Flume Trail and Upper Flume Trail. Start at the Upper Flume Trail to get the climbing out of the way at the beginning, but know that both Mike’s Trail and the Upper Flume Trail can be challenging for beginners.
Other early-melt trails include the Sallie Barber trail, and the Barney Ford to Moonstone up on Boreas Pass. The Boreas Pass access road can also be a great spot for early season hiking: the road is wide enough that you can dodge the ice and snow that collects in the shadowed areas and it’s usually smooth sailing well up to Bakers Tank.
These high altitudes can leave you hungry after a workout. If you’re exploring the Barney Ford trail, sneak out above Moonstone to Traverse Restaurant and Bar for great tapas and an unbeatable view. If you end down by Carter Park, mosey to the patio at Cool River or The Crown for sandwiches and salads or wander further down Main Street. Great decks can be found at Kenosha Steakhouse (bonus points for the games out back near Blue River) and Burke and Riley’s for hearty meals and happy hour drinks. The upper deck at Modis is a perfect Sunday brunch spot and, if you don’t mind waiting until dinner, Czech It Out has fantastic views.
The Summit County Craft Beer Trail
Perhaps the best trails to explore during the spring season are the bike paths the wind their way through the county. This network of 55 miles of paved paths connects Breckenridge to Frisco and moves on through Dillon and up to Keystone to the east and connects to Copper Mountain in the west before heading up Vail Pass into Eagle County. These thoroughfares are snow-free and easily navigated early in the season.
However, in addition to their attractiveness for cyclists, skateboarders, joggers and walkers these paths can serve another, perhaps higher purpose: they can take you on a tour of all Summit County’s breweries.
Bakers Brewery’s free map details trails around Summit County, creating a can’t-be-beat plan for traveling around and visiting all six breweries in one day. The key is to bike downhill as much as possible, so you’ll start at Breckenridge Brewery before visiting Broken Compass. Then, stop into Backcountry Brewery in Frisco before riding along Lake Dillon to visit Bakers Brewery, Dillon Dam Brewery and Pug Ryan’s. If you get tired of riding, the map will include info about the free Summit Stage bus route so you—and your bike—can get home safely.
Springtime in the high country can mean some crazy weather—one day it’s almost beach weather and the next day might bring six inches of snow. To keep up to date on the trail conditions in Summit County, check out the Summit Daily’s Bike Information.
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