Breckenridge Bike Guide: Flume Trails (video)
Distance: 1.6 miles (Lower Flume), 2.2 miles (Middle Flume), 3.2 miles (Upper Flume)
Time: 1-1.5 hours (loop)
Elevation: 9,600-10,685 feet
Type: Loops system, singletrack
Season: Late May to early October
Extensions: Mike’s Trail connector, Slalom, Gold Run Road
Parking: Breckenridge Recreation Center parking lot to access the trailhead, ride east across Colorado Highway 9 to Summit County Road 450 and take the road 0.75 miles (past the 7-11 and liquor store) to a small trailhead sign on the left-hand side of the road just before a condo complex.
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, 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, so 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 crossings before heading onto Middle and Upper Flumes. It can be a bit sloppy 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.), Breckenridge Town Hall (150 Ski Hill Road) 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 Breckenridge follow flume paths from 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. Switchbacks are 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 aspen 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.
It’s good because it’s immediately accessible from downtown Breckenridge. It reflects back to all of the ditches — a lot of the trails follow the ditches that were some of the original trails in Breckenridge when biking became popular. It’s a trip down memory lane for the ditches that were dug for moving water but also for bikers as they were some of the first trails that were opened and secured through all the developments that are in there. There are a number of homes through that loop where the trail passes through their property, so it’s a testament for the history of recreation.
— Scott Reid
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