Summit County Bike Guide: Penn Gulch Grind preview (video) |

Summit County Bike Guide: Penn Gulch Grind preview (video)

By the numbers

Distance: 10.5 miles (short), 14.5 miles (long)

Rating: Advanced

Time: 1-2 hours

Elevation: 9,829-11,200 vertical feet

Trail: Singletrack, dirt road and paved road

Season: Mid-June to early September


Penn Gulch Grind

What: The fourth race of the Summit Mountain Challenge MTB series, held on trails and dirt road southeast of Breckenriddge

When: Wednesday, June 27 at 5:15 p.m.

Where: Boreas Pass Road trailhead, Breckenridge

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. An adult season pass for all series races (including the Fall Classic) is $175 before June 15 and buys a permanent number plate. A season pass without the Fall Classic is $125. A junior season pass (18 years and younger) is $100 through the MTB Junior League program. For more info on the series or to register for a race, see the Maverick Sports website at

SUMMIT COUNTY — The monsoon will make this one interesting.

On July 27, race No. 4 of the Summit Mountain Challenge bike series comes to Pennsylvania Gulch, where singletrack, double-track and the occasional paved road take riders through the towering pine forests and wetland meadows southeast of Breckenridge.

The Penn Gulch Grind is a standard on the series schedule, and with good reason. Riders on the long and short courses begin with a classic ascent — nearly 1,500 vertical feet across 5 miles on Boreas Pass Road and Bakers Tank singletrack — before descending on U.S. Forest Service roads into the gulch. There are roots, there are rocks, there are creek crossing, and, in an unexpected twist, there are even a few hundred yards of river riding.

Yes, you read that right: river riding. Once bikers descend from Boreas Pass into the gulch — it’s tricky now thanks to runoff gullies — the double-track route turns into a river that’s anywhere from several inches to 1.5 feet deep. And, given the latest round of monsoon season storms, the water could be even deeper. (Don’t worry — a strip of dry singletrack parallels the river through the lush willows.)

Less than a week before the Grind, the Summit Daily’s bike crew rode the race route to preview all the twists, turns and monsoon gullies at Penn Gulch.

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Race route

The Penn Gulch Grind features two courses: a 10.5-mile short course (junior, sport women, beginner, 60+ age divisions) and a 14.5-mile long course (sport, Clydesdale, singlespeed, expert, pro/elite divisions). Both routes follow the same trails until the descent into Penn Gulch, when long-course riders split onto the “grind” climb for another 3 miles of climbing.

As always, the crew at Mav Sports does a good job marking the course. Be sure to follow the red arrows on race day.

Start at Boreas Pass Road trailhead.

Ride 1.5 miles up Boreas Pass and turn left (uphill) through break in fence.

Take first right onto Bakers Tank trail and ride about 1 mile over roots to Bakers Tank. Descend and turn left for climb on Boreas Pass.

Ride the dirt road 1.8 miles and turn right onto U.S. Forest Service road No. 593/Indiana Creek Road. It comes about 0.5 miles past an unmarked private road.

Descend on steep, rocky double-track to “Y” intersection at bottom of Indiana Creek Road.

At the intersection, long-course riders turn left for “grind” section. Short-course riders turn right for more descent — and the river ride. You can ride in the creekbed or take a slower alternate route through the willows.

Continue descending until Indiana Creek Road becomes a paved road at a small parking lot. Ride on pavement through the neighborhood.

Turn right onto Blue River Trail (don’t turn onto the paved driveway) and follow as it winds north back toward downtown.

Continue straight at intersection with Southside Trail to merge onto Illinois Gulch Trail.

Take Illinois Gulch Trail to wooden bridge in southeast corner of parking area and the finish line.


From Interstate 70, drive south through Breckenridge on Highway 9. Turn left onto Boreas Pass Road (also known as Broken Lance Drive if taken to the right) at the stoplight on the south end of town.

On race day, organizers ask everyone to park at Stephen C. West Ice Arena and take the shuttle to the trailhead. There isn’t nearly enough parking up there for 100-plus cars. The ice rink is on your right after turning at the stoplight.

For the Boreas trailhead, drive 3.5 miles up a winding road to pavement’s end. Park in a pull-off on the left where the road becomes dirt.

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