Summit County Bike Guide: South Rainbow Trail (video)
Distance: 1 mile
Time: 15 minutes
Elevation: 9,350-9,500 feet (150 vertical feet)
Type: Out and back, double-track connector
Season: Early June to late October
SUMMIT COUNTY — There’s a whole world of singletrack and double-track right outside of downtown Frisco, and hardly anyone gives it a second thought.
South Rainbow Trail is one of several short connectors found in the pine and aspen forests south of Frisco. Like other nearby trails — Bill’s Ranch Trail, Rainbow Lake Trail, the lower portion of Peaks Trail — this short and sweet section of double-track meanders around Rainbow Lake before connecting with Miner’s Creek Road and neighborhoods tucked away in the woods.
At just barely 1 mile, South Rainbow Trail is hardly a demanding ride in terms of vertical and length. It’s also relatively straightforward, with few large boulders or roots. But, what it lacks in technical insanity, it makes up with sheer serenity. Most mountain bikers tend to follow Peaks Trail and Miner’s Creek Road, leaving South Rainbow more or less untouched throughout the year. The trail is lined with tall aspens and pines, making it a near-perfect getaway when the area explodes with color in mid-September. The jaw-dropping corridor is home to just enough climbing and descending to keep advanced riders entertained, and, even when autumn routes in Breck are packed, the loops systems around Rainbow Lake remain quiet. Welcome to fall.
Know before you go
South Rainbow Lake is typically dry enough to ride by early June, although the trail can get muddy and sloppy depending on snowpack. Expect occasional Jeep traffic on Miner’s Creek Road. The trail is popular with day hikers and families, especially the lower sections near Rainbow Lake. Be on the lookout for dogs, children and other riders.
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ABout 100 yards up from the intersection of Peaks Trail and Miner’s Creek Road, turn right at a small clearing surrounded by rail fences. Pedal through the fence opening and bear slightly left as the double-track trail crosses a small meadow and enters a stand of tall, spindly pines and aspens. The trail is overgrown in areas and occasionally branches off on small diversions, but the main road remains fairly obvious.
After about 1/4-mile the trail begins to climb on a moderate grade through aspen and pine forests littered with underbrush. Be wary of water and loose rocks early in the season or after heavy rains — this trail is known for runoff. The grade levels off about 0.5 miles from the trailhead and weaves through the forest until it reaches an intersection with Bill’s Ranch Trail around 0.75 miles. To stay on South Rainbow Trail, follow the clearly marked sign and bear right at a downhill junction for a rocky and occasionally steep descent to the end of the trail at rouhgly 1 mile. Here it intersects with the lower portions of Peaks, Bill’s Ranch and Rainbow Lake trails, all of which loop through the Rainbow Lake area before leading back to Frisco.
For the easiest route back to the Miner’s Creek junction, follow Peaks Trail uphill until it reaches Rainbow Lake after 1/4-mile. Continue around the lake for another 1/4-mile to reach the junction.
From Interstate 70, drive through Frisco on Highway 9. Just south of town, turn right at the stoplight onto Peak One Boulevard (County Road 1004). After a few hundred feet, take the first right at the Miner’s Creek Road/Bill’s Ranch sign. Take an immediate left and drive up a narrow paved road a short distance. This paved section is open to bikes and other rec users. Use caution. Park at the trailhead and pedal up the paved path about 1/4-mile to the intersection with the Summit County recreation path. Miner’s Creek Road is on the left after crossing the path.
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