Keystone Bike Guide: West Ridge trail (video)
SUMMIT COUNTY — Most mountain bikers have a love-hate relationship with West Ridge out of Keystone. It’s one of those rides with a long dirt-road haul, tight switchbacks and a handful of technical rock sections. But it’s all worth the grind when you connect with the Colorado Trail outside of The Outback at Keystone and enter one of the fastest, free-flowing descents in Summit: nearly four miles of pure downhill through wide-open meadows and forests littered with clear-cut pines. The trail offers stunning views of the Tenmile Range to the west and brief glimpses of the Continental Divide to the east. Bring some kind of camera — you’ll want a photo break between the uphill grind and downhill free-fall.
When traveling inside the Keystone Resort boundary, stay on routes designated for bike travel and expect to encounter vehicles on Keystone Gulch Road, including regular employee traffic. Camping is allowed in designated areas along the road. The route is closed in May and early June for elk calving. Don’t travel if the gate at the base is shut.
Follow the directions for the beginning of the Keystone Gulch ride. Just after that ride veers left near the third chairlift (Outback Express) at 4.5 miles and begins climbing toward North Peak, turn right onto a dirt road near a maintenance building. Ascend along a hillside for almost 0.5 miles, crossing two ski runs. At about 5 miles, take a spur road on the right (the main road dead-ends further up South Peak) that drops to a meadow and crosses a stream. Climb along an abandoned logging road, which weaves upward on tight switchbacks for about 0.5 miles.
After a long level section, you reach a junction at 6 miles. For a shorter, easier loop, turn right and descend back to Keystone Gulch on the fun and fast route you just climbed. The reward is worth it if you’re feeling beat up at 10,300 vertical feet.
To reach West Ridge, stay left and continue climbing. Several abandoned side roads along this section can be confusing, but the main route remains fairly obvious. After a switchback to the left, the road narrows and eventually becomes singletrack that climbs to connect with the Colorado Trail at 6.8 miles. Turn sharply right onto the Colorado Trail and meander along West Ridge, a flowy trail that traverses through open meadows and the remnants of recent clear-cutting operations. Anticipate other trail users on this route — use caution around blind corners and expect to yield.
At about 8 miles, you’ll reach a side trail on the right that’s still part of the Colorado Trail. Take this spur (see the Colorado Trail ride and full bike guide for connecting routes) and descend to another logging road. Turn right for a long descent through a series of switchbacks. This section occasionally gets technical, with rock patches and tight turns, but the downhill reward is more than worth it after the past few miles of non-stop climbing. At the bottom, cross the creek (which can be a challenging wade until mid-July), turn left onto Keystone Gulch Road and descend to your vehicle.
From Interstate 70, follow Highway 6 east to Keystone. At the stoplight for the Keystone Tennis Center, turn right onto Keystone Road. Turn left immediately, cross the Snake River and turn right onto Soda Ridge Road after about 0.25 miles. Drive another 0.5 miles and turn left into the dirt parking lot on Keystone Gulch Road. Park near the gate.
Editor’s note: This article first appeared in August 2015 and is annually updated for accuracy.
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