Walker Ranch-to-Eldorado Canyon mountain bike link closer than ever

Will enable an epic Super Walker-Eldo mountain bike loop

By Marc Doherty Sep 11 2018

For anyone who’s mountain-biked Walker Ranch knows — the allure of dropping into nearby Eldorado Canyon State Park is great.

Walker Ranch, located up Flagstaff Road on the eastern side of Gross Reservoir, is a must-ride for any Boulder mountain biker and Eldorado Canyon State Park “Eldo,” south of town in Eldorado Springs, is a climbing mecca and local gem.

Although they’re just a few miles apart, there’s no way to close the circuit with a mountain bike right now. (Hikers and equestrians do have a trail now).

Bikers on the Walker Ranch loop. Photo credit: Trailsource

Today marks the public comment deadline on a new proposal to link Walker Ranch with Eldo via a new multi-use trail — with bikers allowed! All signs point to the three land stewards involved — City of Boulder, Boulder County and Colorado Parks and Wildlife — coming to an agreement that would pave the way for the bike link.

The existing hiking trail needs maintenance and the agencies need to align on possible bike routes. But signs suggest that early next year we could have a plan in place for the bike link, and, perhaps a year out from then — after some trail design and building — a bike trail!

Boulder MTB Journey

Mountain bikers have a love-frustration relationship with Boulder. Those of us with a goat in the garage would love to hop on a trail directly from town, but, perhaps rightly, the city restricts trails near downtown to hikers.

There’s no riding Chautauqua to the Mesa Trail system and no bike trail connects Boulder to Heil Valley Ranch. But we do have lovely Betasso just a few miles up Boulder Canyon, which requires just some mild road-riding before hitting trail.

Given that our epic hometown stokes our appetite, Boulder mountain bikers are hungry, especially for an epic loop that Walker Ranch-to-Eldo link would open up.

The proposal — long time coming

After over two decades of whispers and rumors, the possibility of a bikeable link between the two is coming to a head — a link trail between the park and open space already exists, but is limited to hikers and equestrians.

A feasibility study, through a partnership between Boulder County, the City of Boulder and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, is underway.

The partner agencies boiled down over a dozen original proposed trails to three possible options: a north route, a south route or status quo.

The north route would rebuild the preexisting trail, the Eldorado Canyon Trail, connecting Eldorado Canyon trailhead in Eldo with the eastern portion of the Walker Ranch loop.

Agencies’ map of the proposed north and south routes, plus their sub routes.

This trail is quite steep, rocky and loose and already showing signs of erosion — one way or another, this trail needs some TLC. Proposals range from a couple small reroutes to a complete overhaul.

The south route would construct a new, longer, seven-plus mile trail connecting the Crescent Meadows trailhead in Walker Ranch to the Rattlesnake Gulch trail in Eldo. Rattlesnake Gulch is already biker-friendly.

A no-action option is also on the table.

Sunrise in a snowy Eldorado Canyon. Photo credit: Max and Dee Bernt.

A fourth option

On Sept. 5, Boulder Mountainbike Alliance (BMA) issued an official comment on the matter, proposing a fourth option: Let’s build both!

Wendy Sweet, Boulder Mountainbike Alliance President

The nonprofit argues that this would spread riders out and open the options of seasonal closures and directional travel, as well as providing another large loop option.

“[The loop] is definitely our hope. Loops, instead of out-and-backs, provide a much better multi-user experience,” says Wendy Sweet, BMA’s president.

“Offering both trails would allow people to select the one more in line with their ability,” she adds.

But if they can’t have both, the south option will do. It is longer and the prospect of a new trail is always exciting.

The Super Walker-Eldo?!

Boulder bikers and runners love links. Whether a Super Betasso, High Lonesome or Skyline Traverse, give us access and we will link together a loop.

This link could bring a new mega-loop into play: the Super Walker-Eldo. Ride from town up Flagstaff Road, through Walker Ranch, down to Eldo, possibly stop for a dip in the epic Eldorado Swimming Pool (if it’s summer) maybe stop for a loop at Doudy Draw and cruise home on CO-93. What a day that would be!

A bikeable back entrance to Eldo from Walker would also provide locals with a smooth way into the standout park. Traffic and tight parking can complicate weekend visits. The park is a gem and deserves an epic entrance, free of traffic and parking.

A bonus for bikers — it appears that both the north and south options would provide a convenient way to skip over Walker Ranch’s single, huge drawback: the hike-a-bike down (or up) steep stone stairs around South Boulder Creek.

There’ll be an October public open house where the agencies will share their findings and accept more comments. BLDRfly’s assessment is that we’ll be able to fly the Super Walker-Eldo loop sometime in 2020 if all goes as it seems.

Stay tuned!

Marc Doherty

Marc is BLDRfly’s adventure reporter. When not hunting powder, Marc can be found exploring area trails, hanging out with his dog Chelsea and running Rio’s rooftop. marc@bldrfly.com.