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From mining history to ancient fossils, from a flourishing downtown district to Colorado’s newest trail system, the Royal Gorge Region is full of incredible places to visit and explore. One of the best ways to experience the Royal Gorge Region is on your mountain bike, and if you’re an experienced rider, you’ll love the winding singletrack that takes you through geological wonders and along ridges above dinosaur stomping grounds. In partnership with the Royal Gorge Region, we’ve put together an awesome guide for you to experience some of the most challenging, heart-pumping trails that the region has to offer.

1. Dakota Ridge Trail, Hogbacks Open Space

This trail runs along the top of the Dakota Ridge crest and descends from the ridge on steep bedrock and is most ideal for the advanced mountain biker, hiker, and trail runner. The Dakota Ridge Hogback Formation is composed of layers of sediment and fossils preserved from an era millions of years ago when Colorado was covered by an inland sea.

Pro Tip: The base of the trails is clay, so conditions can be dangerous after rain or snow. Also, traffic will ruin the trails, so practice Leave No Trace policies by waiting for the trails to dry.

Getting There: From Main Street in Cañon City, head north on 5th Street for about 0.5 miles until you reach Floral Avenue. Take a left (west) uphill and through the Sowback formation. Parking will be on your left (south) side of the road. (*This is where Skyline Drive descends into town.)

There’s so much to see and explore on the Hogbacks Open Space trails. For more information, visit royalgorgeregion.com/hogbacks-trail-guide.

2. Hard Time, South Cañon Trails

Hard Time Trail - South Cañon Trails - Royal Gorge Region
Sign for the Hard Time trail at the South Cañon Trail System. Photo courtesy of Royal Gorge Region.

Hard Time, one of the trails that makes up the 10 miles of singletrack in the South Cañon Trail system, is a technical and difficult climb. It also connects to Section 13, a set of trails that offers incredible views of Cañon City and rocky, intermediate terrain. The steep ascent and descent of the Hard Time trail offer some amazing views in addition to challenging terrain.

Pro Tip: To ride a bike from downtown to the Eagle Wing Trailhead, just take a short jaunt on the Riverwalk and head up Colburn Lane.

Getting There: From downtown Cañon City, turn right (south) onto 1st Street. Follow 1st Street to a Y in the road, where you will bear right (west) onto County Road 3. Travel about 1.0 mile and you will see the parking lot for Ecology Park on your right.

Visit royalgorgeregion.com/south-canon-trail-map for a map and more info about the South Cañon Trails.

3. Temple Canyon Park

Temple Canyon park - Royal Gorge Region
A creek running through Temple Canyon Park in the Royal Gorge Region. Photo courtesy of Royal Gorge Region.

Evidence of human life can be found throughout the Temple Canyon Park area dating back to Ute Indian Tribe ceremonial use, and in 1881, workmen for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad re-discovered this natural amphitheater. The area was acquired as a city park in 1912. The trail connects to the South Cañon Trails via Temple Canyon Road, so you can extend your ride or hike beyond to other trail systems. Steep switchbacks ascend to flatter terrain that follows a creek. The trail can either be 0.6 miles or 1.25 miles one-way depending on the starting location.

Pro Tip: Check the stream flow in early summer before attempting the longer version of this trail as high waters can make the trail impassable.

Getting There: For the shorter hike, take 1st Street south for approximately 1 mile, and take a right onto Temple Canyon Road (CR3). Continue on this road for an additional 5.1 miles. You’ll see a turnoff on your right (north); take this and follow it to the terminus (about 0.5 miles). You will see the trailhead past the restrooms. For the longer hike, do not take the turnoff, but continue an additional 1.25 miles to the next restroom facility located just before the bridge. This hike will require you to cross the creek at various locations, some of them not well-marked.

Learn more about Temple Canyon by visiting royalgorgeregion.com/temple-canyon-park.

4. Island in the Sky, Oil Well Flats

Island in the Sky, Oil Well Flats

Follow the Fire Canyon trail to begin at the lower section of Island in the Sky, riding clockwise. The Island in the Sky section begins in a tall pine tree grove and quickly ascends to an open meadow near the top of the ridge. The top of the ridge is rocky, but hikers and riders are rewarded with beautiful views of cliffsides, Cañon City, and the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the distance. The descent finishes when the Island in the Sky trail meets Fire Canyon trail again.

Pro Tip: If you’re hiking, you might choose to start in one of the two upper parking lots, instead of lower lots.

Getting There: From downtown, head east on Main Street or Highway 50. Turn left (north) onto 15th Street and continue for 0.9 miles. Turn right (east) on Central Avenue and continue for 1.0 miles. Turn left (north) onto Field Avenue and continue for 2.2 miles. Continue north at Y intersection with Red Canyon Road. Travel on Red Canyon Road for 3.7 miles. Turn right (east) on dirt road (first available right-hand turn after Red Canyon Road crosses to the east side of Fourmile Creek) and continue to parking lots.

For more information about the Oil Well Flats Trail System, visit royalgorgeregion.com/oil-well-flats-trail-system.

For more information about the best trails in the Royal Gorge Region, visit royalgorgeregion.com.

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