Epic Routes by Jessica Klabak:
It may be called “Mountain Bike Capital U.S.A.” but with endless miles of trails to explore, Winter
Park and the surrounding areas are also a trail runners dream. Below are just a few great runs
you can put together. If you aren’t familiar with the area, maps are a must because we have so
many great trails to explore and it can get pretty confusing.
South Fork Loop:
If you are looking for a shorter run close to Winter Park and smooth flowing
single track, you can’t beat South Fork Loop. In total it is about a 5 mile loop and there are
plenty of trails in the area that you can run to add on more miles. Most people like to run this
loop counter-clockwise. Park in the designated parking spots on Friendship Drive in the
Rendezvous neighborhood, then take Meadow Trail up to Cross Trails. Turn right on Cross
Trails and continue to South Fork Loop Trail on your left. You’ll roll up and down through the
woods and cross a couple of bridges before hitting some shaded old growth forest that follows
the creek. Eventually you’ll hit an intersection with Ditch Trail. Take a right on Ditch and wind
around back to Meadow Trail and you car.
Blue Ridge to Bowen Lake:
If you want a run that’s a little longer with high alpine views, the
Blue Ridge to Bowen Lake out and back can’t be beat. Usually out and backs aren’t my thing,
but this one is worth it. This 10 mile total route starts at the North Supply Trailhead in the Never
Summer Wilderness just outside of Grand Lake. You can enter the trailhead name into Google
maps and it will take you right there. From the trailhead, the Blue Ridge Trail starts on the right.
There are several trail intersections so bring a map, but follow signs and ascend along Blue
Ridge with sweeping views in all directions. Eventually there is a fork where turning right will
lead you to Bowen Lake. Dip your toes in the water, eat lunch, then head back the way you
Berthoud to Brewery:
For more experienced backcountry runners who feel confident running
a mountain marathon, my absolute favorite run in Grand County is what locals call the Berthoud
to Brewery. It is almost an exact marathon and ends right at Hideaway Park Brewery in Winter
Park. You have to start early (5:00 am is a good idea), because you are above tree line with
limited ability to get down for the first half of the run. It’s worth it though — who doesn’t want to
tag six peaks before most people have even finished their coffee! There are a few Class III
scrambles, so if you aren’t comfortable with scrambling, this run might not be for you. You’ll
want to drop a car near the brewery, then shuttle to the parking lot at the top of Berthoud Pass.
From the top of the pass, you’ll begin by running east up the road to the summit of Colorado
Mines Peak. From Mines, take the single track trail down to Mt. Flora trail. Continue on this trail
until summiting Mt. Flora. Once at the summit you will be running off-trail and mainly following
rock cairns heading north. Follow the ridge summiting Mt. Eva, Perry Peak, and Mt. Bancroft.
The route between Bancroft and James Peak is mostly scrambling, so take your time.
Eventually, the cairns lead you to single track just before summiting James Peak. After the
summit, head north down the scree, then turn left on the well worn trail heading west. Continue
downhill on this trail until reaching Corona Pass Road, where you turn left and run on the road
to Broken Thumb Trail. Take Broken Thumb down to Twisted Ankle Trail. Work your way to
Serendipity Trail and then head down Yankee Doodle into town and enjoy your beer!