Friday, March 20, 2015

Mountain Biking at Pueblo Reservoir

After nearly 15 years, I finally put my Trek 8000 out to pasture.  Since I moved to Colorado, I am close to an abundance of great mountain biking options and I am riding more than I have in years.  My Trek was getting tired and I was finally ready to pull the trigger and get a new ride.  I found a direct order company called Airborne Bicycles that offered well equipped bikes for far less cost than a local bike shop could offer.  A sale price at the end of the year sealed the deal and by late January I bought my first new mountain bike since 2000.

Since I live over 7000 feet in elevation, a lot of the trails have been snowy or muddy.  A warm spell in February allowed me to finally do a couple rides.  These rides were mostly on dirt roads just to get a few miles in on the new bike.  I had plans of traveling to do some more serious riding but other plans got in the way.

One of the popular winter riding destinations not too far from home is Pueblo Reservoir.  There are more than 40 miles of singletrack riding close to the shores of the lake.  Much of the winter the Pueblo area stays clear of snow.  Just as I was ready to take a trip to Pueblo, the area was hit with a few storms and cold spells that made the area unrideable.  The past week the weather warmed up to the mid 80s in the Pueblo area and the trails dried.

My original plan this week was to climb a 14er, but my partner for the hike had a last minute plan change.  With the warm weather I shifted my focus from hiking to mountain biking.  The trip almost didn't happen though.  I was set for a ride Tuesday but a quick weather change brought showers and a nearly 30 degree temperature change from the previous day so I bailed on my ride.  I was supposed to work Wednesday but the job was postponed so I got another free day to get in my ride.

The reservoir has a couple of trailheads to choose from.  Since the bulk of my riding focused on loops at the west end of the system, I started at the Red Gate trailhead.  Since this was my first ride on the bike and my serious ride on a 29er, I was looking for a flowy ride that wasn't too technical to get a feel for the bike on actual trails.

My ride started on a trail called Cuatro Sinko.  This was a smooth and flowy singletrack that generally went downhill through a mostly grassy area.  After a couple of turns I found myself on Driftwood.  Like its name implies, there are piles of old wood that apparently were dumped there from the time the reservoir was created.  Driftwood was windier than Cuatro Sinko and traveled through and around the wood.  The trail brought me to the bluffs above the lake. The start of the riding was a bit chilly as the temperature was still in the 30s.
The first view of part of the lake
An early look at the bluffs along the lake
A canyon along the trail
Riding high above the lake
Looking toward some canyons
Rock formation above South Shore
From Driftwood, I followed Inner Limits and Outer Limits.  These trails are similar in nature with more windy and flowy singletrack that rides high above the lake shore.  The scenery was nice with numerous views of canyons, bluffs, and distant mountains as it weaved through the grass with sections of desert vegetation along the way.  I followed these two trails for nearly 10 miles.  At the end of Outer Limits I started to ride the Voodoo Loop.  My ride on the Voodoo Loop was cut short however as both directions of the trail appeared to dead end at a flooded arm of the lake.  Rather than waste time trying to find the trail, I headed back toward my starting point via a lazy singletrack called Route 96, that roughly parallels the actual road Route 96.  There were plenty of other trails to explore.

Buttes from Inner Limits
The buttes from another angle
The trail riding toward the lake
The trails rode on the bluffs along the lake for miles
Looking across the lake
The Wet Mtns in the distance looking over an
arm of the lake on Outer Limits
Long straight away in the prairie
along Outer Limits
Since Voodoo was a bust I decided add a loop close to my trailhead.  This loop started on a trail called South Shore.  South Shore followed an arm of the lake as it headed toward the main trailhead by the campground.  South Shore was only 2 miles long but offered some decent short but steep climbs and descents.  The scenery along South Shore was quite interesting as I rode toward some desert rock formations.

Near the beginning of South Shore
Tree cholla along South Shore
South Shore winding ahead
Rock formations
More interesting rock formations in the
distance along South Shore
Close up of the rock formation
From the campground I headed toward my trailhead via Conduit, The Duke, Rodeo, and Rodeo Ridge.  This section of the ride offered the most desert scenery with plenty of cacti including tree cholla, prickly pear, and a few other types of cacti.  Rodeo, although short had the most varied terrain in this section as the trail climbed through a small canyon with a little more technical terrain than the other trails I rode.

Tree Cholla along The Duke
I rode just over 24 miles with 100% of the riding on singletrack.  Most of the trails I rode had good flow and few technical sections with generally fast conditions, just the kind of ride I was looking for on my first real ride on the new bike.  Now that I have feel for the bike I plan on hitting some more technical rides.  I hope to visit this area again before it gets too hot and ride some of the more technical canyon trails that I passed on this time.

By the time I finished riding it had warmed to the low 60s, even though it wasn't too sunny.  Just two days prior this area saw temps in the mid 80s.  I would never consider riding here in the summer.  It is usually quite hot in Pueblo and there is no shade.

Generally I heard good reviews on the riding at Pueblo Reservoir before I rode it myself.  I enjoyed the riding.  While the area lacks big mountain terrain, it does offer a lot of trails and some variety. One thing it had plenty of was singletrack, with pretty much every trail a narrow ribbon through the prairie/desert. I wasn't expecting much in scenery but the area is interesting.  It offered a mix of high prairie/desert terrain with canyons, bluffs, and rock features.  And of course, there are plenty of views of the lake, one of Colorado's largest bodies of water.  In the distance Pikes Peak seemed fairly close.  The Wet Mountains still held some snow on the summits and to the south the Spanish Peaks towered over the low terrain to the south.

Pikes Peak
Greenhorn Mtn in the Wet Mountain Range in the
distance with a snowy cap
Close up of interesting rock formations
After finally riding a real ride on my new bike, I am impressed.  This was my first extended ride on a 29er and disc brakes.  It was also my first time riding a 2x10 drivetrain.  Everything on the bike felt so much better than my venerable Trek.  I look forward to many miles and new trails this riding season.

My new Airborne Goblin along South Shore

Click on link for a trail map of the area.  Pueblo Reservoir Map

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