Bicycling Magazine

Boulder, CO: Picture Rock Trail 

This 10-mile, Front Range out-and-back challenges with 1,000 feet of climbing through tight, rocky lines, before paying off with a flowing descent on slalom-style singletrack.

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Author: Bicycling Magazine
Date: 27 Oct 2008 2:57:16 PM
Activity: Mountain Biking
State: Colorado (CO)
Distance: 10.11 mi  (Change units)
Survey Elevation: Total Gain: 1887 ft
Total Loss: 1888 ft
Net Change: -1 ft
Difficulty: 6 / 10
Tags: Boulder, Colorado, Denver, Front Range, Lyons
Rating: Unrated   Rate it

A recent addition to the Front Range mountain bike menu, the Picture Rock Trail offers a singletrack connection between the Hall Ranch and Heil Valley Ranch trail systems. This 10-mile out-and-back is a gem in its own right and well worth the 20-minute drive from Boulder to Lyons.

The first two miles of Picture Rock climb a gentle grade on smooth singletrack through high desert meadows bordered by sandstone cliffs. On the way out, this stretch is a mellow warm-up for the rockier terrain ahead. On the return trip, though, this trail begs you to test tire traction as you pump through tight, flowing turns. The only limit to speed here is the narrowness of the trail: always yield to hikers and expect opposing fat-tire traffic (especially on weekends).

After traversing a stretch of off-camber, red-clay singletrack at mile 2.6, the trail cuts over to the west side of the valley and begins climbing at a slightly steeper pitch up singletrack that is significantly more rocky. The trail gets complicated at points, but never overwhelmingly technical; in fact, Picture Rock is a great challenge for beginner and intermediate riders looking to improve their balance and line-finding skills.

After 1,000 feet of climbing spread over 5.1 miles, Picture Rock synchs up with the Wild Turkey Loop. From here, combine Wild Turkey and the Ponderosa loop for a 4-mile extension, or simply U-turn for the descent back to Lyons. Picture Rock can also be accessed further south from the Heil Valley Ranch trailhead on Gear Canyon Drive (off of Lefthand Canyon Drive), although from there it’s at least a 17.7-mile ride.

-Mapped by Mark Harrison and Joe Lindsey

TO TRAILHEAD: Take US 36 west to Lyons and turn left onto CO-7. In 0.5 mile, turn left onto Old St. Vrain Rd. Continue 0.3 mile and turn left on Red Gulch Rd. Continue 0.2 mile to trailhead parking on the right. Park only in designated spots. Access also available from the Heil Valley Ranch Trailhead.

Position Format: Datum:

Picture Rock Trail

Distance: 10.11 mi Points: 1169
Total Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
Active Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi

Points of Interest

Singletrack Flow

Location: 40.197773, -105.268335
On the return trip, the last few miles of Picture Rock have excellent flow; in some spots the trail even has a slalom feel. © Mark Harrison

Picture Rock Trailhead

Location: 40.211326, -105.272777
Be sure to park only in the designated spaces at the Picture Rock trailhead. If it's full, there is overflow parking back at Meadows Park in Lyons. <p> To access the Hall Ranch trail system from here, ride back to Old St. Vrain Road, turn left, continue 1.3 miles, go right on an unnamed road, and then right again on CO 7 (watch for cars). The Hall Ranch trailhead is 0.4 mile up the road on your left. © Mark Harrison

Rolling Out

Location: 40.211355, -105.272697
The first 1.7 miles of Picture Rock are fairly exposed. © Mark Harrison

Warming Up

Location: 40.201756, -105.269816
Picture Rock starts with a slight uphill grade on smooth singletrack: perfect for getting your legs loose before the rocky stuff. © Mark Harrison

Narrow Bench-Cut

Location: 40.200719, -105.268443
Pumping through a tight section of singletrack on the return trip. The Picture Rock Trail is very narrow at spots: mountain bikes must yield to hikers and horseback riders. © Mark Harrison

Sandstone Foothills

Location: 40.198478, -105.268593
Indian Lookout Mountain and Steamboat Mountain, Lyons' signature sandstone foothills, overlook Picture Rock on the return trip. © Mark Harrison

Into the Trees

Location: 40.195856, -105.271168
About 1.7 miles in, the trail ducks into a tight tunnel of conifers. © Mark Harrison

Picture Rock at Dusk

Location: 40.191160, -105.278217
© Mark Harrison

Off-Camber Clay

Location: 40.190496, -105.278238
One of the trail's superb rhythm sections, this stretch of off-camber, red-clay singletrack has a great up-and-down flow on the return trip. Hit it hard, but do your best to stay on trail: this stretch may be prone to erosion. © Mark Harrison

Abandoned Car

Location: 40.189271, -105.280201
Popping a wheelie past an abandoned car. © Mark Harrison


Location: 40.187111, -105.282176
The latter 3 miles of Picture Rock are peppered with various rock obstacles. None are super-technical, but several can be difficult to figure out the first time around. Of course, all these tricky spots are a lot more manageable on the way down the trail. © Mark Harrison

Down and Around

Location: 40.183464, -105.284010
© Mark Harrison


Location: 40.181423, -105.285083
The upper slopes of Picture Rock are complicated but not extremely technical. This trail is perfect for intermediate riders looking to improve their ability to find good lines through rocky terrain. © Mark Harrison

Under the Rock

Location: 40.180267, -105.284855
The trail winds under a modest rock overhang before looping around the first in a series of uphill switchbacks: be prepared for series of back-to-back rock obstacles on the flip side of this first switchback. © Mark Harrison

Picture Rock/Turkey Creek Junction

Location: 40.178058, -105.288538
The northern terminus of Picture Rock intersects with the Wild Turkey Loop of the Heil Valley Ranch system. Turn around here, or combine Wild Turkey and the Ponderosa Loop for an extra 4-mile extension. © Mark Harrison


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