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.
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