Tucked away in Idaho Springs, Colorado, Barbour Fork Trail offers an 8-mile loop for the intermediate-level mountain biker seeking a challenge. Laden with technical terrains, steep climbs, and rapid descents, this trail isn't for the faint-hearted. Despite its level of difficulty, the ride promises rewards in the form of captivating meadows, and lodgepole and aspen forests.
Take I-70 west from Denver to Idaho Springs Exit #241. Make a left on Miner Street, passing Safeway, and another left on Soda Creek. Continue past the dump to find the parking lot located just before the forest service gate. The distance from Idaho Springs to the trailhead is approximately 3 miles.
Embarking on this adventure means getting an intense workout right from the start. The trail begins with a steep climb over waterbars on F.R. 194. The first intersection at F.R. 194.2 is your cue to turn right and possibly cross a creek. As you meander through open meadows, look out for Barbour Fork Trail (#48) on your right. Stick to the single-track until it merges back with F.R. 194.2, then take a left into an area affectionately known as "Collarbone Alley."
Upon reaching the valley, you will cross another creek and climb up to Van Eden Meadow. From this point, route finding can become a labyrinthine task due to multiple intersecting trails. The goal is to loop around the meadow and then retrace your steps to the trailhead.
While the serenity of the trail is universally appreciated, several riders mentioned uneasy encounters with wildlife and hunters. Some portions of the trail suffer from erosion, and the route can be elusive even with GPS.
Barbour Fork Trail presents an exhilarating yet challenging ride with its array of steep climbs, quick descents, and technical rocky sections. Though it could benefit from better signage and planning, the trail offers an off-the-beaten-path experience for those willing to navigate its complexities. And while the wildlife adds a layer of excitement, it also calls for extra caution. All in all, if you’re up for a bit of rugged wilderness biking, this trail is worth the trek.