Maxwell's trail is one of the best ways for mountain bikers to enjoy the serenity and beauty of Horsetooth Reservoir while still getting something challenging and fun for a good workout. While it is open all year, the surface is dusty singletrack and, as such, can get muddy after a downpour. During these periods, you may find the trail closed. There are also plenty of large boulders and rocks near the trail that may provide a better vantage point for looking at the reservoir.
You can start Maxwell's Trail in one of two parking lots. The first is in Maxwell's Natural Area off Dixon Canyon Road. The second start point is at the Rotary's parking lot near the opposite end of the trail. It should be on N County Road near Punk Rock and the Meditation Boulder. There are no rules for riding direction, so you can ride either way.
Also, since you'll be covering much of the same trail no matter the start point, you'll get to see the same landmarks and views.
The parking lot at Maxwell's Natural Area is fairly small, so you may be forced to use the alternative on a busy day. Also, a section of the trail is looped, so you won't have to go through the same scenery on your way back.
If you're starting at the Maxwell's Natural Area parking lot, you'll ride north on the Foothills Trail. This trail takes you past the "A" or Aggie Peak and into an overlook of the Horsetooth Reservoir. Also notable is that this part of the trail is quite technical.
Continue north on the Shoreline Trail. You'll eventually reach the Horsetooth Reservoir swimming area slightly past the Sunrise Picnic Area. There should also be a parking lot. This is the end, and you can double back.
Alternatively, you can head back on the Rock and Roll trail back to its intersection with the Foothills Trail that you used at the beginning. Once you're back on the foothills trail, it should be easy to remember your way back to the parking lot.
The climbs on this trail are quite technical. As for the descents, some are not easy either, with rock outcroppings on the singletrack surface that require a keen eye and slow speeds to navigate. The rocks also make it hard to ride the trail with hardtails, so a full-suspension mountain bike might be ideal.
There's a drop here and there, and you might have to cross some of the tarmacked access roads as you navigate the trail.
In addition to the Horseshoe reservoir, you get a view of the "A" as you ride past it and the large boulders that make up the landmarks in the area. These include the Eliminator Boulder, Talent Scout, and Punk Rock which some people use for rock climbing.
The swimming area may also be worth a stop if you carry your swimming gear.