If the very word 'grueling' makes your cyclist heart skip a beat, then the St. Mary's Falls Trail might just be your next epic endeavor. This unforgiving ascent is the ultimate challenge for riders who believe pain is temporary but glory is forever. This trail's notoriety as the "most brutal climb in the area" isn't an exaggeration.
Find your way to Gold Camp Road in Colorado Springs, where both St. Mary's Falls and Buckhorn trails share a trailhead. Keep riding past the Buckhorn singletrack entrance and look for the start of the climb after you pass a collapsed tunnel.
Should you dare to tackle St. Mary's Falls, you'll be met with:
As you might have guessed, this is a ride that will make even seasoned cyclists question their life choices. Starting off with a deceptively manageable grade, the trail quickly turns nasty with steep climbs on loose, gravelly terrain. And just when you think you've conquered the worst, a series of switchbacks will beg to differ.
It's crucial to go into this ride prepared:
The St. Mary's Falls Trail has an infamous reputation among local riders, with some referring to the ascent as "gritty," "rocky," and "a hike regardless of your skill level." Comments often include cautionary tales of near falls and potential face-plants due to the loose gravel and steep grades. Some riders have been known to use the trail to access the more rideable Jones Park or Pipeline trails but consider doing so only if you have energy left to spare. Almost unanimously, riders advise against making this trail your descent route because of its treacherous terrain and susceptibility to erosion.
This trail is not for the faint-hearted or the ill-prepared. With its incredibly challenging ascent, St. Mary's Falls is a ride for only the most adventurous souls. Whether you view the ascent as an ordeal or a spiritual experience, one thing is certain: this trail offers a trial by fire like no other. Highly recommended—but only for those who know exactly what they're getting into.