Antelope Trail, Upper Bitterbush Trail, & Nelson Loop

Antelope Trail, Upper Bitterbush Trail, & Nelson Loop (Hall Ranch, Lyons)

  • Attempted 6/17/15
  • 10.2 miles RT
  • Apprx. 2 hours to complete trail
  • Moderate MTB Trail
  • +1,160′ net elevation gain to peak (about 6,360′)
  • Equipment:
    • sunblock
    • sunglasses/biking glasses (when you are going fast downhill, you’ll want some glasses of sorts)
    • tech shell (i take this with me whenever I go into the mountains)
    • Lots of water
    • bike pump
    • flat tire patch kit/extra inner tube
  • Antelope Trail: Blue, 1 mi
  • Upper Bitterbush Trail: Blue, 1.4 mi
    • Lower Bitterbush Trail: Double Diamond, 2.2 mi
  • Nelson Loop: Blue, 2.2 mi

While I am not ready skill-wise to tackle the Lower Bitterbush trail quite yet, the Antelope Trailhead provides a fantastic ride! I think it took us about 2 hours to ride, but I can’t quite remember.  The Antelope Trail gets right into it and presents you with some solid terrain to ride over.  The trail has tight switchbacks, some rocks, and some smooth parts.  It is a great balance of everything in my opinion!  The trail did have a huge mud pit in one spot when we rode, but I am confident that by now it is dried up enough to ride through (when I went, it submerged my front tire so much on the descent that I almost flipped over my handle bar!).  By comparison, Antelope is ranked the least technical of the 3 trails.  I think I would rank them as Nelson Loop is the toughest, then Antelope, then Upper Bitterbush.

You will reach an open field with a fork left and a fork “right” (basically straight).  The sign is well labeled: Left leads to the very difficult Lower Bitterbush while right leads to Upper Bitterbush.  Upper Bitterbush is a friendly trail with some nice turns, jumps, and rocks to go up and down.  There is one rock in particular that is rather steep.  Just attack it and don’t bail or else you will flip backwards!  I went at it and had no problems in my lowest gear.

After that huge rock, Nelson Loop is just around the corner.  We didn’t know which way was better, but the group in front of us assured us that ascending the left side and coming down the right was better, and I think I agree!  The left side will require an ascent very similar to the terrain you just tackled, perhaps a bit steeper and more technical.  But the right side is going to be longer and a smooth ride down with some good rocks.  Coming down the left side would be a lot more braking and a lot quicker than the right side.  Definitely would go up the left side again!

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The split you will find at the gate leading to Nelson Loop.  GO LEFT!
The split you will find at the gate leading to Nelson Loop. GO LEFT!

Now for the fun part, going down!  I really enjoyed going down Upper Bitterbush.  Antelope Trail was also fun to come down, but more technical work and some tight switchbacks that could easily trip you up!  Careful descending this when it is busy!  We descended around 4:30 and there was a huge rush of people coming up, which made ascending the switchbacks THAT much harder not being able to see around the turns well!

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A section on Upper Bitterbush on our descent.

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Overall a super fun trail that I will do again a few times this summer whenever I am looking for a quick ride close to Boulder!  It was a good push on my skills, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  I thought that Wapiti Trail and Ponderosa Loop were much more challenging of my skills, certainly something that pushed me a lot more and enhanced my technical MTB skills.  I think given all else equal, I would opt for biking Heil Valley Ranch since it is harder, more fun, and closer to Boulder.  If I was taking someone new to MTB, I might opt for Hall Valley Ranch and just tell them that they may have to dismount a few sections.

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