Coming back from the Sangres a couple of weeks ago, I drove on forest roads near Conifer in the wee hours of the morning avoiding an accident on 285, and it piqued my interest in coming back during the day to check things out. Today I took the bike to Buffalo Creek for a spin.
The Buffalo Creek forest road (Forest Road 550) off of Jefferson County Road 126 is pleasant as dirt roads go (it's mostly closed to motorized traffic). It's situated in a canyon and is generally shaded and more lush than the surrounding hills.
It was late in the afternoon so light was scarce, but I tried to reproduce the look of the experience as well as I could.
The surface is granite gravel/sand, as is the case for most of this area.
I took the Baldy Trail off the road, and it's a very long, gradual uphill. Obstacles are lots of loose sand from runoff, roots and rocks, but quite a bit of it was dirt packed with fine granite gravel, and traction was good.
I recognized the Miller Gulch trail from a run here years ago, as a beautiful area. It's sparse pine forest with grass below.
Once I got to the burn area from the 1996 fire, it was a sparse and desolate landscape with the surreal quality of desert. Sculptured rocks and dead trees are everywhere.
I don't think I ran the Sandy Wash Trail years ago, but it's phenomenal riding. The surface is sandy, but full of banked dirt turns, rollers, and mild rock obstacles.
The trail is a lot like a motocross course or skiing moguls or slalom, with lots of ups, downs and turns. No jumps, but lots of great curvy riding. It tested my riding skills, but the fully 3-dimensional nature of the ride was a blast.
This is a smooth section near the top, before the drop back down into the creek valley:
I don't have a ton of photos of the fun stuff because I was busy riding it, but here are some nice boulders and turns typical of this section:
This was a great time of day to ride, although the lack of other riders was kind of strange, and made me glad I didn't have too far to go to my car. I would not ride the upper part of this area during mid-day due to the burn area and the lack of shade. But in the late afternoon, it was pure bliss.
In the final section, the trail follows the road, then merges with it about a 1/2 mile before the highway.
I think Sandy Wash is my new favorite bike trail. That was awesome.
Distance was 15.23 miles (road > Baldy > Miller > Sandy > road), time 2:25 (moving 1:48), elevation gain/loss 1,588 feet, avg. speed 6.3 mph, and max speed 19.8 mph.