When you think of planning out a Boulder bike ride, the word “Alpine” may not come to mind. Lucky for you, there is a way to experience a bit of the Alps (even if you’re stateside).
In 1898, the C&N Railroad Company came up with the name “Switzerland Trail” to describe a old train line. Fortunately, the tracks have long since been removed to make way for mountain bike trails. As a result, you’ll find spectacular views that are absolutely spectacular.
Today’s Switzerland Trail runs for approximately 14 miles across the Four Mile Canyon northwest of Boulder. With a gentle, double-track slope that rarely exceeds 5% – there’s nothing technical about the ride. Specifically, you get prolonged inclines and long winding descents.
Just be on the lookout for mountain lions, who have been known to make cameo appearances.
Find the Perfect Ride for Cycling the Switzerland Trail:
Boulder Bike Ride: Getting Started
To get to the northernmost trailhead, you’ll have to climb up Sunshine Canyon to the historic mining town of Gold Hill. Here you’ll find a general store and a 3-room schoolhouse dating back to 1873. For the record, yes – it’s still in operation.
The Switzerland Trail intersects with Gold Hill Road just west of town, kicking off a nearly 5-mile descent into the canyon. It’s here where both the isolation and majesty of the Front Range come into full view. Once you cross Four Mile Canyon Drive, you’ll start to climb up the northern edge of Bald Mountain.
The southern end of the Switzerland Trail technically stretches to Glacier Lake just north of Nederland. However, most cyclists will finish up their ride (or begin it, depending on which direction they’re headed) on Sugarloaf Mountain. From here, it’s just a straight downhill shot on Sugarloaf Road and Boulder Canyon Drive back into town.
Like all rides around this part of Colorado, you’ll need to pace yourself with regard to the elevation. The trail tops out at just under 8,600 ft above sea level – that’s a solid 3,200 ft higher than downtown Boulder. Be prepared to lose your breath, as much from the workout as from the incredible vistas that give this historic trail its name.