Dirt Trails - Northern Front Range of Colorado

Ghost Towns and Mining History

The Dirt Trails of the Northern Front Range are dominated by the Continental Divide. They vary from rough and rocky mining access “roads” to smooth gravel cruisers. If you’re into mining history, the rough climbs are worth the payoff of mining ruins. Many of the towns in this area have a rich mining history too, whether they are alive today, like Nederland and Central City, or just ghost towns like Apex, Tolland and American City. Be sure and plan extra time to stop and explore the tailings piles, abandoned mine equipment and crumbling structures.

Caribou South Trail

Dirt Trails of the Northern Front Range of Colorado

From I-70 in the south to the Wyoming border in the north, the Northern Colorado Front Range is dominated by the imposing Continental Divide. When gold was discovered in “them thar hills,”throngs of treasure seekers scoured the mountains for riches. The trails and roads these miners gouged into the hillsides are what we Dual Sport enthusiasts get to ride today.

These roads were not just to get up to the mines, but much of the gold was locked away inside the rock. The only way to get the gold out was to bring the rocks to a mill where they could be crushed and the gold extracted. If a mine was big enough they would process their ore on site, but if not, they had to bring it to a nearby mill. That meant millions of tons of rock had to be moved down the mountain to mills located in more central locations.

If there were enough mines around, some enterprising soul might decide to build a railroad to ship the ore. That was the case with the Switzerland Trail  and the now long gone Wall Street Mill just west of Boulder. But in most cases, the ore was hauled in wagons and mule trains down trails like the Lone Star Mine Trail, Caribou South Trail and Moon Gulch Trail. It’s hard to believe that most of these trails were made with hand tools and burros. Well… maybe a little dynamite too.

Fortunately for us, all of their hard work has left us with a network of some of the best Dual Sport trails to ride in the West. Click on a trail link in the list to find the dirt trail that’s right for you. For Dual Sport Trails south of I-70 all the way to Canyon City, take a look at the Dirt Trails South.

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