First Purpose-Built Bike-Only Downhill Trail
Opens On Front Range
Photos by Jason Holzworth
Colorado Mountain Bike Association (COMBA) held an opening celebration for The Sluice aka Segment 4 on Wednesday, August 21, with more than 100 riders in attendance. Part of the new Floyd Hill Open Space Trail System, The Sluice is a 1.3-mile bike-only directional downhill trail just 30 minutes from downtown Denver. Built specifically for bikes on public lands in Clear Creek County, the trail is the first of its kind on Colorado’s Front Range, an area encompassing the foothills west of Denver.
As the area’s first purpose-built downhill mountain bike trail, The Sluice features a variety of manmade features—the majority of which are not found elsewhere on Front Range trails—including jumps, berms, drops, step-downs, step-ups, technical rock lines and several optional alternative lines (places where the trail splits giving riders more and less challenging choices).
Dropping 700 vertical feet—with I-70, Colorado’s main mountain artery, as a backdrop—The Sluice’s main trail is rated blue square/black diamond, with the alt. lines varying in difficulty from black to double-black diamond.
“We want to introduce these concepts and the resulting experiences on the trails to the Front Range public to build support for implementation at other trail systems in nearby areas,” says Executive Director Gary Moore. “It is important to have this public support to enable land managers to make difficult, bold changes to their trails.”
The trail represents significant progress for mountain bikers on the Front Range, a region where bike access is typically relegated to multi-use trails, bikes must yield to all other trail users and downhill traffic is expected to yield to uphill. Designed and built by Flow Ride Trail Concepts, The Sluice provides an experience that previously wasn’t available in the region without buying a lift ticket at a downhill mountain bike park. COMBA says the demand was evident.
Outspoken mountain bikers showed up to county planning meetings over the last two years to voice support for a directional bike-only trail, and individual contributions were significant in the more than $38,000 COMBA crowdsourced for the design and build of The Sluice. And on August 21, the turnout for opening night far exceeded expectations.
“Everyone was thrilled with the purpose-built features on the downhill trail and opinion was unanimous that nothing like this exists anywhere else in the front range,” says Clear Creek County Trails Supervisor James Kovaly. “Seems a lot of hard work by a lot of people over the last three months has really paid off. This was truly a public-private partnership.”
The Sluice is part of the Floyd Hill system which currently features approximately 6 miles of multi-use trail with several more planned or under construction. The Floyd Hill trail network is expected to total approximately 12 miles upon completion according to the proposal.
“We’ve been excited about this project because it is professionally designed, professionally built and it includes all the modern trail management techniques such as separation by user, separation by speed and directional trails,” says Moore.
The Floyd Hill Trail Network has gone from concept to reality over the last two years and is the culmination of cooperation between stakeholders including COMBA, Clear Creek County, Clear Creek County Open Space, Mountain Area Land Trust, Trust for Public Land, Great Outdoors Colorado and Gates Family Foundation. Sponsors include Team Evergreen Cycling, Yeti Cycles, Pedal of Littleton, Wheat Ridge Cyclery and Colorado Deck Master.
Other recent advancements in the region supported by COMBA include an existing 0.9-mile section of Longhorn Trail at White Ranch Open Space near Golden, CO, being designated bike-only downhill directional, and a new extension off Dakota Ridge in Morrison, CO, being bike-optimized with a directional segment.
Upcoming projects for COMBA include the Virginia Canyon Mountain Park in Idaho Springs which will feature several downhill bike-only trails in addition to multi-use bi-direction trails. The City of Idaho Springs has also approved plans for a gondola to the top of the canyon to provide trail access, a project to be paid for and constructed by the Argo Mill.
COMBA is also leading a regional planning effort dubbed Outside 285 to bring area land managers, wildlife experts and trail user groups together with the goal of preserving valuable wildlife habitat and identifying opportunities for improving recreational amenities and infrastructure.
“We are working with trail users and land managers to find the best balance of conservation and recreation to maintain a healthy Colorado landscape,” says Moore.
The Colorado Mountain Bike Association (COMBA) is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (95-1147772) aimed at building a community with a common goal: to make Front Range mountain biking world-class. With a mantra of “Build. Advocate. Educate.” COMBA seeks to develop and grow strategic partnerships with riders, land managers and stakeholders to increase bike access, improve existing trails and build new trails to benefit the Front Range mountain-bike community. Learn more at COMBA.org.