North American Bike Park Review Tour

Keystone Bike Park

Photos by Dusten LaPointe

Keystone, Colorado, is a mountain and town with lots of history in outdoor recreation, but we came here for the mountain bike park. With 55 miles of lift-accessed trails and steep, technical terrain, this bike park had the crew giddy with excitement as we trucked through the Rocky Mountain State headed south. Keystone has a beautiful village with hotels, dining options, shopping and awesome terrain. Sadly, the bike park suffers from some shortcomings we’ll address below. It is a bummer because Keystone is such a family friendly resort with kid’s activities in the village, on the mountain and a slew of local activities to keep everyone entertained. Furthermore, a short drive from the village and visitors can see beautiful lakes, mountain vistas and take part in just about any form of recreation they’d like. So, without further adieu, let’s see where Keystone stacks up among the rest.

North American Bike Park Review Tour - Keystone Bike Park

THE TRAILS

Getting straight to it, let’s talk about the trails that Keystone has to offer. The mountain features mostly advanced terrain. While they do have a green trail, it is probably the only thing beginner riders will enjoy. This is largely due to trail construction, layout, and most importantly, maintenance, or more specifically, the lack thereof. Keystone is a large mountain, so the trails are very long. If you find yourself in over your head on a trail, it’s going to stay that way for a long time.

Starting out with the beginner trails, we quickly realized there isn’t a lot for the truly “green” level rider. One very long trail that graduates riders to some of our favorite tech-blues of the trip. Eye of the Tiger and Mosquito Coast are very fun but definitely above their blue rating in terms of challenge. They are scenic and tight singletracks littered with fun roots, rocks and sharp turns to keep you on your toes when carrying speed. We could have lapped these trails for hours finding new places to gain speed and corner faster. Something we enjoyed very much, but true beginners may not. It’s most definitely a dark blue and leaves a big gap from the long green.

North American Bike Park Review Tour - Keystone Bike Park

Steep and technical trails are Keystone’s bread and butter, although they are making efforts with their jump lines. It is certainly a challenging mountain, especially in dry summer months as the steep, rocky terrain can get very loose. The trails venture off from the top in a few different directions and will keep you entertained and second guessing your line choices for quite a while.

Black and double black tech trails vary from DH style race tracks to rugged “bet you can’t ride down that” rock chutes that had us Rock, Paper, Scissoring who would go first. The ruggedness of the mountain is also apparent in their signage, which at times is a bit hard to decipher. With only four full time trail crew workers, it’s no guess that a steep and rocky mountain like Keystone is going to have some maintenance issues. There are many areas with deep ruts, blown corners and awkward lines. We realized that Keystone is a bit of a “Local’s Mountain.” If you ride there regularly and it’s your home spot, you’ll probably hold it close to your heart where many of the new school bike park tourists may have a serious acclimation period. It’s definitely a park for riders who enjoy picking lines, rocky terrain and technical moves.

If you don’t live for raw trails, there isn’t a whole lot to offer at Keystone. Keystone’s jump trails like TNT are a miss in our book. Their layout is sub-par, with poor speed management or steep grades that require heavy braking in between jumps. As a result, this trail has the most severe braking holes and bumps of any bike park we visited this summer. Landings would also be strewn with lose rock that had eroded. The other stand out jump trail, Money, was a massive improvement when it came to grade and layout, but huge variations in jump size and steep, awkwardly made lips made the trail difficult and almost dangerous to ride, even for advanced riders. Part of the issue at this park is the small trail crew. While the guys are as hard working as any other park, the team is under 5 people, so maintaining 55 miles of bike park trail is a daunting if not unattainable task. A local stumbled upon our film crew as we were riding and informed us there’s a difference between “trail speed” and “Keystone speed.” For those unfamiliar, trail speed is what most good trails builders use to gauge the distances of jumps, step downs, drops etc. You can exit a turn or approach a feature and if you’re moving at the natural speed of the trail, you’ll be set up for the gap. At Keystone we often found ourselves going off a jump or cannon log only to watch the landing disappear behind us as we held on for a rough, flat landing. Conversely, we’d round corners after hitting several smaller jumps with perfect speed, and then find a lip leading to a jump much too long for the speed we were carrying.

North American Bike Park Review Tour - Keystone Bike Park

ON SITE ACTIVITIES AND FOOD

The village at Keystone is moderately sized and has lots of dining options to choose from in a range of budgets. If you’re riding however, it’s often easiest to grab food at the top of the mountain at the Summit House. Inside, they have the typical mountain fare and an outdoor grille. It was actually some of the better on-mountain food of the trip, and The Overlook Grille didn’t disappoint. Our favorite was the pulled pork or tacos, but it’s hard to go wrong. The view and outdoor seating definitely adds to the vibe. A must stop lunch spot for sure.

While you’re up top, it’s a short walk over to enjoy the summer tubing. Each year keystone takes the last of the snow and pushes it into a giant tubing hill on the summit that lasts all the way into August before melting. It’s a fun way to cool off in between laps in the bike park or a way to bring the family up for a mid-day activity.

If you’re looking for a spot in the village to grab a few beers and some snacks after a day of riding, 9280’ Taphouse is worth checking out. With wings, nachos and options to go around, it’s ideal for winding down after a long day tackling the hill.

WHAT BIKE TO BRING

Keystone Bike Park is rough, wild and unruly. Out of our crew, the guys on Trek Session DH bikes definitely had the fastest times and most fun out on the trails. Longer travel enduro bikes like our 160mm Trek Slash 29ers handled the terrain just fine as well. But, in a park that’s all about the nastiest, rawest and loosest trails you can get your tires on, it’s hard to say no to a full-blown DH rig. It’s especially handy in those times that you need a little extra travel to save your poor line choices too.

The village has a fully equipped rental shop as well that has a well-stocked inventory of bikes in various travel categories. We recommend heading there if you can’t bring a bike or feel that your personal steed isn’t up to the task.

WHERE TO STAY

Keystone’s lodging spans from cheap to ultra luxurious. Since we had a big crew, we opted to split up the cost of a condo in the resort. That meant we had access to a full kitchen, outdoor BBQ’s, pool and a jacuzzi. It sure beat sleeping out of the van! Staying at the Keystone Resort also means you get to have access to free activity vouchers, discounts on local activities and some insanely good homemade cookies at the check in desk. Be sure to grab a few bags!

For those looking for lower cost lodging than the $120 per night starting rate of the resort accommodations, the nearby town of Dillon has lots of hotels and Airbnb’s to choose from.

If you’re looking for camping, there’s a selection of paid and non-paid campgrounds all around the resort. Many are on the shores of the Dillon reservoir, which is just a short ten minute drive from the resort.

North American Bike Park Review Tour - Frisco Bike Park

LOCAL INFO

While the Keystone bike park may not have much in the way of jumps and flow trails, the incredibly built Frisco bike park is just down the road about 30 minutes. This public park has a massive skatepark, dual slalom track, dirt jumps, flow trail, and even a pro level slopestyle course. No matter what kind of skill lever rider you are, this park will let you progress comfortably and spend some serious time in the air. It’s easily one of the best maintained and built city bike parks we’ve ever set tires on. While the setting sun ended our session here early, we’ll be dreaming of it for years to come.

Woodward Copper is also a few minutes from Frisco, and they allow the public to ride the foam pit and skate parks for a small fee. If you’ve never ridden your bike in a foam pit before, we suggest you add it to your bucket list of things to do. We had a blast practicing all the tricks we’re too scared to try to dirt, but know we have buried deep.

Of course all that riding will kick up an appetite, and thankfully the town of Dillon and Frisco have the restaurants to satisfy. Our two recommendations are the Dillon Dam Brewery and the Taqueria at The Clubhouse. Out of every one of the 10 stops we visited, our favorite meal was the Taqueria. The corn bread was out of this world, and we can still smell the deliciousness of the Dorito Burrito. If you’re in the area, this place is a must hit!

For those that want some non-wheel based activities, Keystone has ample hiking trails to keep you busy. Loveland Pass is also a great spot to visit, where you can hike at the nearly 12,000-foot elevation summit and take in the views. For the brave few, there’s even some snow melt fed lakes to swim in. If you’re not a polar bear, there are other warmer swimming options near town.

North American Bike Park Review Tour - Keystone Bike Park

The Wolf’s Last Word

Keystone’s location is absolutely breathtaking, not to mention the area’s abundant list of activities and dining options. The town and surrounding areas make this a destination worth visiting. If raw, technical and on the edge riding is your cup of tea, the bike park will definitely prove a welcome challenge. While there were lots of things we liked about it, we can’t talk about the park without mentioning some of the large shortcomings. The biggest was maintenance. With a crew of just 5 people, it simply isn’t reasonable to expect proper maintenance of 55 miles of trail and 3,000 feet of descent. That said, for the entry price of $46 we do expect a bit more and we’d love to see Keystone take their park to the next level. The terrain, local offerings, scenery and location are all there! We’d like to thank Keystone for all the help during our stay and hope to return again to enjoy some improvements made to what could be an amazing bike park.

To learn more, visit Keystoneresort.com

OVERALL RATINGS
Trails: 6.5/10
Affordability: 8/10
Food: 8/10
Nightlife: 6/10
Lodging: 9/10
Camping: 9/10
Off Mountain Activities: 9/10

North American Bike Park Review Tour - Keystone Bike Park

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