First ride: Picture Rock Trail, Heil Ranch

After 10 years of planning and work by BMA, IMBA, Boulder County Parks and hundreds of volunteers, the new Picture Rock Trail opened last week. It is long, technical and tasty.

The new trail connects Heil Ranch to the city of Lyons and, by extension, Hall Ranch. Picture Rock is part of a grand plan to link mountain bike trails from and around Boulder.

Climb into Heil Ranch as you normally would. When you reach the also-new Wild Turkey Loop turnoff, hang a right. Wild Turkey is much flowier and more MTB-ish than the older Heil trails. Enjoy the short, traversy descent to the low point, then peel right onto Picture Rock.

Picture Rock is 5.5 miles long, all downhill but with plenty of rollers and chicanes. It drops to Red Gulch Road on the outskirts of Lyons. When you hit Highway 7, you can spin left to the Hall Ranch trailhead or spin right to Oscar Blues downtown.

The ride
You can tell this trail was made by and for mountain bikers. It doesn’t bolt straight across the landscape Point A to Point B style like the old Heil Ranch trails. It meanders and rolls and ducks and explores, making clever use of all available elevation and contour.


– The top of the trail is tight. It reminds me of weaving through the scrub above Laguna Beach.

– The middle of the trail opens up a bit and settles into an easier flow. The trail is cut into the slope, so one direction is always banked, and the other is off camber.

– The bottom of the trail flirts with a series of steep-sided, red-dirt mini-canyons. Pump along the side, dive into the bed, emerge on the other side, repeat. It feels like the trails outside Paige, Arizona.

– The trail is NOT fast. The sinuousness keeps your speed down and help you wring more love from the available terrain. Many of these turns are tight and raw, and you can already see where people are blowing out of the turns — especially lower on the trail.

– Many of the rocks were placed by hand. Our Front Range natural rock formations lay down pretty logically and can usually be skimmed across. Many of the rocks marking the chicanes are very tall and square-edged. Go around. Don’t try to skim or pump unless you know the section. (I fly over the bars so you don’t have to.)

– Practice your pump. Some of the key designer/builders (including Pete Webber at IMBA) have been riding pump tracks, and that seems to show in the many pump-able rock features.

– Overall, Picture Rock trail is pretty darn technical and physically demanding. A skilled, fit and aggressive rider will find a nice flow on this trail. Everyone else will struggle — but they’ll have fun.

Picture Rock is an awesome addition to the Boulder County trail system.

Here’s a trail-building video:


— Lee

6 replies
  1. Justin Richard says:

    The trail looks awesome and I’m really excited to ride it. But how do you recommend doing the ride? Starting in Lyons or starting from Heil Ranch?

  2. Thomas OB says:

    It’s great to see so many people out and building the trails. We need more of this in Colorado. Great work Boulder people and the trail looks really fun.

  3. leelikesbikes says:

    If you start in Lyons you end with a descent. That would be my choice if I didn’t live on the Heil side.

    The other day I rode from home in Boulder, over Olde Stage to Left Hand, up Heil to Picture Rock then down to Oscar Blues for dinner. It was about 2 hours door to door.

  4. Ron White says:

    Last Sunday rode out and back starting from Heil Ranch trailhead side Red Gulch Rd. and back, 18.3 miles, 2:24:00. i thought it was a great trail, obviously lots of work put into it. Less technical than Hall Ranch(rock garden) but longer and with more flow. Lee is right that it’s not particularly fast, by design i’m sure. i do have a fear that the softness and in cut nature of the lower part of the trail will lead to washouts over the next few years but it’s great now to have a 20 mile single track option (if you include a couple of other Heil loops at the top) so close to Boulder; not to mention a 30 mile single track option if you include Hall Ranch.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Last weekend’s route: From home in the Boulder foothills over Olde Stage Road to Left Hand Canyon Road, then down to Geer Ranch Road to the Heil Ranch trailhead. Up the front of the park to Wild Turkey, down Picture Rock to Lyons and finally to Oscar Blues for feast with The Wife. Time with traffic and an OTB crash: 2 hours. […]

Comments are closed.