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

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