Natural skate park: Pawnee National Grassland

This tale was originally posted Nov. 16, 2004. There is so much goodness here, I just had to re-post it on the new site platform.

Date: Sunday, Nov. 14 2004

Place: Main Draw OHV Area, Pawnee National Grassland

Crew: Elliot, Jeff, Rob, Steve, Rufus and me

Mission: FREERIDING, baby, oh yeah!

Elliot Hoover knows how to ride a bike. And a hardtail no less.

About two hours from Boulder, in the rolling prairie east of Fort Collins, lies the Pawnee National Grassland. This sprawling, diverse park offers fishing, hiking, camping and all that stuff. In one area — the Main Draw — erosion has carved a shallow canyon through the fine-particled dirt. OHV trails run up and down the gash, and numerous cliffs and small canyons drop in from the sides. The result is a roller coaster ride for OHVs and Audi A4s (heh heh), and a freeriding canvas for us mountain bikers.

For the most part the motos stick to the bottom of the canyon, occasionally carving beautiful berms on the canyon walls or blasting up the steep chutes. The trails that exist require horsepower. To have fun riding a bike, you need to hike and use your imagination. The baked contours resemble a natural skate park. “Hmm, I could drop there, carve there and hip off of there …”

Since I’m a linear-thinking racer guy it took me a while to get the hang of it, but after a couple nice hits I was scoping lines with the rest of the boys. You can drop off cliffs into the ATV bersm, link natural humps into jumps, hip little promontories, ride skinny ridges and have a great time riding up the sandy walls. With a shovel and a sculptor’s eye, you can make pretty much anything you want. Heck, you could play an amazing game of line H-O-R-S-E out there.

Things to know:

The parking lot is full of goat head thorns. Carry your bike to the trail. And don’t let your three-legged dog run around.

Motorized vehicles are allowed only from November 1 to April 9, to give migratory birds somee peace and quiet.

OHVs are restricted to the main draw itself, which is a couple miles long. The north end is deeper, more convoluted and more interesting than the south end. We found tons of roll-ins and drops, and a sweet natural wall ride.

For directions, regulations and terrain photos: U.S. Forest Service page,

Thanks to Jeff and Rob for taking some of the photos.

Steve clears a 30-foot gap near the park entrance.

Elliot gets some of his own.

Rob realizes it’s more dangerous to stop and look than to charge it.

Jeff gives it a boost.

Rob rolls a sketchy line that got sketchier every time we rode it.

From the back.

If you ask me, Jeff’s T-shirt is just asking for trouble.

Elliot, the master sculptor, at work.

Elliot tests his new creation. He zoomed down a slope, across a little floor then hipped across a recession. Too fun.


I roll the now ultra-sketchy line.

We boosted down this slope to gain speed for a sweet wall ride.


Here’s that wall ride. I was getting it pretty good …

… but Elliot was flat-out killing it.

Rob style.

Lee style.

Elliot style!

Rob style.

We pedaled across the plain before we dropped into the wall ride.

Yes, this one.


Just as the sun went down, Jeff super sized it …

… as did Elliot. On a hardtail with no front brake. This guy has no fear of commitment.

Pawnee Hipsters, the miniseries

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