The Switzerland Trail is one of the most classic bike routes in Boulder, if not in Colorado. Set in the magnificent scenery just up Boulder Canyon, minutes from downtown, the Switzerland Trail follows the old railroad route, which used to take gold miners into Boulder’s foothills. Today, it’s one of Boulder’s best bike trails, with varied terrain from forests, to logging roads, to paved roads riding through historic relics of Colorado’s mining past.
Operating from 1890 to 1919, the narrow gauge railroad was crucial to Boulder’s economic development by providing a faster route to the mines up in the canyon. As mining dissipated and the railroad was made open to tourists, they were enthralled by the view at the top, which earned the moniker, the Switzerland Trail, since they could see the Indian Peaks Wilderness on one side, and Rocky Mountain National Park on the other.
The Switzerland Trail adventure starts from driving through downtown Boulder and up Boulder Canyon before turning on Sugarloaf and driving up gaining elevation quickly and getting a spectacular view of the Indian Peaks and Rocky Mountain National Park. The canyon is abundant with wildlife such as black bear, deer, and mountain lions among many others.
From the parking lot, riders start by riding through established trails at an easy grade, getting speed and enjoying exposed mountain roads that look over Boulder Canyon and the foothills that lead to the Indian Peaks. After a few miles the trail gets slightly rockier as it drops about 1,000-feet over 4 miles. The grade however is still gentle so although the trail is a little more undeveloped, it’s still easy and a pleasure to ride, with spectacular views to the north.
In the next section, we’ll ride through some of Boulder’s historic districts through old reminders of its gold mining past, as we pass by the old hotel at Mt. Alto, and the old mining offices, now museums, filled with relics of Boulder’s industrial history.
After coming out of the back roads we’ll rejoin Gold Hill Road that comes back towards town, passing into gorgeous scenery between the foothills where we’ll get to enjoy a long cruise back into the city.
The joy of the Switzerland Trail is the easy riding and spectacular scenery. If you’re able to pull a brake and ride an easy to moderate downhill than you’re more than ready to take on one of Boulder’s most classic rides. The combination of historical significance, overlooks to two ranges, and a variety of terrain makes the Switzerland Trail an unforgettable experience.
Note: Due to construction on the trails this route will only be available for weekend travels for 2018 and 2019.