Some people ask us why we ever left Colorado. Sometimes, I wonder that, too. Colorado has a plethora of nature-loving and craft beer lifestyle things to do, from mountain biking to rafting to snowboarding to hiking to hundreds of craft breweries, mountain towns that looked like they stepped off a movie set, beautiful people, and heck, even South Park came from Colorado.
So, why did we move into an RV and leave? Because life is too short, the world too beautiful, the people too wonderful, the trails too gorgeous, and the beer too good, not to.
But for the first two months of RV living, we still couldn’t leave Colorado, too many places we still hadn’t seen, so we headed west – to the mountains, baby! And along the way we found great beer, great people, and great mountain biking trails.
Biking with a Yeti: Buffalo Creek
And the first place we parked our asses was a popular mountain biking area about 90 minutes southwest of Denver, Buffalo Creek. (Check out the post below. This biking adventure was also our first foray into full time RV living.) We had been camping in this area for over 20 years, but never explored the trails on bikes, so we were excited to ride the trails that we had been hiking for years.
With 20 different trails, most of them single-track, and ranging from expansive vistas due to past forest fires, covered forested regions, a few technical climbs and downhills, and plenty of variety for almost any style of riding, this is one of our most beloved places to ride. With biking literally right outside of your tent or camper, and in the middle of the Pike National Forest, this place is mountain biking heaven.
Buffalo Creek camping area is a very popular camping and biking destination during the summer months, and even more so on the weekends. So, unless you want to ride with everyone and their neighbors, including the neighbor’s dogs, get there on a weekday to fully enjoy this mountain biking playground.
Plus, if you want to camp, you will have a lot more luck finding a spot suitable to your desires. Otherwise, you may find yourself parking your RV or car and then hiking it up a hill to camp. Which people do, by the way, as long as you are not parked on top of somebody else, you can pretty much camp anywhere up here. That’s one of the things we love about this area, it is all your backyard, and oh what a beauty this backyard is.
I am not about to tell you what trail to ride, or even what trails we rode (because we are terrible at keeping track of them), what I am going to tell you is just get out there and do it. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, all you need is a bike, knowledge how to ride, and the courage to get out there. This is a great place to play, to practice, to hone your skills. And if you come across a crazy ass switchback or a rock garden that makes you scared shitless, get off and walk your bike. You can get back on. Everyone was a beginner once.
And at the end of the day, we recommend a nice cold one. Right after a ride, how about a Station 26 Tangerine Cream? When in Colorado, you gotta drink the Colorado craft beer, and Station 26’s Tangerine Cream is pure heaven. Once you open that can, the sweat dripping down your face magically disappears as this 5.2% beer is the best adult creamsicle ever.
Like IPA’s instead? How about a nice refreshing hoppy glass of Oskar Blue’s Pinner Session IPA. At 4.9% ABV, 35 IBU’s, and just the right amount of citrus flavors, this IPA is crushable and refreshing, so much so that you might believe you can ride another 10 miles.
Find Your Yeti!
And later around the campfire while you’re telling tall tales – ‘er, I mean, tales of how you flew over that river and landed smoothly on the other side (we all know you biffed it just trying to put on your shoes), we recommend something dark, maybe a stout.
You can’t go wrong with the Yeti clan. The Yeti Imperial Stout from Great Divide offers notes of caramel and toffee flavors and at 9.5% this is a great beer to warm you up on those cool Colorado mountain evenings. Looking to be a bit more adventurous? Yeti won’t let you down. Try a Chai Yeti or a Chocolate Cherry Yeti, or…you get the picture. The thing to remember with these beers is to share. You know, that trait you were supposed to learn in preschool? Your newfound craft beer biking friends might actually show you a little something about riding if you show them a little something about beer.
Just be sure that your cooler is stocked, cuz you are in the mountains, baby, and why on earth would you ever want to leave?
But leave we did. We didn’t move into an RV to stay in one place forever. There are breweries to discover and trails to ride, so off we wandered.
Biking, Brews, and Views in Fairplay & Alma
Finding ourselves in another favorite place in Colorado, we stayed a few days in Fairplay. Located near Highway 285 and Highway 9 (just a hop, skip, and a jump from Buffalo Creek), this place is well visited in the summer months and became more well-known thanks to the creators of South Park.
South Park, Colorado
In reality, South Park is not about killing Kenny; it is a collection and restoration of actual buildings and artifacts collected from this region and placed all together in a well-maintained, representation of an actual mining town in the 1800’s. We spent three hours there, and we don’t usually enjoy museums. This place, however, is more like taking a trek back in time, than a museum. You should go. Your bike and your beer will wait for you.
Biking from Fairplay to Alma
Our biking forays around here consisted of tooling around Fairplay, and riding the paved bike path from Fairplay to Alma, North America’s highest incorporated town at 10, 578 feet. Although it is just a mere five miles and around 600 feet of elevation gain, this ride starts around 9,000 feet so while it’s not the hardest ride ever, don’t take if for granted. And if you want more of a challenge, ride the next four miles to summit Hoosier Pass at 11,539 feet. Keep in mind the bike path becomes the road sometime after Alma. If you are still looking for a challenge, continue down Highway 9 after Hoosier and ride all the way into Breckenridge (this is an intense ride and not a bike path, so be prepared, do the research). Not for me, but maybe for you.
And the beer…Always the beer!
And the beer…always the beer. Ok, yes, we started with a hand-crafted cocktail from South Park Distilling, because there was no way we were skipping out on this quaint one room tasting room right outside of South Park. Sipping on these while enjoying the cool summer Colorado air was just about as good as any craft beer we’ve ever had. Blasphemy!
It’s not always about the beer.
We have to admit, while Fairplay has a stellar craft brewery, South Park Brewing, our favorite place here was the local watering hole. Platte River Saloon is located on historic Front Street. It’s authenticity to the area and ability to cater to locals and tourists alike far outweigh its lack of craft beer.
‘Sides a friend of ours, also a brewer and brewery owner, Rose of Superior Bathhouse in Hot Springs, Arkansas (Stout Conversation Craft Beer Interview on YouTube coming soon), agrees that beer is about more than just the beer. “There’s a beer for every moment. Whatever you’re drinking at the time. It doesn’t have to be a great beer or a fancy beer or anything.”
We fully agree. The music and laughter pulled us in, and we immediately found ourselves ensconced in the arms and stories of the locals.
Craft Beer Stories
With one such story being all about a simple piece of long forgotten metal. Hanging out at the bar, as we so often do, talking to strangers that later become friends, we met Anthony around a few rounds of Coronas. Finding out that he had handcrafted the bartop and decor here, we started talking about how we wanted to re-do a few things in RAIF, our camper.
He immediately got up from his barstool and disappeared through the kitchen doors. Kenny and I raised curious eyebrows at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and continued our conversations. Within mere minutes, Anthony reappeared in the doorway, an old piece of metal in one hand and a grinder in the other. “Where do you want it?”
This place? Fairplay and the Platte River Saloon? Love at first sight.
And this is why we do what we do. Why we say hi to strangers. Why we visit new places. Why we ride new trails. Why we seek out places and breweries with interesting stories. Not always about the beer, but more about the people and their stories. That is a craft beer lifestyle.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Stay tuned for more Craft Beer Biking Colorado stories and our recommended biking gear list, making its way to our blog soon! In the meantime, check out our Palisade and Fruita beer and biking adventures.
Helpful App – We use the internet a lot when looking for craft breweries, places to stay, and biking adventures. One of our most trusted resources for biking adventures is the MTB Project. What are yours?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Ken and April, craft beer and travel lovers. We live and work from, RAIF, our 24 foot RV, while traveling to drink good beer, visit Mother Nature, and mountain bike. We are not experts and don’t want to be. We are, however, tourists, just like you, and we want to do everything and visit everywhere. We also know that this is impossible (dammit – and wrote a post on it), so in order to help you experience as much as you can in the time you have, what we experience, we pass onto you. We hope to only give you guidance (although our friends say to never follow April), because you need to also create your own adventures along the way. Happy craft beer and biking travels!