GET OUT! Butterknife anything but dull

Julie Norman tackles a technical downhill stretch of the Butterknife mountain bike trail, an advanced, 13.5-mile trail about 5.6 miles up Little Park Road in Bangs Canyon. Most of the trail is downhill, but there is a four-mile climb up a jeep road at the end.


If you go

You’ll need a full three liters of water (I did at least), so pack plenty. Take several snacks as well. Do an Internet search for “BLM Third Flats Map” for a great little map to take with you, just in case. It includes the alternate to the jeep road, Art Cooks View.

To get there

Drive 5.6 miles up Little Park road to a gravel, circular parking area on the right.  If you see a dirt area with a big map and a “no parking” sign on the left, you’ve gone too far. Park here, then bike up and across the road to the Third Flats staging area.

In my quest to cover new territory this bike season I’ve ridden the Palisade Rim trail, the Ribbon trail and now Butterknife. This 13.5-mile trail is located about 5.6 miles up Little Park Road and promises to be one of the most technical trails you’ll ride around here.

After parking on the right side in a gravel parking area, you’ll bike briefly up the road before turning left into the Third Flats section of Bangs Canyon. Managed by the BLM, the trail you’re about to tackle is also open to dirt bikers, so keep an ear out for them.

You’ll bike down the doubletrack for about one-tenth of a mile and then turn left onto “Twist-and-Shout.” A signpost here also says: “To Butterknife.” I found this section to be the sandiest of all, and it has rocks strewn about. Even so, it as entertaining with some downhill fun tricks and some climbs as well.

At 2.6 miles you turn through a singletrack gate onto “Butterknife” itself. You have more than 6 miles of drops, ledges, rock tables and hills ahead of you, so drop your seat a bit and hang on.

The best thing about Butterknife is how well built it is for bikers. Almost all of the drops roll off, and almost all of the ledges are rideable, even by me. This is one of those trails where, even if you don’t ride everything, you see how someone could. It’s similar to Holy Cross in that respect.

Another great aspect of the trail is it isn’t crowded, or at least it wasn’t the day we rode it. It could be because people are unsure of where the trail is, or it could be its length and difficulty. Either way, we had time to have “do-overs” on some hard sections and time to scout ahead on the trail without running into other people.

Although it is mostly downhill for the first nine miles, there are a few short steep hills to climb. Some of them were quite sandy during our ride, but others were easily managed.

The trail may be discouraging to some because of the climb at the end. After such a long stretch of downhill singletrack fun, riders are faced with a four-mile jeep road climb. It was the first day of standard time, and even at 3:30 p.m. the shadows felt long.

We didn’t want to dawdle too long, so we climbed and we climbed and we climbed some more. Parts of this grind are flat while others are rocky and hilly. The phrase “I’m so ready for a beer,” was repeated more than once, and I was wishing we had a snack at the car other than a Komfort Chocolate Bar. Still, once we saw the Third Flats sign we knew we were home free, and all we remembered was the fun singletrack ride. The climb already was forgotten.

A word of caution: This ride is best done in the spring, fall or even winter if it’s dry. I think it would be way too hot to tackle those last four miles of climbing in the dead of summer. Also, this is a very advanced trail due to the technical aspects and its length. Be careful and know your limits.

Daily Sentinel online advertising coordinator Julie Norman can’t do enough mountain biking, backpacking or skiing on her weekends. Email here at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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