S24O: Bikepacking the Switzerland Trail

Situated just above Boulder, Colorado, the Switzerland trail has a fascinating history: it was once a railroad built to transport mining materials and later catered to tourists looking for a scenic afternoon ride through the mountains. When mining ended and the popularity of the automobile stole the train’s audience, the rail lines were removed. Since then, the Switzerland Trail has been a frequent destination for the ATV / off-road crowd, offering beautiful mountain views and plenty camping spots right off the trail.

The North/South orientation and accessibility from Peak to Peak Hwy, Sugarloaf Rd., Four Mile Canyon, and Gold Hill make the Switzerland Trail the perfect connector if you’re planning a loop or an out-and-back adventure from Boulder. Once you make the climb up to one of the trail’s entrances, you’ll be treated to rail-grade roads (easy riding) and marvelous views toward Indian Peaks Wilderness and out across Boulder.

While you’re up there, stop by Mont Alto campground to see the freestanding chimney: the last vestige of the Mont Alto Lodge and fountain that used to greet train passengers at the high-point of the trail. For more reading on the history of the Switzerland Trail, check out this article by local newspaper The Daily Camera.

Trip Details

  • Water Situation: Pack it in.
  • Directions: From Boulder, it’s easiest to reach the Switzerland Trail from Four Mile Canyon Dr. Start on the Boulder Canyon bikepath, heading west up Boulder Canyon. When the gravel ends, hang a right onto the sidewalk then immediate left onto Four Mile Canyon Drive. Climb until you reach the small town of Salina, bear left to stay on Four Mile (next to the creek), and continue climbing until you see The Switzerland Trail / Pennsylvania Gulch turnoff. At this point, you can turn right (our preference) or left to find a camping spot.
  • Travel Notes: Plan 3-3.5 hours. You’re in for mostly road and dirt on the way up.
  • Bonus: For a quick detour, head right toward Gold Hill (instead of left) when you reach the Salina turnoff and ride up Gold Run Rd. At the top, drop by the Gold Hill General Store for a quick bite and a beer. Once you’re done, ride west out of town on Gold Hill Rd., where you’ll find another entrance to the Switzerland Trail a little ways down on your left.

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