Magnolia Road is Boulder’s favorite masochistic ride -- for at least the first four miles (the road is 12 miles total and connects Boulder Canyon with Peak-to-Peak highway). Though paved, it’s a fearsome 14% average grade (maxing out at 17%) for this initial section. Add snow, sand and ice and you have what some fat bikers consider ideal conditions. No bones about it, it’s a grind of epic proportions but the road is maintained year-round. What makes Magnolia worthy for fat bikers beyond the incredible workout is the road after the climb -- a rolling, scenic 8 mile dirt path that feels miles away from the city. Some riders actually prefer to ride Magnolia from Nederland off of Peak-to-Peak highway, a route that avoids the climb but preserves the scenery.
What Makes It Great
Magnolia Road is tough but fair. Fat bikes have just enough gusto to tame the mix of snow and sand. Magnolia is a great workout on a road bike, but in the winter only fat tires will do! The scenery and peacefulness of the ride is joyfully serene and the sense of accomplishment is well-earned. The western end of the road is over 8,500 feet in elevation (a sturdy total climb over 2,00 vertical feet) and is 3 miles downhill to Nederland. There’s a bus that runs from Nederland to the starting point in Boulder if you prefer a shuttle.
The added value of fat biking Magnolia Road are the mountain-bike friendly trails that parallel the upper part of the road. Known locally as the Dot Trails, there are several entry points for this semi-maintained paths. They range from humble, flat singletrack trails to extremely technical/hike-a-bike madness (and everything in between). Of course, they are optional detours to the main ride but a fun variation for riders who want to get a little more extreme. There’s also a wide collection of mountain roads that go to remote neighborhoods -- bringing a map is advised, since these roads go on for miles and miles. But simply riding Magnolia Road without the detours is a serious fat bike challenge. It’s slow, it’s difficult but also scenic and brag worthy. Just be extra careful of traffic, especially on the descent.
Who is Going to Love It
Maniacs who insist that you can ride just as hard in the winter as you do in the summer. Please note that during actual storms, there are plow trucks working to keep the road open so avoiding the climb in bad weather is a good idea -- the upper part of the road is still 16 miles out and back from the intersection of Peak-to-Peak and Magnolia (and there’s parking).
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The intersection of Boulder Canyon and Magnolia Road has a larger parking area at the base of the climb. It is also possible to drive up the paved section and park at the top of the climb, just before the road turns to dirt, and begin from there. At the western end, there is a large parking lot on the west side of Peak-to-Peak highway where it meets Magnolia Road. There are no fees to ride, but please be aware of traffic and plows in the winter.