Mad Creek Trail to Hotsprings Creek

Mountain Bike Trail Map with GPS Track

SteamboatSprings Mad Creek Trail Elevation Profile
Steamboat Springs, Mad Creek Trailhead

Trailhead (Waypoint 1)

The Mad Creek area of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area is popular with both hikers and mountain bikers. My friend Jon Wade led the way on this version of the ride; if you are interested in buying or selling real estate in the Steamboat Springs area, please give him a call. To get to the ride, take U.S. 40 west out of Steamboat Springs and take a right on county road 129. The Mad Creek trailhead is on the right side of the road about 5 miles from U.S. 40.

The loop that we rode is a little over five and a half miles; we climbed about 800 vertical feet. I classify this ride as as technically moderate and aerobically moderate.

Trail on shelf in canyon

Trail on Shelf in Canyon


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At the trailhead, we crossed the forest service road and headed up the trail. The trail climbs steadily for the first mile. During this part of the ride, the trail is on a shelf in the canyon. This part of the ride is probably technically easy for many people, but the numerous rocks and the thought of falling off the shelf gave me pause. There were a couple of rock formations that forced me to dismount, but in general this is a fun climb. This part of the trail is well shaded by the canyon wall and by trees.

Steamboat Springs Mad Creek Trail Photo 3

Looking up Mad Creek drainage (Waypoint 2)


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As the trail levels out, you emerge from the trees and have a nice view looking up the Mad Creek drainage.

Steamboat Springs Mad Creek Trail Apen Near Creek

Through some aspen near
Mad Creek (Waypoint 3)


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After some more relatively flat terrain, the creek finally ‘catches up to you’ and you find yourself in more of a ‘meadows with creek nearby’ terrain instead of the canyon that you just rode through. This part of the trail goes through a nice aspen grove (use your imagination on the picture shown here) and passes by an old cabin.

Mad Creek from bridge

Mad Creek from bridge (Waypoint 4)


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We took the bridge across Mad Creek and headed toward the Hot Springs Creek drainage to make the ride a loop. Another option is to not cross the creek and continue riding up the Mad Creek drainage. After we crossed the bridge we crossed a meadow and then began climbing again. If you zoom in on the topo map, you can see where we turned left off of the jeep trail to take a single track trail. If you really zoom in, you can see how I doubled back after Jon said, “Hey, we’re going this way!”. This section of the trail is another solid climb. There were a couple of downed trees to give us an excuse to pause, but it is a very nice trail. The single track dumps you back onto the jeep road near the high meadows that mark the ‘top of the ride’.

Sleeping Giant Vista

Sleeping Giant Vista (Waypoint 5)


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After a few rolling hills on the jeep road you come out into a clearing with excellent views of the Elk River valley. The ride is ‘all down hill’ from here back to county road 129.

Wet fields seen from descent

A stop on the descent (Waypoint 6)


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If you want to extend the ride, you can head up the Hot Springs Creek Trail. During the descent on the jeep road, watch for a trail on your left near the bottom of the hill. See this page about the Hot Springs Creek Trail for a gps trail map and photos.

We stayed on the jeep road and popped out on county road 129. We turned right onto county road 129 (actually, there’s a nice path on the side of the road) and it was a very short ride back to the Mad Creek trailhead.

If you are interested in the GPS tracks for this ride, you can download them in GPX format (right click the link, save as …):
GPX Format GPS Track