My favorite ride near Canon City. I prefer this loop in the counter-clockwise direction, which makes for less technical climbing and the ride down the Lion Canyon singletrack is narrow, steep and fast. The climbing is on roads/doubletrack and you end by descending the 2.5 mile Lion Canyon singletrack back to the campground and your car. However, on this route finding the upper Lion Canyon TH to get down off the mountain can be tricky. Some eliminate this confusion by riding the loop clockwise - climbing the singletrack and taking dirt roads down off the mountain and back to the car. Either way, this is a great 2-3 hr ride (~15 mi) close to town.
For the counter-clockwise option, ride out of the campground back to CR 143 and turn left. Follow this road, staying left through a Y in the road and the following intersection. After a couple mile of uphill, you come to a fast downhill section and, shortly thereafter, NF Rd 304 on the left. Turn onto this jeep road and climb for around 3 miles to the top of ridge, where you will encounter the Highline Trail double track. Turn left and follow Highline past multiple, signed spur roads that end in the letters A-H. The upper Lion Canyon TH is at the end of the spur rd ending in H, which breaks off to the left. I believe this is the last spur rd before the Highline Trail road dead ends, so you'll know if you've gone too far. If you can't find the upper TH you can always back track the way you came, enjoying a fast downhill on the jeep road you climbed to reach the Highline Trail. Following the directions above, however, it shouldn't be hard to find the upper TH on the counter-clockwise loop. From the top of Lion Canyon trail bomb down 2.5 miles of technical and fast singletrack to the campground and your car. Nice!
From Hwy 50 in Canon City, head south on Hwy 115 (9th St) for a little more than a mile. Turn right onto Elm St. and then left shortly thereafter onto Oak Creek Grade Rd (CR Rd 143) and head south out of town for a little over 12 miles to the Oak Creek NF campground. Park at the Lion Canyon trailhead at the rear of the campground.
Summary: Forgot to include directions: From Hwy 50 in Canon City, head south on Hwy 115 (9th St) for a little more than a mile. Turn right onto Oak Creek Grade Rd (County Rd 143) - and turn left shortly after turning off of 115 to continue on CR 143 - and head south out of town for about 15 miles to the Oak Creek NF Campground. Park at the Lion Canyon trailhead at the rear of the campground.
Recommended Route: Counter-clockwise=less technical climbing, excellent singletrack downhill to end the ride, slightly tricky finding upper Lion Canyon TH
Clockwise=technical singletrack climb up Lion Canyon singletrack and less technical - though fast - descent on fire roads, eliminates confusion with finding the upper TH
Other recommended trails in the same area: Tanner-Stultz
Tanner-Stultz and Lion Canyon combo
Pueblo South Shore
Deer Haven Ranch N of Canon City
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Greenhorn Mountain Rd (GMR) Downhills to Lake Isabel