Switzerland Trail (South)

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Welcome to the Switzerland Trail of America, an old railroad grade that once connected many of the mining camps in Boulder County. History buffs should start here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switzerland_Trail.  We’ve divided the Trail into North and South sections because they are not typically ridden at the same time.

The South section of Switzerland Trail begins where it intersects Fourmile Road (also called Wall Street) in the hamlet of Sunset, and heads generally south and west to Trail’s terminus into highway 72 (Peak to Peak).  Switzerland Trail is often used as part of a longer training or acclimatization ride (2% body fat fun-haters rejoice!), combined with other trails/dirt roads.  For this type of ride it is most often ridden southbound starting in Sunset.   However, the most popular trailhead is at Sugarloaf Mountain, roughly the midpoint of this southern section.  As an old rail grade there are no steep pitches and no single-track, which can make the riding a little ho-hum.  However, there are spectacular views at times and some excellent points of interest nearby for the traveler.

A great loop for the triathlete pretending to be an MTBer, from town take the Boulder Creek Path, then on paved Fourmile Canyon Drive, left on to the dirt Fourmile Road/Wall Street to Switzerland, Switzerland South to Sugarloaf Mountain and then back down Sugarloaf Road (paved) and Boulder Canyon (paved, heavy traffic) & the Canyon Path into town.  This loop involves major vertical and altitude, the gentlest average grade you will find for such a long climb and little chance those white Assos shorts will get soiled.

The Switzerland Trail is not for the knuckle-dragging shuttle crowd with 6”+ bikes.  There are no interesting downhill sections.  Who it works for are riders looking for a long training/conditioning ride that won’t leave them feeling beaten up and novice riders looking for some exercise and a few photo ops.  For the first group, the route above is recommended.  For the latter group, an out-and-back from Sugarloaf Mountain to Peak-to-Peak Highway would do nicely.

Except for the final drop to the highway, Sugarloaf to Peak-to-Peak is almost flat and opens to spectacular views at different times. The area is heavily used by all types of off-road vehicles (source of all those side tracks & pot holes) on summer weekends so be cautious around corners (just like ATVers are- wink, wink).  Just think like a train and head west on the widest road and you'll get to the Peak to Peak. The sidetracks are mostly short, steep and bouldered, especially on the north side.   It is possible to do a loop by cutting down to Switzerland near Sunset on one of these tracks but it is hella technical.  So if you're the adventurous type you should at least pack a map and compass, or a GPS, to get back to the trailhead.

Continue generally west and sweeping views to the west appear soon.  There is practically a Disney sign commanding you take a picture here.  You’ll pass through a narrow notch cut in rock and then a section that crosses private land (fenced, posted)- stay on the trail.  Then you’ll drop down the only steep section, the last bit until you reach the highway and the turnaround point for a beginner ride.  About 5.5 miles one-way.  The return trip is, um, the same, but in reverse.  (Don’t laugh- I’ve been asked which way has less climbing on a loop trail).  Rock on.


Switzerland North and South KMZ5.01 KB
SwitzerlandNorthsouth.gpx54.45 KB
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T: 2 A: 3 C: 4

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4.6 mi.
535 ft.
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