Pioneer is open for business! The new blue cross-country trail is about 3.5 miles of singletrack above Thunderhead. It is a multi-directional/multi-use trail, so expect a few hikers and riders climbing. I’ll typically need to yield to two or three groups of users every time. It’s usually no problem, but keep it in mind.
Shall we? From the Rainbow Saddle Trail Hub, you can’t miss the sign for Pioneer.
You’ll immediately dive into some shady high-Alpine riding. If you’re surrounded by this much beauty and don’t feel something inside, you’re doing it wrong.
When you do cross a ski run, take a minute to enjoy the view. You can see Flying Diamond and Tenderfoot snaking their way down from the gondola building.
You’ll have to see this to believe it.
If you like switchbacks, Pioneer has you covered! The first lap down, they seem to sneak up on you, but you’ll get the hang of them pretty quickly. Just remember, the switchbacks make uphill access possible, which is the primary goal for building this beauty.
There’s no shortage of greenery on this side of the ski area. Imagine this with four feet of snow on it! It’s great biking in the spring/summer/fall and great skiing in the winter.
Brake check! If yes, turn right. If no, try to floss those trees for bonus points!
If you’re into climbing, it’s weird how fast you can make it up this trail. It climbs really well. The only glitch is that it’s hard to get to the beginning. Zig Zag is basically a double track road with no shade, and Creekside would be almost impossible to climb due to its steep chutes and lack of switchbacks.
Now that you’re down Pioneer, you’ll hit this trail junction with the sign seemingly installed backward. You’ll definitely want to take a right onto Creekside here. Again, be really careful and watch for hikers. Creekside is a little more blind, a little faster and is easier to access on foot.
This is one of the best sections of trail in Steamboat. Catch it after a light rain, and you’ll be in heaven.
Lots of little bonus features to be had here. For your first lap, go slow and figure out where the line is.
Why is it called Creekside?
There are three bridges on this trail, and none of them have handrails.
Well, that’s the end. You can either coast down the road to the base of the Bike Park or take a left and climb a little bit of the road. That will link you back into the Bike Park at the top of Zig Zag and Wrangler Gulch. Both will be XC bike friendly. I reset my trip computer at the top of this ride, and it’s 7.8 miles from the start of Pioneer to the end of Creekside. That’s a lot of XC descending! If you added Cathy’s Cutoff into Sunshine, then over to Zig Zag, you’d have a proper enduro course.
Mike McCoy, Downhill Mountain Biker
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