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Salida Colorado Biking

The unique setting of the Fourteeners Region provides some of the best bike trails on the continent. Bike paths criss-cross the Arkansas Valley region and can be found in, around and through the mountain town of Salida, Colorado. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, want ‘easy and mellow’ or ‘dramatic and daring,’ you'll find a path that suits your fancy.

‘In-Town’ Bike Routes

S Mountain – Tenderfoot Trail System
This icon stands across the Arkansas River from downtown Salida and Riverside Park, has the appearance of an inverted cone, and is adorned with a large “S.” A bike ride from downtown to the top of “S” Mountain involves a climb of about 610 feet, from an elevation of 7306 feet to 7474 feet. Total round-trip distance is rather short at about 9 miles, but the ride to the top—and the view from above—are well worth it. And given the location of this trail, it can be accessed just about anytime of year since Salida tends to be warmer and drier than the surrounding mountainous regions with a climate referred to as the ‘banana belt.’

Cruising the Town
 With so many charming, historical homes in town, and more than 300 days of sunshine every year, many visitors will find delight in cruising the streets of Salida. This is a great way to get an upclose look at the restored bungalows and Victorian homes, and then stop off at one of the many cafes in town for refreshments and a bite to eat. So if your mood is mellow, you might just want to cruise the streets in and around town.    

Off-Road Biking -- Safety/Courtesy Rules

The following code of conduct was developed by the National Off-Road Bicycling Association for off-road bikers who venture onto the multi-use trails of the Colorado backcountry:

  • Yield the right of way to other non-motorized recreationists.
  • Slow down and use caution when approaching or overtaking another biker.
  • Alert other bikers of your presence before passing.
  • Maintain speed control at all times and approach curves in anticipation of someone around the bend.

View from a Mountain Bike

  • Stay on designated trails to avoid trampling native vegetation. Minimize erosion by avoiding muddy trails and not short-cutting switchbacks.
  • Do not disturb wild life or livestock.
  • Respect private and public property. Leave gates as you have found them.

High Country Trails

Monarch Crest Trail
This is a favorite among fat trackers and is one of the most spectacular rides in the country. The Monarch Crest Trail is an approximately 11 mile section of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail running from Monarch Pass to Marshall Pass. Another 29 miles of single track follows the Rainbow Trail to US 285 and from there to Methodist Mountain and Bear Creek.
Views of the Sawatch Range, Pikes Peak (to the east), and the San Juans and Uncompahgres (to the southwest and west) are magnificent. On a clear day, you really can see forever along this trail.
Read an interesting mountain bike ride report about the area trails and roads.
Rating: Intermediate-advanced
Distance: 28 high-altitude miles
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Elevation: Starts at 11,315 feet; the high point is 11,960 feet. Total climbing is about 1,000 feet. Elevation drop is 3,800 feet.
Access: This ride requires a vehicle shuttle. The lower shuttle is set in Poncha Springs or Salida and the upper at the Monarch Aerial Tramway parking lot at the Monarch Pass summit. The summit is about 18 miles west of Poncha Springs on US 50.
Ride Description: This ride is a favorite of locals as well as fat trackers from around the state; it is challenging but not too difficult. From the Monarch Tram parking lot, start up the one-lane dirt road east of the gondola tower.
Look for the start of the single track on the right on Forest Service Trail 531, approximately .03 miles up this hill. Several signs at the start indicate mileage to Marshall Pass and to several other points along the route.
Another sign notes the Continental Divide Trail. Similar markers will be present along the remainder of the trail, all the way to Marshall Pass. Follow the single track for.7 miles to the power line and continue up the 4wd road going almost straight south. This section gains 230 feet of elevation in .7 mile.
After two switchbacks, continue uphill to the trees, and make a right turn onto the trail. Signs posted at this point indicate "Marshall Pass 9 miles," and a Continental Divide trail marker. At this point, you have climbed approximately one-quarter of the total elevation, and have ridden a short section of the single track.
The rest of the single track is as difficult, or more difficult, for short sections. This is a good turn-around point if you are having difficulty with the altitude, or if the weather looks foreboding.
The next 8.7 miles are single track, which will climb initially (300 feet in 1.5 miles) to gain the ridge crest. Continue along the crest skirting high points on their southwest aspects. This section is exposed, so avoid thunderstorms.
Four miles after regaining the single track, join the Colorado Trail as it comes up South Fooses Creek drainage and continue east. In another mile the ridge breaks, resulting in a 400-foot descent in slightly more than a mile. Look for a shelter hut on the left after completing the descent. A 200-foot climb in .8 miles is the last major climb of the ride. This section, which can be muddy in wet weather, regains the crest. Cross Agate Creek trail in .2 miles after finishing the climb, and continue through the trees. Watch for a short section crossing a talus field. Many will want to walk their bikes through this stretch.
The single track ends three miles from the shelter house. Continue on the 4wd road (CR 234.2G) that descends rapidly to the Marshall Pass Trailhead--600 feet in 1.5 miles. This trailhead is marked with several signs--one showing distance to Monarch Pass.

  • the single-track of the Rainbow Trail along Silver Creek;
  • the Colorado Trail to intersections with Poncha Creek; or
  • a left off the trailhead following the old Denver and Rio Grande narrow gauge track bed, now a graded road.

For the last option, look for a sign noting Gray's Creek, just over a mile after crossing the Chaffee-Saguache county line sign. Go down the embankment on the right and continue on a 4wd road to O'Haver Lake. Ride along the south shore of the lake, leaving the campground on FDR/CR 202A and pass straight through an intersection in half a mile. In another mile is a "T" intersection with a stop sign. Turn left and continue east on CR 200 to Hwy 285.

Mt. Princeton-Raspberry Gulch Loop Trail
This trail offers great views and great challenges. The single track section of this ride is excellent through aspen and ponderosa forest and open meadows. There are great views of the Sawatch Range's Collegiate Peaks and the opportunity for a meal and hot bath at the Mt. Princeton Lodge following the ride.
Rating: Difficult
Distance: 20 miles
Time: 3 hours for experts
Elevation: 8,120 feet to 9,680 feet
Trails: Paved, graded and 4wd
Maps: USFS Colorado Trail Maps Section 13 & 14; USGS Topo 15--Minute: Poncha Springs; San Isabel National Forest Service Map
Access: The Ride starts and finishes at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Lodge which is approximately five miles west of Nathrop on CR 162.
Shuttle: Much of the road riding can be avoided with a shuttle which can be set at the lodge and at the turn off to Raspberry Gulch. From the resort parking lot, turn east on CR 162, turn right onto CR 270 after about a mile. After about 5 miles turn right onto CR 272 at "T" intersection. After two miles, CR 272 turns left: continue straight on CR 274 which begins here. Turn left onto CR 273 Raspberry Gulch Road, .3miles and climb the steep 4wd road to the point where it is closed to motor vehicles.
A few yards beyond this point the single track begins on the left. Signs here indicate Browns Creek two miles to the south, and Chalk Creek three miles north. Continue south toward Browns Creek and intersect the Colorado Trail. The remainder of the ride follows the Colorado Trail which will return to the Mt. Princeton Lodge. Turn east onto Colorado Trail as it follows an old jeep road.
Continue on Colorado Trail crossing several drainages and old logging roads. About 16 miles into the ride the Trail begins its descent into Chalk Creek and the first mile of this descent is steep with several sharp switchbacks that will require most riders to dismount. After intersecting graded road, the difficulty eases off considerably.
The single track picks up again a few yards east on the graded road. Continue to the trail register after crossing Chalk Creek on footbridge. Turn right onto graded CR 191 and ride east to its intersection with CR 162. Continue east on CR 162 and return to the Mt. Princeton Lodge on CR 162.

Salida Colorado and Buena Vista Colorado Maps
The above-mentioned trails are just a few of what the area has to offer cycling enthusiasts. For a more complete compilation of regional bike trails—and good advice to go along with this list—visit the following Chaffee County bike shops.  

Mountain Bike and Road Bike Gear

Absolute Bikes
Rental, Repair, Maps
330 W Sackett Street
Salida, CO 81201
(719) 539-9295

Salida Bike Company
Sales, Service, Rentals, Classes and Workshops
148 North F Street
Salida, CO 81201
(719) 539-4466

High Valley Bike Shuttle Service
Bike Rentals, Shuttles, Information on the Monarch Crest Trail
6250 Hwy 285
Poncha Springs, CO 81242
(800) 871-5145

SubCulture Cyclery
129 North G Street
Salida, CO 81201
(719) 539-5329

American Adventure Expeditions
Guided Tours/Rentals
12844 Hwys 24 & 285 
Buena Vista, CO 81211
(719) 395-2409

Trailhead Cycle & Ski
Sales, Service, Guidebooks
707 Hwy 24 N 
Buena Vista, CO 81211
(719) 395-8001

Biking Events

Banana Belt Loop Mountain Bike Race: Direct from Riverside Park. The Banana Belt Loop Race is a 26-mile race that starts and finishes in Riverside Park in Historic Downtown Salida. The route includes 6 miles of single track on the Rainbow Trail and covers terrain at elevations of 7,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level. One of the best family races in Colorado. For more information call (877) 772-5432.

The Salida Bike Fest - a 5 day festival celebrating bicycles of all kinds! Held during the month of September.

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All content ©1998-2020 and Monty Content written by Rita Washko (RMW Enterprises), technical and science writer.