Road Biking in Salida
Arrive early in the day so you have time to get in a short road ride which is a local’s favorite. Head west on CR 160, Crestone Blvd., by the Salida Golf Course, out to Frantz Lake then to U.S. 285. Turn south on 285, head up Hurricane Hill and head east on CR 140 passing Harriet Alexander Field and down Airport Hill. This 14 mile loop can be extended by an additional 8 to 10 miles by heading out Colo. 291 (which is 1st Street in downtown Salida)to US 285 and heading south to Hurricane Hill. You can also generate extra mileage on CR’s 140, 120 and 160 with great off highway out and backs from downtown Salida.
Ride the classic loop that parallels the Sawatch Range to Buena Vista and back to Salida. The shortest route via CO 291, northwest 7 miles to Hwy 285 and 16 miles north to Buena Vista. To create a great loop instead of up the highway and back, take CO 291, to Hwy 285, head north a bit over a mile to CR 260 to Centerville, pop back out on Hwy 285 to CR 270, follow CR 270 north to CR 162, to Mt Princeton Hot Springs Resort. At Mt. Princeton, head up CR 321 and follow the base of Mt. Princeton all the way to Cottonwood Pass/Main Street in Buena Vista. At this point you can return the way you came or head down Hwy 285 to south to Salida. Take either CO 291 or continue south to CRs 160, 140 or 120 to add as much as 10 to 25 extra miles. The riding on these county roads is much more enjoyable with a lot less traffic.
Get up early and enjoy the road the USA Pro Cycling Challenge will take on their way out of Salida for the 1 Stage Start. Take Poncha Blvd (CR 120) to US 50, head west up Monarch pass. It is an elevation gain of 4,200 feet to the top of the pass at 11,312 feet. The last seven miles are a relentless climb. Do this one early in the morning to avoid traffic for this 21 mile ride.
An alternate and longer ride would be the 44 mile ride to Villa Grove over Poncha Pass. After taking 120 west to Poncha Springs, turn left on US 50/Hwy 285 and head south through Poncha Springs and up Poncha Pass. This gentle pass tops out at 9,010 feet and gains about 1,500 feet in elevation from town. Once you are over the pass about three miles, the shoulder narrows from two to three feet to about 18 inches all the way to Villa Grove. The Villa Grove General Store provides snacks or lunch before heading back.
Mountain Biking in Salida, CO
After checking in to your lodging head to the end of F Street for a ride on “S” Mountain (aka Tenderfoot Mountain) on the Arkansas Hills Trail System. You may want to check in at Absolute Bikes, located right off F Street on Sackett, for the latest on trail conditions. The Arkansas Hills Trails System was created by the all-volunteer group of Salida Mountain Trails. This year-around trails system offers more than 20 miles of great single track all accessible from town without getting in your car. Start with the Frontside Trail, the gateway into the Arkansas Trail System, begins a few peddle strokes from the F Street Bridge. At the top of the Frontside trail you will find a kiosk with a map of the trail system and other useful information and a great view of Salida, the Sawatch Range and the valley. From here you can choose from eight other trails depending on your skill level and desired ride time. Lil’Rattler is the easiest trail with Uncle Nasty and North Backbone offering up challenges for even the most advanced rider. The Arkansas Hills Trail System created by Salida Mountain Trails represents one of the coolest community trail building projects in Colorado and the trails are suited to intermediate and beginner mountain bikers.
The Monarch Crest Trail is the valley’s premier mountain bike trail set in classic backcountry style. This 28-mile alpine single-track is mountain biking at its fines and one of the gems of Colorado single-track that should not be overlooked. The “Crest” Trail opens to mountain bikes in mid-July and sometimes earlier depending on snowpack from the previous winter. Although the Crest Trail can be done as an out and back, most riders set up a shuttle and complete the ride as a point to point starting at Monarch Pass. Commercial shuttles can be arranged by Absolute Bikes in Salida and High Valley Center in Poncha Springs.
Start early, because this ride begins at 11,312 and climb to 11,960 feet above sea level and afternoon thunderstorms roll in regularly and even if you opt to do the shorter routes. 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, there are signs indicating mileage and the Continental Divide Trail at several points along the route. Sensational views of the Rockies, including the Sawatch Range, Pikes Peak to the east and the distant San Juans and Umcompahgres to the southwest and west, along with a variety of terrain from mountaintop granite to boulder fields make this ride one of Colorado’s and the West’s top rides.
The Rainbow Trail, Bear Creek to Methodist Mountain is a local riders favorite and is for those with the gumption to climb more than 2,000 feet of elevation on a tough ride. The ride up a beautiful drainage is approximately 20 miles and can take from two to four hours. With six miles of incredible single track, five miles of four-wheel drive road and nine miles of graded or paved road, riders get a bit of everything. You can either begin and end in downtown Salida or have the option to drive up the four-wheel drive portion of CR 108, doing and out and back on the six miles of single track or start as hight on CR 101 as comfortable to drive and ride from that point to the trailhead on the side of Simmons Peak.
Salida Mountain Trails also has a beginner/ intermediate area of the Methodist Mountain Trail with the trailhead at the west end of Little Rainbow on CR 110 and adjoins the Monarch Spur Trail that begins near absolute Bikes and the Coors Boat Ramp in downtown Salida. Little Rainbow, a five-mile trail, in the Methodist Mountain Trail System is perfect for the new rider who wants to have a positive learning experience, but it is still fun and engaging for the experienced rider. It also connects to several other trails for the rider that needs more time in the saddle.