Salida, Colorado should be on the must-visit list of any avid mountain biker as the trails are plentiful, the conditions amazing, and the scenery divine. Even better, the town’s valley location provides for a longer riding season. Some trails are accessible even in the winter and mud season in the spring is minimal. While you’ll have your pick of trails while you’re in town, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite mountain biking trails that we’ve enjoyed time and time again. We hope that you have a great time enjoying our fantastic mountain bike trails as well as our charming town!
Monarch Crest Trail
The Monarch Crest Trail is one of the most well-known trails in the area and it’s also considered one of the best biking trails in the United States. There are several variations of the trail that you can take that will allow you to ride up 36 miles of high altitude singletrack if you’d like. As there are a lot of miles that are at or over 11,000 feet above sea level, these trails are best suited for advanced riders. And while the high elevation guarantees some stunning scenery, it also means that some trails may not be completely free of snow until July or August.
We recommend getting an early start (to avoid afternoon thunderstorms) and taking a shuttle from Poncha Springs to the Monarch Pass Summit with High Valley Bike Shuttle. Their shuttle is convenient and affordable, plus it makes it easy to make the most of your time on the mountain.
Arkansas Hills Trail System
Conveniently located near downtown Salida, the Arkansas Hills Trail System features about 20 different trails of varying difficulty levels. Many of them offer lovely valley and town views. Depending on your preferences, you can easily mix and match them to suit your needs. You can rent a bike in town, ride over to the F Street bridge (which provides trail access), explore the trail system, and then head back to town for some well-deserved food and drink. The Salida Mountain Trails website has a map of all the system trails. While we suggest taking the time to ride as many trails as possible, three of our top picks are below.
Clocking in at just under a mile, the Uncle Nazty Trail gives riders a challenging, but thrilling, downhill ride. There are lots of rocky and steep sections that require a good amount of both confidence and skill. This trail is best suited for experienced riders as you’ll come across narrow parts where you’ll have to make a quick decision as to whether you want to attempt them or dismount and walk your bike through them. On a related note, due to the number of drops and the bumpy terrain, it’s best to make sure your bike’s suspension is in tip-top shape before you ride this trail.
The Chicken Dinner Trail boasts lots of different features that are sure to keep you on your toes (so to speak). On this two-mile, intermediate trail, there are rollers, berms, rock gardens, and more. Completed in December 2016, it’s one of the newest additions to the trail system. It’s a great choice for those who are looking for a fun, and occasionally challenging, ride. The trail is considered to be bi-directional, but if you choose to take the downhill route, be aware that trail includes some hairpin turns that can sneak up on you as you gain speed.
Cottonwood Trail, rated as intermediate, is one of the longest trails in the system at about 7.5 miles. It’s lots of fun, but also, lots of work at times. The downhill route includes some sustained technical sections, but the ride never fails to thrill and entertain. This mountain biking trail has been a local favorite for many years thanks to its variety of features. It’s one of those trails where every time you take it, you notice something else you hadn’t seen before, making every ride feel like it’s unique. The trail includes forested and open sections as well as some great views of Salida and the valley.
Methodist Mountain Trail System
On the south side of downtown Salida, you’ll find the Methodist Mountain Trail System. This system includes 8 trails that cover about 30 miles of terrain. Half of the trails are rated as easy while the other half are rated as more difficult. If you’re more interested in taking a fun ride that’s not very technical, most of the trails on Methodist Mountain will fit the bill. There are a number of parking areas in the trail system so you can easily choose how long your ride will be. You can find a complete map of the trail system on the Salida Mountain Trails website.
The Little Rainbow Trail is 5 miles point-to-point or 10 miles round trip. It’s a fantastic choice for beginners with very few technical sections. The trail is also nice for experienced riders who want a smooth, fast ride that’s also a great workout. In addition, you may want to consider making Little Rainbow Trail your first ride if you’re still getting used to Colorado’s elevation. The entirety of the trail is under 8,000 feet above sea level, which will help ease you into mountain biking at higher elevations. While the trail offers a fast and flowy ride, it also includes some amazing views of Salida and the surrounding mountains.
Race Track is another easy trail on Methodist Mountain. It’s a bi-directional trail, but the downhill route is especially fun and quick, clocking in at just 1.5 miles. At the top, you’ll encounter some tight turns but the bottom opens up considerably. One of the more unique aspects of this trail is that it offers views of Castle Gardens. Castle Gardens boasts a variety of interesting rock formations that seem more like something out of eastern Utah than this part of Colorado. You can’t bike in Castle Gardens but it is open to foot traffic. So, if you have the time, you might want to consider taking a hike through the area as well.
For a trail that offers a little more in the way of a challenge, you might want to consider the Lost Trail. It starts off fairly smooth, if somewhat rocky, with lots of room to maneuver. After just a few minutes of riding, you’ll find yourself quickly picking up speed. That’s also when you’ll be able to see some nice views of the valley, too. There’s a good mix of downhill sections with level areas so you can easily maintain your speed on some of the twists and turns (although there aren’t too many).
Need Lodging for Your Salida Vacation?
Creekside Chalets and Cabins would be more than happy to be your home away from home! We have one- to three-bedroom cabins available that are wonderful retreats whether you’re visiting with family or friends. We can also help point you in the right direction if you’re looking for other great biking trails in and around Salida, bike rentals, and more. You can take a look at our available cabins and book online or give us a call at (719) 539-6953.