Arkansas Hills trail system – (aka “S” Mountain or Tenderfoot Hill). – The trail system is a stacked loop design, with the more challenging trails higher in altitude and farther out from the trailheads. Stunning views of both the Continental Divide / Saguache Range as well as the Sangre de Cristo range.
Methodist Mountain trail system – Contains the Little Rainbow beginner trail, as well as the Rainbow Trail. Great views of the Arkansas valley
For bigger adventures, check out some of the other areas on the above map or check out the Interactive Map.
First time on a mountain bike? You can get used to your bike on the paved Monarch Spur bike path or some of the city streets. This short path takes you from downtown out to Walmart on highway 50. Once you are ready for dirt/gravel, head out to the chili pepper trails just outside of downtown on the Tenderfoot Mountain (aka “S” Mountain or Arkansas Hills) trail system.
Beginner biker? Head out to the Methodist Mountain trail system and try the Little Rainbow trail. Access is from either CR110, CR108, or the Burmac Trailhead (via the RaceTrack Trail). This is also an excellent trail for a trail runner.
Intermediate biker? Novice hiker? On the Tenderfoot trail system, try Frontside to Lil Rattler to the Backbone trail. On the Methodist mountain trail system, try the Columbine trail up to the Rainbow Trail to Bear Creek Road (CR 101) for a great loop.
Advanced biker? Moderate hiker? In the Tenderfoot trail system, try the North Backbone trail, Unkle Nazty, Prospector, Pauli are good choices. On the Methodist mountain side, try the Rainbow Trail from Meers Junction to CR101/Bear Creek (has some hike-a-bikes stretches).
Epic Rides? Try the Monarch Crest. Most folks get dropped off at the top by shuttle, local friend and ride back to town. Everyone starts on the crest trail, but there are numerous ways off of the “crest” and back to town, including: South Fooses Creek trail, Greens Creek trail (experts only!), Agate Creek, Marshal Pass Road (passenger vehicle road), Poncha Creek (ATV road), Starvation Creek, and the classic descent: Silver Creek (to Rainbow Trail/Meers Junction, or to Silver Creek Road). The crest can be extremely busy on a weekend. To hit the road less travelled, try a stretch of the Colorado trail, or grab a map from the forest service/BLM and try any of the gravel roads.
It is possible to find mostly snow-free trails year round. The best chance for a snow-free winter trail is on the Tenderfoot Mountain (aka “S” Mountain) trail system just north of historic downtown Salida. This area faces south, has fewer trees and depending on the amount of snow that has fallen throughout the season, much of this system remains snow free year round. Methodist Mountain area is a good choice as well, although with more trees and a north facing slope, this area can hold a bit more snow through a cold winter.
All that said, Colorado weather is finicky and finding snow-free trails in winter is not always possible, but the wait is never long. The lower elevation trails are usually clear of all snow by March, while high elevation trails such as the Monarch Crest are ride-able as early as June (so long as you are willing to deal with a few snow bank crossings) and clear by July.
Regardless of where you wish to travel, check with locals and/or local bike shops on the latest trail conditions, and watch for snow/ice in the shadows when riding in the winter. Please avoid trails when muddy or wet, especially if you are on a bike (or horse for that matter). Can’t find a snow free area? Head towards Monarch for some fresh powder, or rent some snowshoes and enjoy a nice high country trail. Or simply enjoy our historic downtown and the friendly locals!