Salida, Colorado — Ground zero for adventure

 
 Descending off of the Monarch Crest on the Starvation Creek Trail. Rider: Nick Heil. Photo: Greg Heil

Descending off of the Monarch Crest on the Starvation Creek Trail. Rider: Nick Heil. Photo: Greg Heil

 

Story by Greg Heil, Chief MTB Editor


The small mountain town of Salida, Colorado lies on the banks of the rushing Arkansas River and in the shadows of towering 14,000-foot mountain peaks. Accessible directly from downtown, professionally-built singletrack trails run up into the mountains on both sides, providing easy access to stellar mountain biking and hiking routes.

In fact, the Arkansas Valley that envelopes Salida may just be one of the most diverse climate zones in the world. On the west side of the valley, the high mountain peaks soar thousands of feet above treeline into a high elevation alpine tundra. During the winter, the local ski resort — Monarch Mountain — receives over 350 inches of snow.

As the elevations drop, the forest transitions through many different zones, eventually culminating in a high desert environment filled with cacti and scrubby pinion pines.

This incredibly diverse climate means mountain bikers, trail runners, and hikers can hit the trails 12 months per year on the east side of the valley, while still skiing deep powder in the nearby mountains mid-winter. Add in whitewater kayaking and rafting, rock climbing, and many other mountain sports, and it’s clear that Salida is ground zero for adventuring in the mountains. 

Here are three popular Salida-area trails guaranteed to whet your appetite for adventure:

 

Monarch Crest

 
 The Monarch Crest trail follows the top of the Continental Divide for miles. Rider: Marcel Slootheer. Photo: Greg Heil.

The Monarch Crest trail follows the top of the Continental Divide for miles. Rider: Marcel Slootheer. Photo: Greg Heil.

 

Imagine the most epic mountain top views in the world and combine them with beautiful, flowing singletrack. Follow that up by a raucous, high-speed descent down a mountainside and you have the epic Monarch Crest Trail in a nutshell. Thanks to this winning combination of factors, the Crest is rightly ranked by most riders as one of the best mountain bike trails in the United States… and even the world. 

 

Mount Shavano and Tabeguache Peak

 
 Snow-covered Shavano and Tabeguache rising behind an abandoned cabin. Photo: Greg Heil

Snow-covered Shavano and Tabeguache rising behind an abandoned cabin. Photo: Greg Heil

 

Chaffee County, Colorado boasts the most mountain peaks over 14,000 feet of any county in the lower 48 US states. Blank’s Cabin, the closest 14er trailhead to the county seat of Salida, is the gateway to a steep climb up to the summit of Mount Shavano. In fact, this route is often seen as a two-for-one: you can easily summit both Mount Shavano and Tabeguache Peak, bagging two epic peaks in one hike.

 

Cottonwood Loop

 
 Airing off a drop in the technical Waterfall section of the Cottonwood trail. Rider: The Singletrack Sampler. Photo: Greg Heil.

Airing off a drop in the technical Waterfall section of the Cottonwood trail. Rider: The Singletrack Sampler. Photo: Greg Heil.

 

Cottonwood is an epic loop ride on the dry, deserty side of Salida that provides an entirely different ride character than the Monarch Crest — but a character that thousands of mountain bikes from around the country have grown quite fond of. With a mixture of flowy berms and difficult rock features, Cottonwood artfully displays the modern trail building and maintenance efforts of local advocacy group Salida Mountain Trails.

 

With more adventures being added every day by our community of local experts, find your next adventure with the new global FATMAP.