Analysing terrain data
The exposure grade describes the potential consequences of falling or slipping off the path.
Low Exposure: The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.
Medium Exposure: The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.
High Exposure: Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.
Extreme Exposure: Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.
Looping the Columbine trail provides a delectable taste of alpine riding and a fast descent, all without having to travel far from downtown Salida.
Indeed, many riders pedal here from downtown, but if you have the legs and time for such a ride, you're best off doing the full-blown Bear Creek Loop, mapped separately. Rather, this route begins from the Columbine Trailhead, climbs steeply up the dirt road, enjoys some of the sweetest portions of the Bear Creek section of the Rainbow Trail, and then drops quickly down Columbine back to the trailhead.
While this loop isn't too long and the trails are relatively non-technical, the climb up to the top is brutally-steep in spots.
Whether or not you have to hike-a-bike is completely dependent on your fitness level. Despite being moto-legal, the Bear Creek section of the Rainbow Trail is ultra-flowy, with gorgeous bench cut singletrack contouring along the side of the mountain, swinging in and out of each small valley.
While the trail begins in a deep forest, in a few miles it breaks out into an alpine meadow, providing beautiful views of Salida far, far below.
You'll realize just how high up you are! All too soon, it's time to descend Columbine.
If you decide that you do have more legs and more time, a good option is to ride out to FS Road 108, turn around and ride back, and then descend Columbine. Columbine drops quickly through the pines and into the scrub oaks.
While some corners are bermed, not all are, and even the bermed corners can be tight, mandating complete attention.
In spots, sight lines are short, so be careful of uphill traffic.
A few alternate lines lead to easy jumps, providing a little extra spice in the fast descent.
Despite some small rock gardens, overall this trail is buff and flowy. While perhaps not the best route in Salida, this quick hit is a treat for an after work ride, or a great second ride after completing a long epic in the morning.