FATMAP by Strava

Cottonwood Loop


Pedal from downtown Salida high into the Arkansas Hills to access a ripping descent with fast, flowy sections and uber-gnarly rock gardens.

Mountain Biking Severe

33 km
811 m
811 m
2-3 hrs
Low Point
2.1 km
High Point
2.7 km
Cottonwood Loop Map

Cottonwood is arguably one of the most epic and rewarding half-day rides that's easily rideable from downtown. The opportunity to shuttle to the top makes it even more accessible to riders with less fitness. Combine that with a lengthy season, and Cottonwood has turned into a classic that riders enjoy almost all year long.


While Cottonwood is referred to as a descent, the recently-completed singletrack known as the Beasway Trail that forms the first portion of Cottonwood undulates across the hillside—a bench cut masterpiece that holds some rocks and flow in alternating doses.

After a quick pedal to the top of Rumba Ridge the true descending begins, with high-speed bench cut singletrack transitioning into a flowy, swoopy drop down the valley.

Then, the singletrack gets radically more technical, with the Waterfall section offering wall rides, steep rock rolls, chunder, ledge drops, and more—the advanced mountain biker's dream!

Following the Waterfall, the singletrack drops into the Cottonwood drainage from whence the trail gets its name, speeding down to the tightly-wound Arkansas Hills trail network. While the singletrack here isn't as technical as the Waterfall, it feels like the rocks never end, and optional jumps and drop lines abound.

Once into the Arkansas Hills, you can choose any number of descent options, but finishing on Sweet Dreams -> Chicken Dinner offers a swoopy, berm-filled reward after the rigors of endless rock gardens.



Widely variable, narrow trail tread with steeper grades and unavoidable obstacles of 15in/38cm tall or less. Obstacles may include unavoidable bridges 24in/61cm wide or less, large rocks, gravel, difficult root sections, and more. Ideal for advanced-level riders.

Extreme Exposure

4 out of 4

Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.


2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

between April and November

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area