3 - 4
FATMAP difficulty grade
The Bear Creek Loop, when ridden from downtown Salida, is a long distance loop that passes through a variety of climate zones.
With long climbs leading to remote singletrack, this route isn't for the faint of heart.
However, the trail tread is relatively non-technical, making for a great cross country-style ride with big vert. After climbing out of downtown Salida through the scenic Bear Creek valley, you'll climb into a lush forest filled with rushing streams, tall pines, and whispering aspen trees.
Bear Creek Road dead ends at the Rainbow Trail, and the loop depicted here takes a right on the moto-legal singletrack. Despite being moto-legal, this 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 far you've climbed! The singletrack continues to alternate between deep forests (where you'll find delectable black dirt) and alpine meadows, with some of the sunnier aspects host to scrub oak and dustier dirt. Once the Rainbow Trail crosses CR 108, the character changes slightly with steeper, longer climbs, tighter singletrack, and some added exposure.
Some hike-a-bike may be required depending on your fitness level.
The descent down the Sand Gulch doubletrack is fast and all-out, so don't miss the right turn onto Double Rainbow.
A newly-approved singletrack trail will reroute this doubletrack into a sweet singletrack descent in the coming years. Once on Double Rainbow you're riding bike-optimized, non-motorized singletrack built by Salida Mountain Trails, and the quality shows.
Double Rainbow's bench cut swings in and out of the gullies, rounding sharp points with epic views, and eventually connecting to the Little Rainbow trail.
Little Rainbow keeps a similar swoopy character, but this portion of trail is much less exposed than Double Rainbow, with mellower grades overall--a beginner-friendly stretch of singletrack.
While this singletrack is quite easy, after hours of riding to reach this point the short climbs can feel like torture. Near the end of Little Rainbow riders can choose either Lost Trail or Racetrack (shown on this map) to drop them down to the Burmac Trailhead.
Lost Trail is steeper and faster with bigger berms and jump options, and Racetrack is very beginner-friendly.
While definitely a green trail, Racetrack is still flowy and fun, and offers a beautiful overlook of the Castle Gardens area.