Published with permission from the guide book: The Local’s Adventure Guide to Singletrack & Tarmac – Mountain Bike Trails and Road Rides in the Upper Arkansas River Valley by Nathan Ward.
Bear Creek East to Kerr Gulch is the most challenging section of the Rainbow Trail near Salida – the ride to Kerr Gulch offers fast technical singletrack and lung-splitting climbs. The trail traverses a series of ridges and the route climbs steeply up and then drops insanely fast into the next drainage. This is remote singletrack that passes through thick forest, open meadows and lush wet creeks with good opportunities to see wildlife – an excellent but rarely ridden trail.
Trailhead Access: This ride requires a shuttle. Drive one car 15.4 miles east of Salida on US 50 down Bighorn Sheep Canyon. Turn right on Kerr Gulch Road (6110) just east of the town of Howard – the road sign is tiny, so pay attention to the miles. Cross a cattleguard and park on the left side of the road. Drive the other car with bikes 13.0 miles back west on US 50. Turn left on CR 101 and drive 3.3 miles up the road. Park in the large pullout on the right side of the road.
Location: Rainbow Trail, east of Salida to Howard
Distance: 19.8 miles – one way
Riding Time: 3 to 4.5 hours
Riding Surface in Miles: Dirt Road 7.7, Singletrack 12.1
Aerobic Level: Strenuous – ridge line roller coaster
Technical Difficulty: Advanced – sidecut, loose rocks, steep
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 6,604; High Point 9,783; Climbs 3,427; Descends 4,728
Land Status: USFS, BLM, Private Land
Maps: Wellsville, Howard
Options: To ride without a shuttle, park at the bottom of CR 101 and ride up CR 101. Do the ride. When you reach the Kerr Gulch Rd./US 50 junction, turn left (west) on US 50 and pedal back to your car. This option makes the ride much more difficult by adding approximately 17 miles, lots of climbing and a busy section of US 50 with no shoulder.
0.0 From the parking lot, ride across the cattle guard and start uphill.
2.2 CR 101A turns left. Stay on CR 101 which continues straight and uphill. Bear Creek runs by the side of the road.
2.5 Cross the creek and reach the top of the climb at the trailhead. Look for the Rainbow Trail sign and ride left (east) following the sign that reads “Howard Creek 3”.
4.1 The well-signed trail cuts downhill to the right. Huge views of the Sangre de Cristo Peaks and Bighorn Sheep Canyon.
5.3 The trail passes through private land. Stay on the trail.
5.9 Cross Howard Creek and ride toward West Creek.
6.7 Cross another creek and pass Porter Gulch. Stay on the Rainbow Trail singletrack which heads up, traversing the hillside.
8.3 A big righthand corner on the ridge top. Follow the singletrack and the sign pointing to West Creek. Don’t take the road downhill. This road heads downhill to US 50, but has been gated and marked “No Trespassing” by the landowner.
9.1 Cross West Creek. There is a makeshift log bridge about 10 yards upstream so you can stay dry. Just after West Creek a long rocky technical downhill will get your attention.
10.0 Cross the East Fork of West Creek. The trail goes up the middle of the creek for a few yards and steeply up the other side.
12.0 Cross another small creek after another fast downhill section.
12.6 Cross Cherry Creek.
13.3 As you top a red-colored ridge, stay on the obvious singletrack heading downhill.
13.6 Cross another small creek.
14.0 Turn left off the Rainbow Trail downhill on the well-marked trail to the Kerr Gulch Trailhead. It’s fast and loose.
14.6 Enter the open Kerr Gulch Trailhead. Ride directly downhill through the meadow/parking area and look for the dirt road. Follow the road to the right and ride downhill. This dirt road is scary fast. Watch for bears, seriously.
15.4 Ride straight through the unmarked crossroads. Go the same direction you were before the intersection.
15.8 Stay on the main downhill.
19.8 T-intersection with US 50. Nice ride!
The Colorado backcountry is popular – bikers, hikers, motorcycle riders, hunters and equestrians use the trail system in the Arkansas Valley, and everyone wants a private piece of heaven. Even if you don’t agree with everyone’s motives or methods of travel, please treat them in a courteous manner.
If you require search and rescue services, it can be costly. Buy a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card to protect yourself. Funds from the CORSAR program go into the Colorado Search and Rescue (SAR) Fund. If a CORSAR card holder becomes lost or injured in the backcountry, the Colorado SAR Fund pays eligible search and rescue expenses.
Bicycle riding is a physically strenuous activity with many risks and dangers. Hazards, natural or man made, whether noted in this book or not, can be encountered at any time under any situation. As a cyclist, we assume you know your personal abilities and limitations. This book represents nothing more than a guide to the trails and roads and is not meant to replace your common sense, your ability to navigate in the wilderness or in traffic, or your ability to ride a bicycle safely.
In addition, the mileages and routes listed in this text are only suggestions. There may be variances and you may get lost. We recommend everyone uses a GPS and topographical map to navigate. Most routes in this text are located on public land, but some trails pass through or adjacent to private land. Respect the land owner’s rights and obey all signs regarding trail use. The same goes for wilderness areas which prohibit mountain bike riding. Neither the author, nor the publisher, nor anyone else mentioned in this book are responsible or liable in any way for any accident, injury or any action brought against anyone traveling any route listed in this book. All cyclists and their companions assume responsibility for themselves. Ride at your own risk.
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