Methodist Mountain West to Poncha Pass - Mountain Bike Guide

Methodist Mountain West to Poncha Pass

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.

  • Featuring 36 Mountain Bike Trails and 18 Road Rides in and around Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado – beginner to expert, town to summit, smooth tarmac to extreme singletrack.
  • Maps and Elevation Profiles for each ride, including altitude gain and loss.
  • Local Advice on riding areas and seasons, where to sleep, where to soak, where to find the best pizza, the best coffee and the best bars in Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado.

Methodist Mountain West to Poncha Pass: A rough, more challenging section of the Rainbow Trail – this route features steeper, longer climbs and more loose rocks that the Bear Creek to Methodist Mountain section. You are unlikely to see any other cyclists and the singletrack glides through the trees like a dream. After a huge climb, the last few miles tear downhill through meadows and aspen groves with super views of the valley and peaks to the west. You may not see much, the downhill section is fast and technical with lots of sharp loose rocks and roots. Get on it.

Trailhead Access: Downtown Salida. Park at the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area headquarters at the corner of Sackett and G Streets or at the public lot immediately west of Safeway at the corner of 3rd and H Streets. The ride starts from the corner of Sackett and G Streets.

Location: Rainbow Trail, south of Salida
Distance: 27.2 miles – loop
Riding Time: 3 to 4.5 hours
Riding Surface in Miles: Paved 15, Dirt Road 2.5, Doubletrack 0.7, Singletrack 9
Aerobic Level: Strenuous –lots of climbing
Technical Difficulty: Advanced – sidecut trail, technical downhill
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 7,043; High Point 10,335; Climbs/Descends 4,121
Land Status: USFS, BLM, City/County
Maps: Poncha Pass
Options: For a big dose of the Rainbow Trail, start at Bear Creek and pedal to Poncha Pass/US 285. Follow the route directions for the Bear Creek to Methodist Mountain ride. From town, allow 5 to 7 hours for the loop. Be fit.

Methodist Mountain West to Poncha Pass

0.0 Ride south on the bike path in front of the AHRA building. This is the old route for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad which led from Salida over Marshall Pass to Gunnison.
0.1 Pass the skateboard park and cross 1st Street/US 291. Cyclists do not have the right of way when crossing streets so stop and look for cars before crossing. The remodeled brick home directly across the street is the old Coca Cola Bottling Plant. Continue on the trail through town.
1.2 Turn left (south) on Holman Avenue and ride to US 50.
1.7 Holman Avenue ends at US 50. Turn right (west) and get in the middle turning lane. Ride about 40 yards and turn left (south) on CR 110.
2.2 CR 110 turns to dirt, continue straight. Do not take CR 110A or CR 111. Sustained uphill for next 0.7 mile.
3.2 The road splits. Take the right hand road. A sign reads “CR 110 Ends Here”, but stay on it.
3.4 The road splits again. Take the right hand road.
4.0 The road splits again. Stay to the left going downhill towards the large power tower.
4.1 The road splits again. Take the rough left hand road heading uphill.
4.2 Top of the climb! Spin right toward the power tower for an awesome view. Turn left (east) and follow the road beneath the power line. The road becomes a rocky doubletrack.
5.4 The power line road comes to T-intersection with CR 108A. Turn left downhill.
5.6 At the paved CR 108, continue directly across the road to the dirt doubletrack on the other side under the power line.
6.8 The road splits. Take the left hand road heading north, away from the power line. This section is rougher and sandy with bermed corners. There are singletracks and faint roads turning off the main road, always stay on the main road.
7.5 Continue downhill.
7.5 to 7.6 A singletrack heads uphill to the right. It’s a nice trail that reconnects with the loop. Ride it if you want, otherwise stay on the road and continue downhill.
8.0 The road enters an area trashed by illegal dumping and off-road truck use. 8.4 The road intersects with an unmarked dirt road, turn right (east) toward the highway.
8.5 T-intersection with US 50. Turn right and ride 0.5 mile on pavement.
9.0 Turn left (north) off the highway on CR 102 and cross the bridge over the Arkansas River. After the bridge, turn immediately right (east) and follow the dirt road on the right (south) of the non-stinky stockyards. Stay on the main road as it passes through private property. Cross the cattle guard and continue.
9.5 Turn left (north) on the unmarked road that passes beneath the railroad tracks. In spring this short section is often full of tumbleweeds and requires bushwhacking.
9.6 Old mine on the right. This sandy section offers nice views of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range to the south which continues all the way to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
10.4 The road gets rocky and loose, heading up and down a couple of small steep hills.
12.0 Turn right when you intersect with a half-paved road just west of the large gray building
13.1 Turn left (south) on paved CR 175 when the half-paved road ends.
13.3 At the stop sign, turn left (south) and stay on CR 175.
13.5 T-intersection with US 50. Turn left (east).
14.0 Turn left (north) on M Street and ride one block.
14.1 Turn right (east) on Sackett Street.
14.4 Finish the ride where you started, or continue half a block further to the boat ramp and swim in the Arkansas


We want you to have a safe and enjoyable trip into Colorado’s backcountry. Be prepared it could be a long walk out. Be sure to read this list of equipment you should bring on your ride along with tips to make your biking trip more enjoyable.


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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