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.
The Midland Railroad Bicycle Trail is a nice introduction to singletrack or the perfect training ride, the Midland Railroad Bicycle Trail follows the Midland Railroad route from Buena Vista to Shield’s Gulch. (The complete route extends past Shield’s Gulch, but this section is the most fun.) The ride follows a gradual climb through piñon pines with short technical dips into gullies, passes remnants of the railroad age and gives riders expansive views of this section of the Collegiate Peaks – Mt. Princeton (14,197 ft.), Mt. Yale (14,194 ft.) and Mt. Columbia (14,073 ft.). This is also the closest thing to a desert ride in the area.
Trailhead Access: At the stop light on US 24 in downtown Buena Vista, turn east on Main Street. Drive east on Main to the Buena Vista River Park. Pass the baseball field, keeping left, and park near the wooden building with bathrooms. If you are camping and want a shower, look for signs pointing to the coin-operated showers in the building as you enter the River Park.
Location: Buena Vista River Park
Distance: 15.8 miles – out and back
Riding Time: 2 hours
Riding Surface in Miles: Dirt Road 2.7, Singletrack 5.2
Aerobic Level: Moderate
Technical Difficulty: Novice – good for beginners.
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 7,936; High Point 8,748; Climbs/Descends 1,194
Land Status: USFS, City/County, Private Land
Maps: Buena Vista East
a. Ride one way downhill by shuttling a car to the River Park. Drive the other car with bikes back to US 24 and go 2.5 miles south to Johnson Village. Turn left on US 24/285 heading up Trout Creek Pass. Turn left on CR 315, 5.6 miles from Johnson Village. Continue on CR/FSR 315 another 0.4 mile to the Shield’s Gulch Trailhead. Park here and ride the trail in reverse – this way it’s downhill most of the way.
b. Connect with the Lenhardy Cutoff for a loop ride:
1. US 24/285 – from the Shield’s Gulch Trailhead, turn right on CR 315 and ride to US 24/285. Turn left up the pass and ride 2.3 miles on this busy road to CR 309. Turn left on CR 309 and follow the route description for the Lenhardy Cutoff ride to Buena Vista. This is a super fun loop.
2. Shield’s Gulch/CR 315 – to avoid the highway section described above, turn left at the Shield’s Gulch Trailhead and ride uphill on FSR 315. Intersect the obvious FSR 376 and turn left to Buena Vista. Follow the Lenhardy Cutoff route description from this point (mile 6.0).
0.0 Ride around the wooden building and down to the bridge spanning the Arkansas River. Cross the bridge and continue on the singletrack. This is the Whipple Trail, named after local artist Barbara Whipple It connects the River Park with the Midland Railroad grade.
0.1 Stay right as the trail forks, along the river. There are signs at each intersection, but sometimes vandals tear them down. There may be signs, there may not.
0.4 The trail forks, take the left hand trail uphill.
0.5 The trail forks, take the right hand trail uphill.
0.6 Information kiosk with interesting facts on early exploration.
0.9 Intersection with dirt road CR 304, the Midland Railroad grade. Turn right.
3.4 The road splits in 3 directions. Take the middle road, almost straight ahead, not the roads uphill or downhill. After a few yards look for signs marking the Midland Bicycle Trail and FSR 376A.
3.6 As the road curves left, ride straight to Trail 1450, a singletrack on the obvious railroad grade. The trail stays on the grade, except in places where trestles crossed the gullies. Here the trail dips into the gully and presents riders a few technical challenges that are easily walked by beginners.
5.3 Stay on the main trail through the cut in the hillside.
6.0 As you top this hill, the valley in front is the Trout Creek drainage.
7.9 Shield’s Gulch Trailhead. Turn around and ride it back.
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.
© 2023 Chaffee County Visitors Bureau | All Rights Reserved