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 Railroad Tunnel River Road runs north from downtown Buena Vista and follows the Midland Railroad grade along the Arkansas River. The road passes through several short railroad tunnels and offers excellent views of whitewater rapids, piñon pines and the Collegiate Peaks – Mt. Princeton (14,197 ft.), Mt. Yale (14,194 ft.) and Mt. Columbia (14,073 ft.). Since the ride is an out and back route, make the ride any length you want – just turn around when you start to tire. This is a great route if you want to ride out of town and have a picnic lunch.
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: 20.2 miles – out and back, or as short as you want
Riding Time: 1 to 3 hours
Riding Surface in Miles: Paved 5.2, Dirt Road 15
Aerobic Level: Easy
Technical Difficulty: Novice – good for beginners
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 7,936; High Point 8,524; Climbs/Descends 761
Land Status: USFS, BLM, Private Land
Maps: Buena Vista West, Harvard Lakes
0.0 Retrace your driving route to Main Street.
0.5 Turn right on N. Colorado and follow it out of town. It changes to CR 371.
2.3 Cross the Arkansas River. This is a pretty area with huge rocks.
2.6 The road turns to smooth dirt. This is the Midland Railroad grade.
3.2 Railroad Tunnels – the first of four. These one-lane tunnels allowed the engines to pass through. Give cars the right of way since they can’t see you easily in the dark. The River Road leaves the river for a few miles after the final tunnel.
3.7 Bob’s Rock, a rock climbing area, on your right. Elephant Rock on your left.
6.0 Continue straight on CR 371.
6.8 The Railroad Bridge Recreation Site on your left. They have pit toilets here. This is a day-use fee area so if you plan to spend time here, register and pay at the self-service kiosk. The road narrows and closely follows the river. This section of the river includes part of the “Numbers”, a class V section of the whitewater. These rapids are an excellent spot for a close, dry view of whitewater action. This section has nice picnic spots along the road – find a spot you like and picnic.
10.1 Turn left at the end of the River Road and ride out on the bridge over the Arkansas. This is the turn-around spot for the out and back ride. Nice job!
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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