Silver Creek Loop - Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado Visitor Guide

Silver Creek Loop

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.

The Silver Creek Loop starts with a mellow road climb followed by a choice section of singletrack. The first 8 miles follows a dirt road along Silver Creek which is full of willows and beaver ponds. It’s a gradual climb, fit for everyone. Then hop onto the Rainbow Trail and ride it back to the start – a singletrack that zips up and down through dense forest before exploding out into high meadows with big views. You will love this ride.

Trailhead Access: Drive west on US 50 to Poncha Springs. Turn left (south) on US 285 and drive 5.1 miles up Poncha Pass. Look for the sign pointing to Marshall Pass and O’Haver Lake. Continue driving on US 285 0.2 mile past this turnoff and park on the right side of the road next to the small Rainbow Trail sign.

Location: Rainbow Trail, south of Salida on Poncha Pass
Distance: 19.0 mile – loop
Riding Time: 2 to 3 hours
Riding Surface in Miles: Paved 0.2, Dirt Road 8.0, Singletrack 10.8
Aerobic Level: Moderate – gradual climbing
Technical Difficulty: Intermediate – sidecut, one technical downhill
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 8,436; High Point 9,521; Climbs/Descends 2,227
Land Status: USFS, Private Land
Maps: Mount Ouray, Poncha Pass
Note: This is a good ride on the way to Joyful Journey Mineral Hot Springs.
Options: Skip the road and ride the singletrack out and back – park in the same place and ride the Rainbow Trail to the Silver Creek road. Return the same way for 21.6 miles of fun.

Silver Creek Loop Mileage Log

0.0 Get on and ride back down US 285/Poncha Pass.
0.2 Turn left on CR 200 – the road toward O’Haver Lake.
1.6 The road changes to FSR 200. The road follows the old Marshall Pass railroad route, a gradual 2-4% uphill grade.
2.6 Continue straight on FSR 200. Do not take the right hand turn to O’Haver.
2.8 Continue straight on CR/FSR 201 past the Shirley Site Angler Parking. There are pit toilets here.
2.9 Stay straight on FSR 201.
4.2 Stay straight on the main road.
4.5 The road forks. Take the rougher right hand road uphill.
5.9 Stay straight on the main road along Silver Creek.
6.9 Stay straight on the main road.
7.9 Cross a small creek.
8.2 Turn left on the Rainbow Trail singletrack. A sign points the way, “HWY 285 9”. This is a beautiful singletrack with small creek crossings, slippery sidecut trail and meadows.
9.6 The climb begins. However, the short climbs are followed by flat sections so your heart recovers – not like lost love. Get ready for quick transitions between down and up.
11.5 As you traverse this meadow, check out the south face of Mt. Ouray.
14.9 Cross a small road and continue on the signed singletrack straight ahead.
16.4 Start a long technical downhill. Doing research for the book I saw a mountain lion cub here.
17.5 Stay straight on the singletrack, following signs through this sage filled meadow.
19.0 Back to the parking area after a steep rocky descent. Drive south for a hot springs and lithium fix.


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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Buena Vista, CO 81211

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