Poncha Pass Summit - Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado Visitor Guide

Poncha Pass Summit

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 Poncha Pass Summit goes from downtown Salida to the top of Poncha Pass south of town. From town, the ride crosses the valley floor to the small town of Poncha Springs where the pass starts. As far as Colorado passes go, Poncha Pass is a fairly easy one to summit. The climb follows Poncha Creek through a tight valley laced with cottonwood trees and pinion pine forest above. Near the top, the road veers away from the creek up to the saddle that separates the Arkansas River Valley and the San Luis Valley. This is also the dividing line between the Arkansas River watershed and the Rio Grande watershed. From the top of Poncha Pass, you’ll get an amazing view of the northern end of the beautiful Sangre de Cristo mountain range. It’s worth the ride.

Options: Continue south on US 285 for a longer ride, maybe even all the way to Joyful Journey Mineral Hot Springs for a nice soak.

Trailhead Access

Downtown Salida. Park at the AHRA headquarters at the corner of Sackett and G Streets or in 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: Salida
Distance: 25.4 Miles – Out and Back
Riding Time: 3 Hours or More
Riding Surface: Good Pavement
Shoulder: Excellent
Traffic: Medium, but Heavy on Holiday Weekends
Aerobic Level: Intermediate to Difficult
Elevation in Feet: Low 7,031; High 9,041; Climbs/Descends 2,071

Notes: In the summer, this ride can be very hot in the middle of the day. Ride early or late to avoid the heat. There are no toilets or stores after Poncha Springs.

Poncha Pass Summit Mileage Log

0.0            Ride west on Sackett Street.

0.1            Turn left on I Street and ride 3 blocks.

0.3            T-intersection with 3rd Street. Turn right and take an immediate left uphill on Poncha Blvd. Stay left on Poncha Blvd. at the top of the hill. Stay on Poncha Blvd. west all the way out of town.

1.1            Poncha Blvd. changes to CR 120. Stay on CR 120 to Poncha Springs, there is a bike path next to the road.

5.0            T-intersection with US 50/285. Turn left and ride through Poncha Springs. Follow the signs and stay on US 285 south.

5.5             Cross the Arkansas River – the climbing is about to begin!

9.5            Look left across the creek to see the old railroad grade.

10.3            On this big sweeping left hand turn, look up the valley at Antora Peak (13,269 ft.).

12.1            When you ride through this big aspen grove, you are almost at the top!

12.7            Summit of Poncha Pass! Be careful on the way down, you can reach speeds of over 45mph. Yee ha. Follow the same roads back to Salida.


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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111 E Main St
Buena Vista, CO 81211

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406 W Rainbow Blvd.
Salida, CO 81201

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