Published with permission from the guide book: Mellow Mountain Trails Hiking Guide to Colorado’s Upper Arkansas River Valley
by Nathan Ward.
Behind Tenderfoot (S) Mountain
The low hills just north of downtown Salida offer a wide variety of nice hiking trails – everything from rocky singletrack to the smooth dirt road that spirals to the top of Tenderfoot Mountain. It’s a perfect area to explore on your own. Simply pick a trail and follow it to see where it goes. Follow the same trail back or you may get lost.
The trails are always evolving here as part of the Salida Mountain Trails initiative with the City of Salida, BLM and USFS. Pick up a current trail map at one of the downtown outdoor stores – Salida Mountain Sports, Salida Bike Company, Subculture Cyclery or Absolute Bikes.
Trailhead Access & Facilities
Some people access this area by simply walking through the open gate at the end of F Street and crossing the railroad tracks to the Arkansas Hills north of downtown. However, the railroad does not currently grant anyone legal access this way, so if you cross this area you are trespassing and may be fined. Because of this, we must suggest that you ride your bike or drive around via Sands Lake to the other side. Hopefully legal access will be granted in the near future.
From the stoplight in downtown Salida, drive or pedal west on First Street approximately one mile and turn right on CR 175, across from the new hospital. Continue past Sands Lake and keep right on CR 175 when the road splits, after crossing the Arkansas River. 1.5 miles from the stoplight, turn right on CR 176, a dirt road that leads up to a big water tank called the “can”. Continue past the can on the road heading left and up toward Tenderfoot Mountain. Park in one of the vehicle pullouts and start exploring the trails.
There are no facilities at the trailhead or on any of the trails.
Start walking on Spiral Drive, the spiraling smooth dirt road up to the summit of Tenderfoot Mountain for a great panoramic view of Salida, the surrounding valley and the big peaks to the south and west. Follow the road back.
Alternatively, start hiking up the road then detour off on one of the singletrack trails heading up the mountain. These trails wander all over, so it’s best to follow the same trail back, although some will loop back to the road again. Watch for mountain bikes on all trails.
Location: Directly North of F Street, Downtown Salida.
Distance: Variable – Loops, Out & Back
Hiking Time: Variable
Best Months: Year-Round. It will be hot in the summer, so go in the early morning.
Trail Type: Dirt Roads or Singletrack
Dog Friendly: Yes
Elevation in Feet: Ranges from roughly 7,000 at the river to 8,500 above
Land Status: City/County, BLM, Private Land
Maps: USGS Salida East, Salida West
Note: Watch for rattlesnakes on all trails north of the Arkansas River.
Salida Mountain Trails (SMT) is an all volunteer organization committed to building and maintaining sustainable, non-motorized, multi-user trails on public lands near the city of Salida. We are a 501c3 not for profit.
The primary mission of Salida Mountain Trails is to create a real trail system, meaning a mapped and signed network of linked trails. To date, we have created some 23 miles of trails with much more in the works. Check out our Maps for what we have accomplished, and our Trail Projects for what we are doing right now.
We also have a core commitment to maintain and sustain all the trails around Salida – those we have built as well as those that have already been established.
We welcome any and all those interested in helping us! Lastly, we follow the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) trail design and maintenance standards.
Contact us: [email protected]
Salida Mountain Trails
PO Box 612
Salida, CO 81201
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.
The Salida Trail is a great hike for people of any age along a paved path wandering through historic downtown Salida and out into fields near town.
Castle Gardens hosts a maze of trails among fantastic eroded dirt cliffs – the only landform of this type in the area. This hike follows the dry streambed through the eroded spires and it’s fairly easy and short – the perfect place close to town to take a quick…
The low hills just north of downtown Salida offer a wide variety of nice hiking trails – everything from rocky singletrack to the smooth dirt road that spirals to the top of Tenderfoot Mountain. It’s a perfect area to explore on your own. Simply pick a trail and…
The Rainbow Trail is a long trail that stretches all the way from Silver Creek all the way down the east side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains toward Westcliffe.
The hike along Starvation Creek follows a winding mountain stream on singletrack through pine, fir and aspen forests, as well as a few grassy meadows. Local legend has it that Starvation Creek got its name when an early fall blizzard trapped a rancher’s cattle in this…
The hike to Pass Creek Lake climbs to a high mountain basin and lake at treeline. The beginning of the hike is rocky and steep, but the middle gets easier with a gently rolling trail along Pass Creek through pine and aspen forests.
This hike starts at Fooses Lake and follows a rough road up the Fooses Creek drainage toward the Continental Divide. It’s an easy walk through pine forests and the road is also a section of the Colorado Trail.
Boss Lake is a small reservoir set in a crown of thick forests. It’s a beautiful spot for a hike and picnic, an overnight camping trip or fishing.
The trail to Waterdog Lakes is a popular hike that leads to scenic lakes beneath the Continental Divide. The lakes are a great spot for an afternoon picnic or fishing trip.
The Monarch Crest Trail wanders above treeline for many miles along the spine of the Continental Divide. The views are spectacular in all directions, giving a true feel for the backbone of the United States and the surrounding land.
This is a hike from the North Fork creek drainage on the Colorado Trail from the Angel of Shavano campground to Blank’s Cabin at the base of Mount Shavano (14,229 ft.). The trail climbs steadily to the top of a ridge, with spectacular views to the south.
The Wagon Loop Trail circles a section of Brown’s Creek on a pleasant singletrack through pine and aspen forest with lots of interesting big rocks. The trail climbs steadily through the forest on one side of the creek and descends on the other side, before joining a dirt…
Established in 1991, the Barbara Whipple Trail is a popular, historical hike with interpretive signs telling about the olden days in the valley. Starting from the Buena Vista River Park, the trail loops up from the river to the old Midland Railroad grade and back down to the…
The Midland Trail offers a pleasant hike that is fairly flat and follows the old Midland Railroad Line. It’s called a bike trail, but it’s perfect for hiking too. There are a few railroad relics along the way and big views of the peaks to the west. The terrain is…
The Davis Meadow Trail winds through the upper end of the Fourmile Travel Management Area northeast of Buena Vista. It’s a beautiful trail through fir, pine and aspen forest to a serene meadow with old pioneer cabins. It’s a great hike with children and the meadow is…
Chalk Creek flows east from the Collegiate Peaks mountain range into the Arkansas River. This beautiful singletrack hike starts at the creek and meanders south on the Colorado Trail. It climbs steadily from the waters of Chalk Creek through pine and aspen forests to a ridge with…
This historic hike follows an old narrow gauge railroad route of a train that ran from Nathrop to Saint Elmo. The trail hugs the north side of Chalk Creek Canyon, directly across from the imposing bulk of the Chalk Cliffs. The gentle out and back route climbs slowly through…
This hike follows the old railroad grade from the ghost town of Hancock to the East Portal of the historic Alpine Tunnel, one of the great railroad engineering feats of the late 19th Century. The tunnel entrance has collapsed, but the gently climbing rail bed will give you an…
Poplar Gulch lies just outside historic Saint Elmo, a photogenic ghost town with many original buildings. The trail begins at the base of Tincup Pass and winds through pine and aspen forests before switchbacking up the mountain. It climbs along a rushing mountain creek to a…
Beautiful singletrack leads you south on the Colorado Trail from Cottonwood Pass on a rarely hiked section of trail that contours across the base of Sheep Mountain (11,939 ft.). The trail rolls up and down with no major climbing as it crosses streams, winds through pine and aspen…
Named for turn of the century Buena Vista Lawyer, George K. Hartenstein, Hartenstein Lake sits in a high basin just below treeline. The hike to the lake climbs steadily and sometimes steeply through pine and aspen forests and small open meadows. The trail is a well-marked, rocky…
Named for the lovely ptarmigan birds, which live in the area year-round, Ptarmigan Lake sits in a high mountain cirque of big peaks. The trail starts at Cottonwood Pass and climbs through dense pine forests before breaking out into flowery meadows dotted by small ponds.
The South Texas Creek Trail is a classic hike through high altitude tundra above treeline. The trail starts at the top of Cottonwood Pass and heads directly east down towards Texas Creek through a wilderness of grassy meadows and pine groves with huge views. The trail sees much…
The Skyline Hike takes you from the top of Cottonwood Pass to the quick and easy small summit to the southwest. From the top, enjoy a 360º view above treeline – the Collegiate Peaks, the Sawatch Range, Taylor Park and all the way to the Elks near Crested Butte…
Interlaken is a former resort that once rivaled the Broadmoor for being the most luxurious property in Colorado. It was established in 1879 as a popular summer resort for tourists who rode the train to Twin Lakes then took a stage to the resort. Guests enjoyed horseback rides…
© 2023 Chaffee County Visitors Bureau | All Rights Reserved