Published with permission from the guide book: Mellow Mountain Trails Hiking Guide to Colorado’s Upper Arkansas River Valley
by Nathan Ward.
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 somewhat desert-like and beautiful. It’s a good hike with children as well.
The Midland Trail was established in 1991 to follow the old grade of the Midland Railroad. The Midland Railroad carried freight and passengers to the Upper Arkansas River Valley from 1887 to 1918. The train crossed Trout Creek Pass and dropped passengers off just above Buena Vista where they’d ride a stage down into town.
For a longer hike, simply continue on the Midland Trail for many more miles. You can also take the 5 mile loop, #1450A, which leads to 376A and back to CR304.
Trailhead Access & Facilities
From the stoplight in downtown Buena Vista, drive 2.4 miles south on US 24 to the stoplight near Johnson Village. Turn left (east) on US 285 and drive 1.8 miles to CR 304. Turn left (north) on CR 304. The road divides almost immediately, stay to the right going up. The road climbs up for 1.1 miles to a sign that reads “Big Sandy Way”. The trailhead for the Midland Trail is on your right. Park here and begin your hike at the two signs for the Fourmile area and the Midland Trail.
There are no facilities at the trailhead or along the trail.
Location: Just Southeast of BV
Distance: 3.6 Miles – Out & Back
Hiking Time: 2 Hours
Best Months: April through October
Trail Type: Dirt road, Singletrack, Railroad Grade
Dog Friendly: Yes – Watch for Cyclists.
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 8,470; High Point 8,644; Climbs/Descends 329
Land Status: San Isabel National Forest
Maps: Trails Illustrated #129
Note: In the summer, go early in the morning because it can get hot.
0.0 Trailhead – Start at the trail signs. Elevation 8,470 ft. (N38 49.80, W106 05.14)
0.1 Walk down CR 376A. There are boulders on both sides of the dirt road.
0.2 CR 376A goes to the left and the Midland Trail is straight ahead. Hike straight ahead on trail #1450, a singletrack atop the old railroad grade. Look for cinders from the old engines.
0.3 Small rocks across the trail here. The Midland Trail goes left. Turn left. (N38 49.88, W106 05.14)
0.4 Descend into a small meadow and then into the dry streambed. There used to be trestles here, but they are long gone.
0.7 You are at the top of the climb and begin to descend.
0.8 Entering an area with very large and old Cottonwood trees. Cross the streambed and locate the trail a few feet up on the other side.
1.0 Back on top.
1.2 Evidence of the old Midland Railroad on the trail. Look for the wood from the rail ties.
1.5 Look for a sinkhole in the meadow to your left.
1.8 The trail divides here and this is the turnaround spot. To the left, is #1450A. This is a 5 mile loop back to CR 304, via 376 A. The Midland Trail continues straight ahead. Decide if you wish to continue for more miles. If not, turn around and follow the railroad home. Elevation 8,564 ft. (N38 50.06, W106 03.72)
3.6 Back at the trailhead.
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.
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