Published with permission from the guide book: Mellow Mountain Trails Hiking Guide to Colorado’s Upper Arkansas River Valley
by Nathan Ward.
- Featuring 27 Fun Day Hikes in Buena Vista & Salida – beginner to expert..
- 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.
Narrow Gauge Trail
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 forests and along the base of the mountain with perfect views of the huge cliffs on the other side of the valley. This is a good hike on a hot day because it’s on the cooler north slope of Mount Antero (14,289 ft.). It’s also quiet and peaceful. Children will enjoy this hike too.
Trailhead Access: Drive 16 miles north of Salida via US 291 to US 285 or 8 miles south of Salida on US 285. Turn west on CR 162 and drive 5.6 miles. Turn left on CR 290, cross the creek and stay to the right on 290. Drive 1.6 miles and park in the turnaround spot at the end of the road. Start hiking from here.
Location: Chalk Creek, West of Nathrop
Distance: 4.4 Miles – Out and Back
Hiking Time: 2–2.5 Hours
Best Months: May through October
Trail Type: Railroad Bed, Singletrack
Dog Friendly: Yes
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 8,582; High Point 9,035; Climbs/Descents 697
Land Status: San Isabel National Forest
Maps: Trails Illustrated #130
Note: There are good campgrounds and lake fishing just below this hike on CR 162.
CAUTION: There has been increased rockfall in this area and some sections of the trail are covered in rock. The trail traverses over this rockfall, but please use discretion and do not linger in these areas.
Narrow Gauge Trail Photo Gallery
Narrow Gauge Trail Mileage Log
0.0 Trailhead – Look for the trail on the uphill side of the parking lot. (N38°42.67, W106°12.18) After 40 yards or so, walk around the gate and continue up the very obvious railroad bed. There are no side trails to lead you off-route so enjoy the great view of the valley below. The big peak directly to your right (north) is Mount Princeton (14,197 ft.).
1.0 The uphill slope here is a little loose – don’t hang around here. Check out the huge split in the cliff face to your left.
2.2 You’ll hear the turnaround spot before you reach it as Chalk Creek tumbles down Cascade Falls and roars (N38°42.55, W106°14.48). If you’re hiking with your dog, get them on the leash before this point so they don’t run out into the road. Walk across the paved road to see the falls.
Turn around and follow the old railroad route back to your car.
4.4 Back at the trailhead. Head for the hot springs.