This ride starts with a 3-mile grind up a sometimes steep and loose high clearance two wheel drive road, but what follows is 6 miles of really good singletrack, with a sweet downhill back to the car. Rated difficult because of that 3-mile grind up the road; know before you go.
Although this is only a 9-mile ride, it 'feels' like a bit of an adventure. Be prepared and self-sufficient; bring supplies and tools.
This is bear & mountain lion country. Make noise while you're out there on the trail. Consider bringing bear-spray.
The Rainbow trail is popular with dirt bikers, their presence is perfectly legal. In fact, they have adopted this trail and perform trail work so we can all enjoy it. Listen for them and move out of their way to let them through. It's easier for mountain bikers to get off the trail. The Columbine
Trail is popular with hikers and runners, try to control your speed on the way down as there are several blind turns.
Say hi to other trail users, be courteous.
From Highway 50, drive up Bear Creek Road (CR101/CR49)
and park at the Columbine
trailhead. Ignore the Columbine
singletrack, and instead start riding farther up Bear Creek Road (CR101/CR49)
, which changes into a high clearance two wheel drive road. Bear Creek keeps you company most of the way up the 3-mile climb, and you can see the surrounding scenery change from arid to very green and moist, the farther you get up the road. Which, unfortunately, gets increasingly steeper and looser as you go. With a good granny gear, it's rideable though, all the way to the top, the end of the road, where the Rainbow Trail awaits.
Take a well-deserved break, and then make sure to turn right, onto the Rainbow Trail #1336: Bear Creek to Mears Junction (Methodist Mountain Section)
. Within seconds, you'll forget all about that grind up the road. The singletrack flows and winds through the forest, with the occasional climb, always followed by another descent. Soon you'll get to an open area, with a great view of Salida in the distance. Look for the S, above the town.
The next section starts with a good descent, followed by a mix of up and down. Eventually, the longest ascent will get you to the intersection with Columbine
, almost 7 miles into this ride. Turn sharp right onto Columbine
, which is 99% downhill, and offers a fun mix of newer style contour trail and old fashioned fall-line. Before you know it, you'll be back at your car, hopefully with a smile on your face.