First, there are so many amazing trails throughout all of Colorado, especially around Salida! We're surrounded by many beautiful Fourteeners plus the Colorado Trail passes through essentially our backyard, so there's no shortage of hiking to be had. It's hard to narrow down our favorites, but here are the places we take visitors and wanted to share with you too!
This one is right in our own backyard. It is part of Salida Mountain Trails -- a system of non-motorized, multi-user trails on public lands adjoining the city of Salida. We always start this hike at the trailhead on CR175. You can do North Backbone as an out and back of about 7 miles or, if you have the resources (another car) you can park a car in town and another at the trailhead and hike into town for lunch and libations. We often find ourselves preferring the latter. If you choose the hike to town that’s about 5 miles and be sure to look at the map signs as there are many trail options and you can easily turn your trip down in to a 7 or 8 mile affair.
While there’s not a great deal of elevation climb on the trail itself, the views of Salida, the valley and 2 different mountain ranges are spectacular. There are some sections of the trail where you are traversing through and over rock outcroppings but nothing too crazy. It is a BlackDiamond trail for bikes so you have to be aware of riders but we’ve never seen more than a few on any given day. We love the twists and turns of this trail with a different view around every corner. Explore North Backbone here.
This trail is a 5.7 mile out and back. The trailhead is located just past the Ruby Mountain Campground, south of Buena Vista off of Hwy 285. Go through the campground to a fairly large parking lot at the end of the road. This trail is located in the Browns Canyon National Monument which was created in 2015 in order to protect an area of rock formations and canyons carved by the Arkansas River. If you’ve ever rafted Browns Canyon and wondered what lay beyond the banks of the river, this trail is your opportunity to find out!
We love the geology and different terrain you experience on this hike. You start this trail climbing 400 ft through a piñon and pine forest. The top offers beautiful vistas and views of the Collegiate Peaks. Then you head down into a dried riverbed through a small canyon. After a small up out of the canyon there is about 1.5 of walking through open plains bordered on one side by the Arkansas River and dramatic rock formations on the other. The trail splits after about a mile. Left takes you on a 12 mile trip to Turret and the right continues on the River Bench Trail. The trail eventually heads to the River.
When you get to the vista looking over the Arkansas (and see a large felled tree trunk we always take to be the River Bench) you’ve arrived. This is a great area to explore. We usually head down to the river and have lunch on the small beach there (except during peak river flow). Here you can see the occasional rafts and those enjoying some fly-fishing. The way back, though the same route reversed, offers a completely different perspective of the area. Look closely at the picture of the rock formation. Can you see Winnie-the-Pooh? Explore Turret Trail to River Bench Trail.
Ptarmigan Lake Trail is about a 6.5 mile out and back trail that is moderately difficult due to the 1500-ish ft elevation climb ending above tree line at 12,300 ft. We love this trail not only for its beauty, but for us, it’s also a great hike to use to begin to get ready for a longer hike at elevation or for climbing a 14er.
The trailhead is 14 miles west of Buena Vista on County Road 306 just before you reach Cottonwood Pass. It’s good to get an early start as this is a popular trail and the parking lot is not that big. You ascend through an amazing forest and soon cross a boulder field. There are great views occasionally revealing themselves as you continue the climb. After about 2.5 miles you emerge from the forest and a lake comes into view on the left. We have seen hikers turn around here thinking this is Ptarmigan Lake. Don’t do that!
You still have .7 miles to go! Also near this 1st lake are spectacular fields of wildflowers. Just an explosion of color. Ptarmigan Lake itself is magnificent with Mt. Yale and the surrounding peaks in the background. The way back is all downhill. Woohoo! Explore Ptarmigan Lake trail.
We'll see you on the trails!