Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mountain Biking the Silver Creek-Rainbow Trail Loop

Last weekend's ride of the Triple Rainbow Route was my first serious mountain bike ride since I moved to Colorado.  It was such a nice ride that I was eager get back on the trails with my bike.  I browsed through my local bike guide and found a ride called the Silver Creek Loop just south of Poncha Springs.  Like the Triple Rainbow, a good part of this ride featured the Rainbow Trail.  I enjoyed the Rainbow Trail's singletrack on the last ride, so this route seemed like a good option.

The ride started just below the summit Poncha Pass along US 285, just a couple tenths of a mile from County Road 200.  Starting with CR 200 and eventually FS 201, the next 8 miles would follow dirt roads.  The first 4.5 miles were well maintained and graded dirt before the road narrowed and became somewhat rougher.  From the start the route climbed for 8 miles.  The climbing was very gradual however and an easy spin in the middle chainring most of the way.  The roads followed Silver Creek the entire way often along meadows.  Even though most of the route was wooded, there were several spots where I could enjoy views of the surrounding peaks with Antora Peak being the most prominent mountain in view.  After spinning 8 miles, I reached the Silver Creek trailhead and the Rainbow Trail.

Riding along FS 201 in the woods

Antora Peak

Start of the Rainbow Trail Section

On the Rainbow Trail, the real fun began.  The first 8 miles were a nice warm up for the Rainbow Trail's singletrack.  The very beginning of the Rainbow started out a little rocky and rooty.  This was short lived and the trail smoothed out into some great singletrack.  The trail flowed nicely with plenty of climbs and descents but none that lasted too long.  The trail cruised along through the forest dropping in and out of small drainages and then would pop out into a meadow.  The trail had occasional sections of rocks and small stream crossings.  This section of the Rainbow Trail offered about 11 miles of singletrack fun before dropping steeply back to US 285.

Riding the Rainbow through the woods

A small stream crossing

Riding through aspens

Looking back at a 
meadow I just rode through

Entering a meadow with views
toward Mt Ouray

The final descent to the trailhead was the most technical part of the ride.  The trail was quite steep and fairly narrow with a steep drop along the trail.  The route was rocky enough to keep me on my toes.  Several sharp switchbacks prevented me from letting my speed get to crazy.

Not only was the riding a blast, the scenery was also enjoyable.  As the trail popped out of the woods into meadows, the views opened.  The view of Mt. Ouray was the most impressive.  At one point the trail entered an open area with a nice look at the Sangre de Cristos.  Toward the end of the ride, the meadows opened up to views toward 14er Mt Shavano and its neighbors.  The Rainbow Trail paralleled the dirt roads at the start of the loop but traveled higher.  At spots, I could look down and see the early part of my ride.

Sangre de Cristo Range

Looking toward Mt Shavano and its neighbors

Mt Ouray

Overall the ride was fairly easy compared to the Triple Rainbow ride I posted about last time.  The loop was about 19 miles long and took about 2 hours to ride.  The elevations were between 8400 and 9500 feet.  This loop is listed as an intermediate ride in the local cycling guidebook and that seems like a fair rating.  I had a lot of fun on this ride without feeling too tired at the end.  This ride is worth checking out if you have an extra day in the Salida area and are looking for an easier ride.

 To see the Map and elevation profile click here.

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