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Level: Intermediate
Length: 100 mi (160.9 km)
Surface: Singletrack
Configuration: One-way
Elevation: +2,500/2 ft
Total: 14 riders

Mountain Biking Rainbow Trail

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#31 of 1,345 mountain bike trails in Colorado
#180 in the world

The Rainbow Trail is a long distance trail of at least 100 miles in length. The northern terminus is at the Silver Creek trail outside of Salida, Colorado, with the southern terminus near Westcliffe, Colorado.
The entirety of the rainbow trail is opened to motorized ORV traffic, with many sections of the trail open to both motorcycles and ATVs. However, there are quite a few sections that aren't open to ATVs.
Mountain biking and hiking are allowed along the entire length of the trail, but due to the motorized traffic, some sections of the trail are more desirable than others. In general, the sections that are closed to ATVs tend to be quality singletrack that are awesome for mountain biking! However, the sections that are open to ATVs can be wide, doubletrack, and very rocky and washed out.
For information on individual sections of the trail, click on the individual segments listed below.

First added by Greg Heil on Sep 13, 2013. Last updated May 6, 2020. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: unknown
  • Lift service: unknown
  • Night riding: unknown
  • Pump track: unknown
  • Restrooms: unknown
  • Fat bike grooming: unknown
  • E-bikes allowed: unknown
  • Fee required: unknown
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
Getting there
Starting near Salida, Colorado, and running along the Sangre de Cristo range almost all the way to Westcliffe. Many access points along the way.
System trails (5)
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Rainbow Trail Trail map

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Local Info

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ldebard (on Jul 22, 2017)
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Trail conditions

Dry (on Aug 13, 2016)
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Mountain Bike Trails Near Salida, Colorado

Easiest | 3 mi
Beginner | 2 mi
Intermediate | 18 mi
Advanced | 9 mi

Rider questions

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  • tomcat32

    Fast, fun, flowy, singletrack. It's a shame the entire Rainbow doesn't ride like this. I have ridden this as a big loop combining the Salida Mountain Trails on Methodist Mountain for a loop. The full loop I would consider advanced but just this section is intermediate riding. I have pics and a full review at:

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  • tomcat32

    This section of the Rainbow is rough and unforgiving. The climbs and descents are very rocky and washed out. You will get a very short section of velvety smooth singletrack and then start climbing up rock gardens. Expect to walk a lot. Motorcylces certainly didn't help the trail in this stretch. It does offer nice solitude and a few views but I doubt I will return to it. I have pictures showing the roughness and a full trip report at:

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  • tomcat32

    I rode this as a loop riding up the dirt roads from 285 to the start of the Rainbow. While there are a few techy sections, generally this is fast and flowy. One of the better stretches of the Rainbow I have ridden. It climbs in and out of drainages that can be steep but the steep never lasts terribly long. The most technical stretch is the steep switchbacking descent at the end to 285. Like the others said, the views are nice with the southern Sawatch 14ers to the north and Ouray and Antora close to the route. Even good views of the sangres come into sight. This is a fun quickish loop. I have pics and entire trail report at:

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  • Greg Heil   ✓ supporter

    I rode the other section of this segment this weekend for the first time, and Man is it heinously steep, loose, and rutted out! Sure, the views are spectacular, and when you're going downhill it's pure awesome, but overall the segment between Hwy 285 and Sand Gulch just isn't much fun. However, the other half of this segment, between Sand Gulch and the Methodist Mountain Road, is superb. If I could give this a 3.5, I would, but a 3 star and a 4 star review should accomplish the same thing ;)

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  • uber_franz

    Rode the north portion of the trail a few years ago with the wife. Fun rolling singletrack.

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  • Greg Heil   ✓ supporter

    The initial climb up and over the ridgeline consists of a very steep, extremely-washed out trail thanks to the motorcycle usage. It's a hike-a-bike up, and a steep drop down the other side. If you ride this section as an out-and-back, be prepared for the hike a bike back up and over.
    I only rode the first 6 miles of this segment to the Hunts Lake Trail, but after the initial washed out ridge the quality of the trail improved substantially. There were still a few small hike a bikes, but overall it wasn't bad.
    There were some great views along this portion of trail as well, which offered some redemptive quality.

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  • Greg Heil   ✓ supporter

    The segment of this trail that I rode was just awesome! Flowy, fast, some rocks, gorgeous views, beautiful creeks, big pines--man was it fun! I didn't want to drop off onto the Columbine trail when I did, but of course that bomber descent back down the mountain was a ton of fun as well. You just can't go wrong up here!

    Update: the section of this trail past the Columbine trail is fantastic as well. Definitely the best portion of the Rainbow Trail!

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  • Greg Heil   ✓ supporter

    Some sections of this trail are fantastic singletrack, but other sections are just doubletrack. But if you choose the right segment to ride, you're going to have a fantastic time!

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  • Greg Heil   ✓ supporter

    Awesome singletrack trail with some amazing views, great flow, and a few sections of challenging gnar. This is an excellent addition after the end of the Silver Creek Trail to tack onto the Monarch Crest shuttle run.

    I'm only giving it 4 stars because some of the climbs just aren't rideable... and after riding Monarch Crest and Silver Creek, everything else just pales in comparison!

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  • ckeel4

    I rode from 285 up along gravel roads 200 to 201 to the Rainbow trail head, very easy to find and scenic uphill ride along the creek. I dont think this portion of the trail is actually 9 miles, it may be more like 6. From there the single track Rainbow is a great ride. A little muddy in spots but not bad at all. Some spots are quite rocky and require hard braking and lots of bike control. There are a half dozen places especially after creek crossings that all but the pros will have to walk up. I would guess you climb another 1000ft or so while on rainbow during the long 9 miles but there is some great downhill too. The trail ends with a huge decent down to 285 and back to your car. This route took me about 3 1/2 hours with a few breaks. Enjoy.

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  • Corey Maddocks

    This trail is typically ridden from the "end" of the Monarch Crest trail. It is singletrack, and not terribly technical, except that you're usually exhausted by the time you get to it.

    It has some very steep ups and downs, and although the sign says 9 miles it's more like 11.

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  • DoubleJ

    I road this trail from Hayden Creek Road and I must say it is beautiful. That being said I only went 4 miles cause it was way to difficult to ride and the rock beds were impossible to work through. I had clip in that got really muddy and would not come out so I would get in the rocks and fall straight on my side. It was fun riding down but really took it out on my shoulders. Crossing the Creek 6 times was pretty cool. If you are a weekend warrior like my self be aware this is very steep and difficult.

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  • lfilonowich

    It has been a couple of years since I rode this trail, but 3 of us roade off from the Horn Creek Resort trail head and rode toward Hermit Road. I was a bit skeptical of this ride at first because my first encounter with it did include loose baby head river rock. This time the baby head was filled in with dirt and was very rideable. I can say his trek does include about everything mountain-bikeable except the big hops/drops. The three of us started about 12:00 noon and were at the resort by 5:00PM for chow. Watch out for the reviews that are 4 years or older because the trail changes as fast as the weather.

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  • bonkedagain

    Given the wide variance in the reviews of this trail, my buddy and I decided to give it a try. We started at the Hermit Creek road, and headed north. After about six miles I stop and ask my partner "Have you had enough yet?" His reply was "I'd had enough about a mile ago." This trail is nothing more than an ATV trail that skirts along the base of the Wet (east) side of the Sangres. Other than the scenery it has no interesting features. Just easy up and down, grinding your way thru the woods on an ATV trail, puncuated with maddening stretches of churned up rocks from the ATVs. There are so many better places to ride. Just go north to Salida and hit the trails in that valley. You can even hit the Monarch Crest which drops into the start of the north end of the Rainbow Trail and is actually fun to ride. The stretch along Methodist Mountain is well worn in by pedal powered two-wheelers and is also a lot of fun. Skip this section.

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  • Pain_Is_Relative

    I have taken this ride every year for the last 3 years. While I have never done the entire trail I have done two portions of it around the Hayden Creek Campground. I have read the poor reviews of this trail and agree that ATVs and Motorbikes have done damage to the trail. However, I have found a portion which I think has some of the greatest riding in Colorado. Here is the secret. I start at the Hayden Creek campground and ride up the Rainbow trail as high as I can go. Then I sit down, slug some water and a clif bar, and prepare for the adrenaline pump down hill. According to trail maps and signs there is a lake 5 miles from the Hayden Creek campground; good luck I have never made it. Oh, just so you know most of the ascent will be spent on your feet. I recommend spending the night at either the Coaldale campground or the Hayden Creek campground. The scenery around this area is worth the 2 1/2 hour drive from Denver. To get there, search the internet for the Hayden Creek campground in the San Isabel National Forest.

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