In Search of Dry Land, Volume III: Section 13, Canon City, Colorado

Canon City, located an hour down the road from my new hometown of Salida, Colorado, sits about 1,700 feet lower in elevation and generally receives even less precipitation than Salida… which isn’t easy to do. I’d previously driven down there to ride the new Oil Well Flats trail system, and after a few weeks of riding the one dry trail system in Salida, I turned my pickup toward Canon City again. This time, my main goal was to ride Section 13.

View of Canon City from Section 13.

Section 13 is located a bit closer to town than Oil Well Flats, making it relatively easy to access. Still, if you don’t want to pedal pavement (and then gravel) from town, you’ll have to drive up the road a few miles to reach the main trailhead. Once there, the trail starts on the opposite side of the road.

Skibum and Miniskibum climbing up the stick of the lollipop

The route is laid out as a lollipop loop, with a shortcut available across the middle of the loop. The singletrack stem of the lollipop, Lamba Chops, begins by meandering up through dry, open terrain, interspersed with scrub and piñon. It’s a relatively mild climb, with a few dips and some flow mixed in, and a couple of rocks to keep things entertaining.

maddslacker in one of the thin patches of snow clinging the shade.

As the trail climbs higher and flows into the Hot Shots loop (recommended counterclockwise), it reaches the beginnings of the pine forest, transitioning from short piñon to real trees. Before you know it, the climb is over, and it’s time to descend!

The descent from the top of the loop is fast and flowy! This isn’t flow-style trail by any means, but in the past year the Lower Arkansas Mountain Bike Association (LAMBA) has bermed up all of these turns. These berms allow you to rocket back down the hillside, flying through what were once off-camber, loose turns with blazing speed.

Photo: miniskibum. Rider: mtbgreg1.

Overall, Section 13 is a much flowier, beginner-friendly trail than Oil Well Flats. There are less rocks, more berms, and more flow. Also, at 7 miles in length (with several short cut options), the distance is quite manageable for a beginner as well.

However, as an advanced rider, I was really just finding my rhythm by the time the ride was over. The flow was so entrancing that I just wanted the trail to go on and on! While I don’t pretend to know what the land designations are like surrounding Section 13, it looks like there’s plenty of area to expand this trail system. Another 20 miles of similar singletrack would be fantastic!

Rider: Michael C.

Personally, while I enjoyed Section 13, it still didn’t hold a candle to Oil Well Flats. Oil Well is an incredibly scenic area, and the trails are very creatively constructed, with entertaining turns and twists and rock features.

My recommendation: come to Canon City and ride Oil Well Flats first. If you’ve explored everything there is to explore there and you still want to log some more miles, head over to Section 13 for another great 7 miles of trail!

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