Colorado Trail from Shavano to Princeton
The Colorado Trail as it runs north and south near Salida is a mixed bag for cyclists. It's not nearly as civilized as are portions of the world-famous trail near the Front Range. It's pretty tough here. There is lots of rocky, technical trail, and there are some long steep climbs. Every time the trail crosses a major drainage (such as Cottonwood Creek near Buena Vista, Chalk Creek near Nathrop, and the South Arkansas near Maysville) the trail plummets over a thousand vertical feet to a crossing, then climbs, usually very steeply back back to somewhere between 9,000and 10,000 feet.
The climb from Salida to the nearest bit of Colorado Trail, which is the Blanks Cabin trailhead almost due west of town, is a nice aerobic climb. The Blanks trailhead is at just under 10,000 feet, and of course Salida is 7,000. The trip up there is 14 miles long. About half of that is paved, up Chaffee County Road 140, which is a mostly deserted road out past Salida's tiny airport. The second half is on a nice, steady dirt road. That road, Chaffee 250, climbs through a long stretch of piñon/juniper which gradually gives way to a mix of Ponderosa forest and open grassy parks. Finally near the trail you come into a fir/aspen forest.
This route is pretty yet strenuous, fun yet deserted. Blanks Cabin to Chalk Creek is more fun than Chalk Creek to Blanks because Chalk is over 2,000 feet lower than Blanks. But it's strenuous either way.
Photo by Shawn Gillis
One of the Rocky bits. Photo by Shawn Gillis
What I call the Colorado Trail Flail is the trip from town to Blanks, then riding the CT past Chalk Creek, up the long paved climb out of Chalk to the section along the front of Princeton, to a point before it drops long and hard into Cottonwood Creek. At that point I turn around and ride back south to Chalk Creek and take pavement home. Tired but happy.
Photo by Tom Purvis
©Tom Purvis, 2007-2012