Buena Vista is home to endless miles of mountain biking terrain and is particularly known for its Fourmile Recreation Area, Midland Hill and Barbara Whipple Trail System.
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While there are countless routes and options, here are some of our favorite rides in Buena Vista:
The Gentleman’s Loop is a favorite mountain biking route in the Fourmile Area. The full Gentleman’s Loop is about 11.1 miles and takes about 3 hours to complete. To make this ride a little easier, the lower loop begins at a different trailhead to cut out the rocky climb at the beginning. This route is a great introduction to cycling Buena Vista trail systems.
The Barbara Whipple trail system has some of our favorite mountain biking and is available right in downtown Buena Vista. The “Figure Eight” section is a combination of trails that loop around on Midland Hill and form the shape of a figure eight. This route is good for advanced cyclists and requires a high level of fitness.
BUENA VISTA TO MOUNT PRINCETON & NATHROP LOOP
With its stunning Rocky Mountain scenery, the Mount Princeton to Nathrop Loop is a Buena Vista favorite. If you want a good workout but don’t want to climb intense mountain passes, this route is for you.
- Difficulty: Intermediate
- Distance: 22 Miles Round Trip
- Route: From downtown Buena Vista, head south on Highway 24 (toward Salida). After about 1.5 miles, you’ll go through the Johnson Village traffic light. Continue on for about 5.5 miles, and turn right onto CO Road 162/Chalk Creek Drive. You’ll start climbing toward the mountains, with Mount Antero on your left and Mount Princeton on your right. Once you reach Mount Princeton Hot Springs, turn right to head north on CR 321. You’ll have a steep climb for about a mile and then will come to a switchback. At this point, the hardest climbing is over. Make sure to take a break and enjoy the gorgeous views of the Arkansas River Valley, then continue onto CR 321 and head downhill for another 8 miles until you reach West Main Street and downtown Buena Vista. You could also do this loop in the opposite direction, but you’ll face more steady climbing.
For a rigorous workout, intense climb and beautiful views, try cycling up Cottonwood Pass. This route requires a high fitness level and acclimation to Buena Vista’s high altitude.
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Distance: 42 Miles Round Trip
- Route: Head west from the traffic light in Buena Vista for a steep 20-mile ride to the top of Cottonwood Pass. The road gains over 4,200 feet to the top which reaches 12,126 feet. Two stretches have 10 percent grades that last for one mile each. While this is a very tough ride, you’ll enjoy beautiful views, and the road is paved all the way to the top with relatively little traffic. To shorten the ride, you can drive up partway and park at either Avalanche Trailhead or Denny Creek Trailhead.
Family Friendly Rides
The Buena Vista River Road is a great biking option for families and those looking for a relatively flat, easy ride with amazing scenery. You’ll be biking along the old Midland Railroad grade and will pass through a series of railroad tunnels. This route parallels the Arkansas River and provides views of various rapids in what is known as the “Narrows” section of river. Rock climbing is very popular in this area, so you may even see climbers on the large rock formations along the route.
- Difficulty: Easy
- Distance: 18.6 Miles Round Trip, out and back ride.
- Route: Park anywhere in downtown Buena Vista. This route begins on North Colorado Avenue at the intersection with East Main Street (0.2 miles east of US 24).
- Mileage log:
0.0 - Ride north on N. Colorado Ave. from the intersection with E. Main St.
0.3 - Buena Vista city limits. N. Colorado Ave. becomes CR 371.
1.8 - Cross a bridge over the river. The road surface turns to dirt just after the bridge.
2.5 - Pass the intersection with CR 375 on your right.
2.6 - Enter the first tunnel.
3.0 - Pass by two popular rock climbing areas, one (Bob’s Rock) immediately on your right, the other (Elephant Rock) just ahead on your left.
6.2 - Pass the Railroad Bridge recreation area on your left (pit toilets available).
9.3 - The ride ends where CR 371 turns left and crosses the river. Turn around and head back!