The best place to start all rides in Salida is Absolute Bikes, the famous bike shop where the walls are adorned with vintage mountain bikes from generations past. Owner Shawn Gillis is actively involved in the construction and maintenance of the area trails and has built a community for the mountain bikers in the area with the shop at the center of it.
Just north of town is S Mountain (named for the giant S that adorns it) that is covered in a network of trails ranging from beginner to extremely technical. Beginners can find smooth singletrack on Lil’ Rattler, Backbone and Tenderfoot while those looking for some extremely challenging singletrack can tackle Unkle Nazty.
The newest addition to the trail network is North Backbone, which is a gem of a trail that can be ridden in either direction. At 3.2 miles long and rated More Difficult, the trail contours northwest from S Mountain and while there are no extended climbs, the route is peppered with short and steep ascents and descents with enough rock features and tight turns to require complete concentration. Unfortunately, giant views of the 14ers in the Collegiate Peaks can often cause a rider to lose concentration, requiring a stop to enjoy the surroundings.
The trail system is mostly south facing and is passable for much of the winter but check with the crew at Absolute Bikes for current trail conditions.
The crown jewel of riding near Salida is the world-famous Monarch Crest Trail. Most riders shuttle this ride as it begins on Monarch Pass (Elevation 11,312 feet) and follows beautifully smooth singletrack high above the Arkansas Valley. The quality of the trail is only bested by the quality of the scenery. After many miles of high-alpine riding, the trail crosses Marshall Pass and climbs along the ridge to the Silver Creek Trail, which provides a fast and rocky descent back down towards Salida. Ambitious riders can finish the ride with the roller coaster Rainbow trail while those who wish to can coast back to town on a series of dirt roads.
While there is a net elevation loss with this trail, it should not be taken lightly. There is still significant climbing at high altitudes and mountain weather can change rapidly, especially on summer afternoons.