Family Bikepacking on Aspen Ridge, Salida, Colorado.

  • Distance

    52 Mi.

    (84 KM)
  • Days

    2-3

  • % Unpaved

    85%

  • % Singletrack

    0%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    6

  • % Rideable (time)

    100%

  • Total Ascent

    5,274'

    (1,608 M)
  • High Point

    10,290'

    (3,136 M)
The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is, without doubt, an epic ride. But cut it down into bite size portions, and it has all the ingredients for a series of wonderful family bikepacking adventures. Which is where the inspiration for this ride comes from. As family bikepacking goes, it doesn’t get much better than the high grasslands and aspen groves above Salida, Colorado... especially during the technicolored splendour of fall.
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This route uses a small portion of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route as its backbone, basing itself out of picture perfect Salida – a Coloradan town that boasts bikepacking in its veins, given its prime location on both the GDMBR and the Colorado Trail.

The ride kicks off with a long, gentle climb north out of town on Ute Road, before turning off for a steeper, rockier stint up to Aspen Ridge on 185 – which, as the name suggests, is the heart of the leaf peeping action come September. Looping round the high, grassland basin of South Park on 174, a series of mellow dirt road connects back with 175. Then, it’s round to Salida again by way of the Collegiate Peaks – an impressive row of Fourteeners – finishing with a thrilling descent back down to town again.

Yes, this is a short ride. But factor in hauling a trailer, gear and food, and you’ll find the steep, at times rocky terrain takes on an especially challenging nature. As such, this loops makes a perfect 1-2 night ride, depending on what time you leave Salida. In our case, we were on the road by late afternoon, and returned by midday two days later – allowing for lingering lunches, and lots of time off the saddle for our toddler cargo.

Complete with its polished, historic redbrick downtown – distantly echoing an insalubrious past as a Wild West railroad settlement – Salida makes a great base for all the family. There’s a park in which to picnic, and a playground, climbing wall and river to soak in. The town is awash with restaurants and cafes, and there’s very little traffic to worry about – here, kid trailers are almost as common as the dual suspension mountain bikes that roam the streets. In fact, why not make the most of your visit by combining a family ride with a Colorado classic: the nearby Monarch Crest Trail includes 12 miles of glorious, high altitude riding, topped off with the magnificent Rainbow Trail.

Thanks to Sub-Culture Cyclery for route suggestions, and to Oveja Negra Threadworks for advice on the best places to eat, drink and hang with the kids.

  • Highlights

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  • Must Know

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  • Camping

    home

  • Food/H2O

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  • Resources

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  • Enjoy low traffic dirt roads, with a network of mellow connecting doubletrack.
  • Kick back along the rolling, high grasslands of South Park.
  • Experience the laid back vibe of Salida, a small but perfectly formed mountain biking mecca in SW Colorado.
  • The area really comes alive come fall, as aspens burst into color!
  • Combine your family campout with a day enjoying world class mountain bike trails.
  • Remember – family rides are about quality of riding, not the distance covered. If the little ‘uns aren’t having any fun, what’s the point?
  • Salida is a great destination all summer long – with a lengthier riding season than many parts of Colorado. Late September through to early October is your best chance of seeing the fall colours.
  • Even in the fall, daytime temps were high, and shade often limited. Sun hats and suncream are a necessity.
  • Bear in mind that Salida lies at 7000ft (2133m) and much of the ride hovers at around 9000ft+ (2745m) in altitude – consider spending an extra day or two in town before setting off, depending on where you’re coming from.
  • There’s three great bike shops in town, all within walking distance from each other – Sub-Culture Cyclery, Absolute Bikes and Salida Bike Company.
  • Showers are available at Sub-Culture Cyclery for $5 – ideal for touring cyclists.
  • Need new bikepacking gear? Pop in and say hi to the folks at Oveja Negra Threadworks – they always have a range of beautifully crafted gear in stock.
  • Latitude 40’s Salida/Buena Vista Trail Map ($12) covers the ride, as well as all the local trails. Trails abound – from singletrack networks accessed a few minutes ride from downtown, to IMBA epics.
  • Surfaces are mostly smooth, with a few rougher stretches along 185, a 4WD road leading to Aspen Ridge. Gear wise, the ride was easily within the capabilities of our two Thule Chariot trailers, though our Tout Terrain Singletrailer handled the rougher stretches especially well.
  • If you can, team up with another family. Your kids will have even more fun. There were 3 kids in our posse, ranging from 1.5 to 3 years in age.
  • The route wends its way through National Forest, which starts just north of town, so camping is never an issue.
  • The Simple Lodge and Hotel is bike-friendly, and recommended. We camped a little further out of town – in Poncha Creek, beyond Mears Junction – and drove into town.
  • Although water is available throughout the area, it’s not always obvious, and its availability is subject to seasonal changes. Keep an eye out for streams and springs, and fill up where you can.
  • Food can be bought in Salida. There’s a large Safeways supermarket, as well as Ploughboys, a locally sourced market, and Simple Foods, an organic/health food store.
  • Cafe Dawn serves great coffee; there’s a spacious bike rack for all your family steeds.
  • When you’re all done with your ride, treat the family to dinner at Fiesta Mexicana. The portions are massive!
  • If you’re headed out to ride Monarch Crest, check out the Elevation Beer Company on your way back into town.
  • Other eateries we’ve been recommended include Poco Taco (Downtown on W 1st) – for street tacos and burritos in authentic style + beer/margaritas. Little Cambodia ((Downtown on F)) serves up tasty Pho. Sweeties whips together awesome sandwiches. Amicas ( (Downtown on E 2nd) offers good pizza/Italian, and is very family friendly. Patio Pancake Place is a classic breakfast spot (On hwy 50), and Moonlight Pizza is well worth sampling too (Downtown on F).
  • For water holes, try Woods, a Micro Distillery (Downtown on W 1st), Bensons, a good pub w/ food and outdoor seating (Downtown on F). Or the Victoria – a classic bar popular with the town drunks (Downtown on F).

More family friendly ideas

  • The Salida Hot Springs Pool is recommended for families; an indoor hot springs facility with a zero entry pool, and water fountains that are great for kids of all ages.
  • During the summertime, change things up by renting a tube next door to Absolute, and floating down through the Whitewater Park.
  • Alpine Park is another good spot for the kids, and a dedicated bike park is also in the works.

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on BIKEPACKING.com, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While riding, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. BIKEPACKING.com LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.