2.7 miles
-872 ft
Avg time
Supporters, Builders, Maintainers & Land Managers of Cottonwood Trail
  • BLM
    Land Manager

  • USFS
    Land Manager

Cottonwood Details

  • Activities
    • Mountain Bike
    • Hike
    • Trail Running
  • Riding Area
    Arkansas Hills Trails
    Salida, Colorado
  • Difficulty Rating
  • Voted Difficulty
    Black Diamond (1 vote)
  • Trail Type
  • Bike Type
    DH, AM, XC
  • Direction
    Downhill Primary
    Popular direction shown
  • Climb Difficulty
  • Physical Rating
  • Season
    Apr - Dec
  • Dogs Allowed
  • eBike Allowed
  • TTFs on Trail
  • Global Ranking
    #3654 in Mountain Biking [+]
    • #86022 in Hiking
  • Local Popularity
    95 in Mountain Biking [+]
    • 50 in Trail Running
    • 5 in Hiking
  • Land Owner

Cottonwood is a classic Salida trail that dates back to some of the pioneers of mountain biking. It has to be one of the better technical downhills in the area.
It has recently had the upper portion rerouted to avoid areas that the Forrest Service deemed sensitive. There may be additional reroutes in the future.

Cottonwood now starts at the intersection of CR 175 and CR 181. The trail takes off from the parking lot, across the drainage. You make your way up and around a big hill on newly cut trail. It is fun and somewhat flowy with a few punchy climbs. Take a minute for the massive views before you had down some fun switchbacks and in and out of a drainage. Soon you will climb out of the drainage and up a little climb to CR 173. Head downhill on CR 173. The road climbs pretty steeply up some turns until it is on the top of the ridge. Once it turns downhill again, take the opportunity to rest and get a little air off the rocks that litter the rough road. Keep an eye out for the trail to take off to the left and get ready to lose some elevation quickly. The trail is rough, rocky, and loose with a few small drops thrown in. This is "Rattlesnake Ridge" so do keep an eye out for snakes sunning on the dark red rocks.
Once you hit the bottom of Cottonwood Gulch, catch your breath and be ready for some rough, rocky, sometimes sandy downhill. There are several waterfall sections with some drops to flat and tight lines. Do your best to float over the many rock gardens and chunky bits. Towards the bottom the trail opens up some and gets a little smoother. You will pass the Prospector trail taking off to the right. Keep ripping downhill and you'll see the Backbone taking off to the right. You can continue down the drainage a little further until you see a trail heading to the left and up, out of the drainage. This will get you to Sweetwater or the mesa trail if you'd like to extend you ride. Otherwise Backbone to Sand Dunes or Prospector to Sand Dunes are quicker ways back to town.

Access Info

Take CR 175 to the Upper Cottonwood Trailhead. Access begins on the Salsa Trail (new) which has a seasonal closure from Dec 15th to March 15th. Salsa Trail continues to Rumba Trail (also new) which eventually hooks into Cottonwood Trail. The parking lot is right there. This is one of the few shuttle-able trails in the area if you are so inclined. Since much of the trail is higher elevation and much in drainages, snow and ice can become issues in the winter. Occasional heavy rains in the summer can drastically change the trail in the drainages. Do not get caught in a flash flood.

Local Trail Association
Traditionally Indigenous Territory
More Stats for Cottonwood mountain bike trail trail
  • Altitude change
    -875 ft
  • Altitude min
    7,483 ft
  • Altitude max
    8,358 ft
  • Altitude start
    8,358 ft
  • Altitude end
    7,484 ft
  • Grade
  • Grade max
  • Grade min
  • Distance down
    3 miles
  • Avg time
  • Avg reverse time
  • view trail stats
on Nov 7, 2023
Avg: 4.5 (25 votes)
Your vote: 0

view (2,030)
Trail Conditions
  • Unknown
  • Snow Groomed
  • Snow Packed
  • Snow Covered
  • Snow Cover Inadequate
  • Freeze/thaw Cycle
  • Icy
  • Prevalent Mud
  • Wet
  • Variable
  • Ideal
  • Dry
  • Very Dry
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      Directions to cottonwood-13992 trailhead (38.568460, -105.948330)
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      Cottonwood Trail Reports

      Recent Ridelog Activity on Trail

      Past Week
      • 0 rides
      6 Months
      • 293 rides
      • 17 miles avg distance
      • 1,943 rides
      • Last: Oct 13, 2023


      more »
      135 |
      Aug 3, 2022 @ 7:13pm
      Aug 3, 2022
      387 |
      Apr 17, 2018 @ 10:46am
      Apr 17, 2018
      409 |
      Mar 11, 2018 @ 5:47pm
      Mar 11, 2018
      254 |
      May 22, 2017 @ 8:09pm
      May 22, 2017

      Routes with this trail

      Cottonwood Tour featured22 miles

      7 Reviews & Comments

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      • #13992 - 5,961 views