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.
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
More Stats for Cottonwood mountain bike trail
Altitude change-882 ft
Altitude min7,477 ft
Altitude max8,359 ft
Altitude start8,359 ft
Altitude end7,477 ft
Distance climb1,295 ft
Distance down2 miles
Distance flat217 ft
Avg reverse time01:00:39
- view trail stats
Cottonwood Trail Reports
May 21, 2017 @ 8:35amMay 21, 2017
May 20, 2017 @ 9:28pmMay 20, 2017
|Minor erosion (brake bumps)|
Mar 16, 2017 @ 11:06amMar 16, 2017
|Cottonwood itself is fine but the trails above are horribly muddy and snow covered. Best to do an out and back for now.|
Dec 20, 2016 @ 3:03pmDec 20, 2016
|Snow & ice (12/20/16)|
Dec 18, 2016 @ 11:13amDec 18, 2016
|~1" of snow from 12/17/16 storm. Get out & have some fun!|
Routes with this trail
|Cottonwood Tour||22 miles|