3 miles
36 ft
-915 ft
Avg time
Trail Supporters, Builders & Maintainers of Cottonwood Trail

Cottonwood Details

  • Riding Area
    Arkansas Hills Trails
    Salida, Colorado
  • Difficulty Rating
  • Trail Type
  • Bike Type
    DH, AM, XC
  • Trail Usage
  • Direction
    Downhill Primary
    Popular direction shown
  • Climb Difficulty
  • Physical Rating
  • Season
    Apr - Dec
  • eBike Allowed
  • TTFs on Trail
  • Global Ranking
    #2669 in Mountain Biking
  • Local Popularity
    95 in Mountain Biking [+]
    • 5 in Trail Running
    • 5 in Hiking
  • Land Manager

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
More Stats for Cottonwood bike trail
  • Altitude change
    -879 ft
  • Altitude min
    7,481 ft
  • Altitude max
    8,360 ft
  • Altitude start
    8,360 ft
  • Altitude end
    7,481 ft
  • Grade
  • Grade max
  • Grade min
  • Distance climb
    938 ft
  • Distance down
    3 miles
  • Distance flat
    118 ft
  • Avg time
  • Avg reverse time
  • view trail stats
on Apr 7, 2018
Very Dry
Avg: 4.65 (14 votes)

view (271)
Trail Conditions
  • Unknown
  • Snow Packed
  • Snow Covered
  • Freeze/thaw Cycle
  • Icy
  • Prevalent Mud
  • Wet
  • Variable
  • Dry
  • Very Dry
Trail Difficulties
  • Access Road/Trail
  • White
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Black
  • Double Black Diamond

Trail Report Status
  • Clear / Green
  • Minor Issue / Yellow
  • Significant Issue / Amber
  • Closed or Major Issue / Red

  • Land Owner Overlay
  • Wilderness (typically no bikes in USA)
  • BLM (public)
  • USFS (Wildlife sanctuaries darker than usfs)
  • State land
  • Indigenous
  • Military
Trail Conditions
  • Unknown
  • Snow Packed
  • Snow Covered
  • Freeze/thaw Cycle
  • Icy
  • Prevalent Mud
  • Wet
  • Variable
  • Dry
  • Very Dry
  • Map Markers
  • trail Trail Head
  • photo Photo
  • place Directory Listing
  • region Riding Area
  • Parking Parking
  • Viewpoint Viewpoint
  • Information Information
  • Warning Warning
  • Directions Directions
  • Water Fountain/Source Water Fountain/Source
  • Sight Sight
  • Restrooms Restrooms
  • Gate Gate
  • Camping Camping
  • Trail Sign Trail Sign
  • Table or Bench Table or Bench
  • Other Other
Directions to cottonwood-13992 trailhead (38.568460, -105.948329)
update trails status or condition

Cottonwood Trail Reports

Apr 7, 2018 @ 5:57pm
Apr 7, 2018
Dry as a bone!
May 21, 2017 @ 8:35am
May 21, 2017
May 20, 2017 @ 9:28pm
May 20, 2017
Minor erosion (brake bumps)
Mar 16, 2017 @ 11:06am
Mar 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 @ 3:03pm
Dec 20, 2016
Snow & ice (12/20/16)
view all reports »


more »
71 |
Apr 17, 2018 @ 10:46am
Apr 17, 2018
Cottonwood, Denver
75 |
Mar 11, 2018 @ 5:47pm
Mar 11, 2018
Cottonwood, Vail
50 |
May 22, 2017 @ 8:09pm
May 22, 2017
Cottonwood, Salida
58 |
May 22, 2017 @ 8:08pm
May 22, 2017
Cottonwood, Salida

Routes with this trail

Cottonwood Tour featured
22 miles

2 Reviews & Comments

  • + 1
flag lubes17319 (Sep 25, 2016 at 11:21)
 High-speed bl'ast: some flowy parts & some parts right down a dry crikbed.
  • + 0
flag Mntneer (May 22, 2018 at 9:14)
 As 1qqqqddd we

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youtuber We rode two different shuttles in a day!...
11:35 | 54 | Aug 23, 2018 , Salida
Cottonwood sections
0:18 | 216 | Jul 29, 2016 , Salida
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