All of the roads on this route are smooth, packed dirt. Even though there is some tough climbing, it is a generally non-technical and enjoyable workout. (The average grade of the first 8-mile climb is around 5-6%.)
The area you are biking through is quite lovely: you bike by a small quarry; at the top of the second climb you will be rewarded with an incredible view of the Collegiate Peaks across the valley; when you are going through the forested areas, the smell of Ponderosa Pines is remarkable; and the old mining town/ghost town of Turret makes a fun turn-around destination.
We generally prefer a loop or lollipop style route for the variety of scenery, and this is an out and back. That being said, because the road is steep but smooth, coming back the same way we went up turned out to be pretty sweet and quite fun to fly down!
Just past the Quarry (approximately miles 10-11ish), there are some short but steep pitches that registered 12-18% on our Wahoos. This might be a short hike-a-bike for some riders.
Do this ride if you are in Salida and want to practice climbing on a long sustained incline without the added challenge of loose gravel or technical rocks.
We started this ride from the parking area where N. F street crosses the river in downtown Salida. It is recognizable by the historic red caboose which is located there. There is plenty of free public parking and there is also a port-a-potty at the same location.
You'll find another port-a-potty at approximately mile 7.5 at the parking lot for the Cottonwood mountain biking trail which is visible from the road.
There are two ways around the Marble Quarry and the way we mapped it, briefly using 185, will keep you on smooth dirt roads. The alternative is quite rocky and would likely be a hike-a-bike.
There is no public bathroom or general store in Turret but there is a working water pump to refill water right beside the town sign. Be sure to bring snacks and enough nutrition to get you up all the hills and back to Salida before beginning this route.
We were lucky enough to do this on an overcast and cool summer day, the morning after a rain storm. We imagine the road condition could be a lot drier, hotter and dustier at other times. Be prepared for both heat and the possibility of cooler temperatures as you get higher. We recommend aways bringing a warm jacket and long fingered gloves when biking up in elevation in Colorado.
In the town of Salida, there are many places to enjoy coffee, beer or a meal. We finished at Cafe Dawn where they have a large outdoor seating area and it was easy to keep the bikes in site while enjoying great coffee and delicious bakery treats.