The Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail offers an ideal bicycling environment. With wide-open spaces, blue skies and mild winters, bicycling can be enjoyed year round. Our byway provides road riding, trail riding and off-road riding.
Road riding provides paved roads with a consistent and faster surface. Road riding comes with auto traffic signs and laws, and provided you have wide shoulders, no highway ripples and low traffic. It is simple and enjoyable, not to mention very good for the spirit and the body!
Our byway is well equipped for passenger vehicles and bicyclists, offering flat or slightly rolling terrain. Highways 160 and 350 from Trinidad to La Junta have two undivided lanes. From La Junta east to the Kansas border on State Highway 50, the highway varies between two and four lanes. These road segments have light traffic volume, 12-foot lane widths, and good sight lines, but the road shoulders are fairly narrow with 2-foot widths. Designated bicycle routes are not available but long distance bicyclists can be found riding the route on any given day. The communities along the byway are small, with populations less than 10,000 people and local traffic has minimal impact on visiting pedestrians, bicyclists, or vehicle traffic. Bicyclists are permitted on I-25 since there are no alternative routes. Pedestrian usage is concentrated in commercial areas where sidewalks are available. A ride over grueling Raton Pass is spectacular in the fall.
Off-road riding is a rugged and unrestrained way to experience the varied terrains of the Byway. There are countless off-road opportunities throughout the byway for you to explore.
Picketwire Canyon, off-road bicycling is a great way to view the Spanish Mission cemetery, ruins and dinosaur tracks, since motorized vehicles are not allowed in the canyon. Contact the Forest Service for guidelines before attempting to ride here. Country roads are a great way to begin. Usually maintained they offer the peace of mind that you are not trespassing on private land. Local bike shops along the byway can give you good recommendations. Don't be shy to ask other bicyclists where they have tried off-road bicycling.
Many improvements to trails have been implemented recently. For example, the watchable wildlife areas in Picketwire Canyonlands at the Comanche National Grasslands. Or the disability accessible trail at Trinidad Lake State Park, and an acquisition of 220 acres in Long's Canyon in conjunction with a new trail and wildlife viewing area including a blind for avid wildlife watchers. Pick up a bird watching kit on loan at the rangers station before biking your trek.