We would like to welcome everyone to Trinidad, Colorado, to experience the area’s gravel road opportunities. We are part of Las Animas County, the largest county in Colorado, consisting of 4,775 square miles with 1600+ miles of gravel roads.
These roads take in the expanse of the eastern plains and the western mountains for the enjoyment of area citizens and visiting cyclists.
The City Council of Trinidad is encouraged by the potential of becoming the next big adventure hub for gravel bike enthusiasts in the state. Make your next stop Trinidad, Colorado. Enjoy our deep history. Ride our soil. See remnants of our past, and help us build a new future.
Copies of the guide can be picked up from select locations in and around Trinidad, such as the Colorado Welcome Center in Trinidad, CO or outside the Creative Commons office at 210 E. Main Street, Trinidad, CO. The digital version is available on this page below. Happy riding!
Feb. 28, 1861—Congress passed the Organic Act that created Colorado Territory and moved the boundary between Colorado Territory and New Mexico Territory from the 38th parallel south to the 37th parallel.
Fishers Peak State Park
Fishers Peak is a natural landmark that helped guide travelers on the Santa Fe Trail and cemented Trinidad’s identity as an early old west trail town. In 2019, the former privately-owned Crazy French Ranch (19,200 acres) was acquired by the state of Colorado and declared the 42nd state park. It was the result of a partnership between The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, the city of Trinidad, and Great Outdoors Colorado.
While the property is currently off limits to bikes, a master plan is in development that will only improve the off-road cycling experience of Trinidad/Las Animas County, and eventually expand the experience with connections to the city of Raton and Sugarite Canyon State Park in New Mexico. Expect the gravel adventures from downtown Trinidad to only get better in the years ahead.
“Ute coming down from the mountains to hunt buffalo on the plains used to camp here. This spot (Trinidad) on the Purgatoire River where we now live was long a favorite camping ground, first for the Indian and then the White. The fur trapper knew the Purgatoire as a beaver stream and set their traps up and down its winding banks. Before wheeled vehicles were put to use, great caravans of pack mules, numbering as many as 75 to 200 animals in a pack train passed by here and along the trail later to be known as the Santa Fe Trail.”
— Arthur Roy Mitchell
Western Artist & Colorado Historian
In a few short years, Trinidad/Las Animas County has emerged as a gravel bike destination that offers a unique old-west inspired, rural cycling experience. With a county road network of 1,600+ miles, cyclists can enjoy a number of rides that see more cattle guards than cars, all while taking in the culture, history, and scenery that make this region distinctly different than the rest of Colorado.
We strive to inspire cyclists to ride in small groups to create their own personal gravel experience. All of the routes highlighted in this Gravel Adventure Field Guide start and end in downtown Trinidad. Come see why the relatively undiscovered dirt of rural Las Animas County is some of the best gravel bike terrain in the state. Explore what we have to offer. We are confident you’ll come back for more.
Accessing the Routes
Instructions, download links, and tabs are below to access the gravel routes. Happy riding!
Using the Routes On-the-go:
- Please download the free Ride Spot app to navigate the routes using visual and audio directions and track your ride.
- Hover over the QR code with the camera on your smartphone. Follow the prompt and download the app.
- Once you have downloaded and registered, scan the QR code on any of the map in the tabs below to immediately see, save, and navigate the gravel route.
Under 25 Miles
- Arroyos and Ditches
- Trinidad Lake Loop
- Perry Stokes Airport Loop
- Corrido de Casimiro
- Al’s Escape
- Dirty Trinidad Revival
- Sunflower Valley Tour
- Pancho & Lefty’s Loop
- Miner’s Classic
- Revenge of the Black Hand
Over 100 Miles
- Vuelta Huajatolla
- Arroyos and Ditches
- Trinidad Lake Loop
- Perry Stokes Airport Loop
- Corrido de Casimiro
- Al's Escape
- Dirty Trinidad Revival
- Sunflower Valley Tour
- Pancho and Lefty's Loop
- Miner's Classic
- Revenge of the Black Hand
- Vuelta Huajatolla
Arroyos & Ditches
Get it on Ride Spot: ridespot.org/rides/255075
Description: As farmers moved north from New Mexico and implemented traditional irrigation systems, they began to construct a series of ditches. Pedaling along this route, you’ll see how this method of water distribution is still crucial to the agriculture and cattle operations in the Sunflower Valley. A mix of abandoned and working ranches lend a sense of heritage to this ride. Arroyos carved by water and time, seen along the way, add visual texture to a short sub 25-mile route that starts and ends in town.
Trinidad Lake Loop
Get it on Ride Spot: ridespot.org/rides/255072
Description: The Trinidad Lake Loop is a great short loop that takes you west out of town. Utilizing the wide shoulder on Highway 12, the ride finishes strong on a fun stretch of dirt and double-track road starting at Longs Canyon. There’s a good chance you’ll even see wildlife, including elk, turkey, bears, and mountain lions. While riding along the south shore of the lake, imagine what life was like in Sopris, a former mining community that is submerged beneath the lake today.
Perry Stokes Airport Loop
Get it on Ride Spot: ridespot.org/rides/255071
Description: On the dirt roads northeast of Trinidad lies a small rural airport with a cool story. It started in 1936 as a WPA project, and then served as a WWII training field, weather observation post, and commercial airport. In 1944, aviator Perry Stokes arrived and began to coordinate the first DC-3 commercial flights between Denver and Albuquerque from 1949 to 1957. A terminal was built in 1951. Looping the airport provides fantastic handlebar sweeping views of the Spanish Peaks, Fishers Peak and Mesa, and a glimpse into Trinidad/Las Animas County’s aviation history.
Corrido de Casimiro
Get it on Ride Spot: ridespot.org/rides/255061
Description: Corrido is Spanish for “to run”. Corrido also doubles as a storytelling ballad, and this one is named for Casimiro Barela. He served both in the Colorado Territory and State legislature, and after 40 years became known as the “Father of the Senate”. Senator Barela advocated for bilingual education and preservation of Hispanic culture in southern Colorado. This route follows the contours of Fishers Peak Mesa and passes a number of cattle ranches and the village that bears the Barela name.
Get it on Ride Spot: ridespot.org/rides/255053
Description: Al Capone is a notable 20th century personality who cast his shadow onto the history of Trinidad and Aguilar. Each community had considerable Italian immigrant populations. Mr. Capone soon realized it was a great place for either himself, or those that worked for him, to retreat to when things were too chaotic for them in Chicago. County Road 75.0 represents the escape into the remote sparseness of southeast Colorado, a place where even mafia gangsters could hide out.
Dirty Trinidad Revival
Get it on Ride Spot: ridespot.org/rides/255049
Description: The Dirty Trinidad Revival grinder is a route that symbolizes the power of a bicycle to inspire exploration and create positive social change in a community. With over 1,600 miles of county roads, you will quickly see why Trinidad is a gravel bike destination in the making. This featured loop is intended to show a little of everything Trinidad/Las Animas County gravel has to offer. It takes you from the Front Range into the foothills, and includes quality framing views of the Huajatollas (Spanish Peaks) and Fishers Peak, along with visual clues into the region’s ranching and mining past.
Sunflower Valley Tour
Get it on Ride Spot: ridespot.org/rides/255046
Description: Generations of farmers have called the Sunflower Valley home. Historically it was the area that extended from Jansen, west of Trinidad, all the way past Hoehne to the east. These fertile lands along the Purgatoire River first drew Native Americans to the area, and later supplied fruits and vegetables to the population of miners and their families. Riding this route brings to life what the overland Santa Fe Trail experience would have been like in the 19th century. You will even see wagon trail marks from the remnants of an era that saw the region host the nation’s first commercial highway.
Pancho & Lefty’s Loop
Get it on Ride Spot: ridespot.org/rides/255039
Description: This route is a mashup of pop culture and local history. Townes Van Zandt who penned the song passed through Trinidad on his road trips between Colorado and Texas, and like the tale of Pancho and Lefty this route skirts the former borderlands between Mexico and the United States. It’s a ride that reminds cyclists of the diversity of people who have called Trinidad/Las Animas County home. A portion of the ride crosses San Francisco Creek; in Spanish, Pancho is the nickname for Francisco.
Get it on Ride Spot: ridespot.org/rides/274509
Description: This route gets its name because of the number of former mines found along the ride. Coal from the mines in Trinidad-Las Animas County was highly prized for its quality in creating coking fuel for Colorado’s smelters further north in Pueblo. Now, ghost towns like Berwind, Chicosa, Majestic, and Tabasco all speak of a bygone era that left a strong mark on the history and landscape of the region. A route that will not disappoint cyclists looking for a ride through old west history, one can’t help but ponder what life would have been like in a Colorado Fuel & Iron company town.
Revenge of the Black Hand
Get it on Ride Spot: ridespot.org/rides/255024
Description: This ride is a chance to experience the dirt roads utilized by the Black Hand (Cosa Nostra) in its quest to expand Italian mafia operations along the southern Colorado Front Range. Mob activity did not start in Denver, but in the corridor between Trinidad and Pueblo. Illegal bootlegging, extortion, and contract killing activity caught the attention of the FBI, who began investigating the Black Hand in the 1920s. Traveling these quiet and remote roads around Aguilar and back to Trinidad is an experience into a world where contraband destined for other places like New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Los Angeles moved freely about Trinidad-Las Animas County.
Get it on Ride Spot: ridespot.org/rides/255013
The Spanish Peaks are two prominent mountains on the Trinidad/Las Animas County skyline. They were originally referred to as Huajatolla by the Comanche. It means double mountain. The route also doubles-back over the western portion of the county. This route is for those looking for a day’s worth of climbing on shaded pine forest-lined roads, while soaking up the stunning views of the peaks. A highlight is topping out Cordova Pass (11,238 ft) and then descending the rolling hills that skirt the southside of the Spanish Peaks Wilderness Area all the way back to Trinidad (6,022 ft).
Rules of the Road, Safety, and Responsibility
Rules of the Road
- Wear a helmet when you ride.
- You will be riding on roads near and on open ranchland. Keep an eye open for a truck or some cows. If a cow is in the road, slow down, take a photo.
- In low-light or dark conditions ride with front and rear bike lights.
- Do not expect cars to stop for you.
- Wave and be friendly to people you encounter on your ride.
- Ride with the flow of traffic and stay single file on sections of paved roads.
- Ride in control at all times. Proceed at a safe speed that permits you to react to unexpected circumstances.
- Do not ride on the sidewalks.
- Your bike should be in top working order before you begin your ride.
- Free your mind, let your legs follow.
- Do all your thinking before you start your gravel ride. Once your cranks start to turn, go with the flow.
- Be able to fix a flat and broken chain on the roadside… if not, ride with a friend who can do it for you.
- Remember sunscreen, bike gloves, multi-tool, and eye protection.
- Pack appropriate clothing for your gravel ride. Reference Climate, pg. 4
- Fair-weather riding is a luxury. Those who ride in foul weather_are badass.
You will be riding in remote areas with little to no contact with other humans. You need to be self sufficient on your ride. Proper food and hydration to complete your ride in a fun and safe way is your responsibility. Please carry at least one liter of water and a 200+ calorie snack per each 20 miles of your gravel ride.
The Santa Fe Trail
The Santa Fe Trail Celebrates 200 Years - 1821 to 2021
Traveling Western Routes
The origin of the Trinidad/Las Animas County road network began with the founding of the Santa Fe Trail in 1821. The route between Independence, Missouri, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, was the first trail to open up the west, eventually bringing travelers via stagecoach, railroad, automobile, and now bicycle. Industries such as cattle ranching, coal mining, and oil and gas all arrived. Each brought roads that served infrastructure and community needs. This is why today we boast over 1,600 miles of county roads, with the vast majority unpaved.
According to scholars, unlike the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail didn’t carry as many immigrants. The trail was hazardous because of drought, heat, flash floods, high winds, blizzards, extreme cold, and Native American resistance. Tribes encountered in the Trinidad area included the Comanche, Apache, and the Utes. This all contributes to cyclists having years worth of stories to discover while pedaling the roads of Trinidad-Las Animas County.
Ranch life is a big part of this area. Several generations have owned and worked family land. When traveling on the county roads, you can set your imagination free to imagine life back in the 1820’s. Off in the distance Fishers Peak helps wayfinding. Photo: Stephen Beneski
On March 3, 1847, the 29th Congress authorized the transport of mail on the mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail. The first stagecoaches via Bent’s Old Fort ran through the site of Trinidad shortly thereafter. Communication between the U.S. and Mexico at Santa Fe was very limited and slow (2-3 months). Early stagecoaches had a capacity of 13 passengers. Depending on road conditions a stage would likely be pulled by 2 to 6 horses. Stage drivers changed horses, or mules, about ten or twelve times in 24 hours, and normally traveled 8 to 10 miles an hour. Today, riding the dirt roads of Trinidad-Las Animas County is the closest experience to what early travelers saw on the Santa Fe Trail.
Deep wagon tracks from the Santa Fe Trail leave a permanent mark from the 1820’s when thousands of pioneers moved west. Photo courtesy: Stephen Beneski
The first cattle were driven from Texas into Colorado in 1859. The really large herds arrived after the Civil War. One of the best known cattle trails was the Goodnight-Loving Trail, established in 1864 when Oliver Loving drove to Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory, and crossed at Raton Pass, then to Trinidad, crossed the Arkansas River near Pueblo, and near Denver sold the cattle to John W. Iliff. Cattle drives led to farms and ranches springing up after the Homestead Act of 1866. The roads made to reach them now offer cyclists a chance to follow trails forged by cowboys who roamed the Trinidad-Las Animas County outback.
The Santa Fe Trail was the nation’s first commercial highway. The Sunflower Valley Tour route rolls right through SFT history. Photo courtesy: Stephen Beneski
Coal mining in southern Colorado started around 1864. The earliest mines were at Starkville and Engleville near Trinidad. Between 1887 and 1893 new mines were opened at Sopris, Berwind, Hastings, Forbes Canyon, Peerless, and Brodhead. Deposits along the Purgatoire River were made accessible by the railroad, and mines then opened at Primero, Tercio, and other sites. All coal mines are now closed. The last was the Golden Eagle mine, located 28 miles west of Trinidad, which closed on April 19, 1996. It was owned and operated by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Corporation (C.F. & I.). Today, many of these mining roads offer cyclists miles of dirt to explore.
Burros on Parade. Photo courtesy: A.R. Mitchell Museum
A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art
Famed Trinidad western artist Arthur Roy Mitchell was a man ahead of his time. After moving to New York City to study at the Grand Central School of Art, Mitchell established himself as a commercial artist and painter. Cowboys were his main subject, but he also painted scenes of rural life and western landscape. Once Mitchell returned to Trinidad, he took on the role of historian and preservationist by establishing the Trinidad Historic District. His admiration for fine art, adventure, and western culture endures. His sister, Ethel “Tot” Erickson, laid the groundwork for opening the museum in his honor.
Today it is home to over 350 paintings and illustrations by Mitchell and his contemporaries, and also a collection of early Hispanic traditional and religious art, along with Native American pottery, blankets, rugs, clothing and artifacts he collected. 2021 marks the 40th Anniversary of the museum.
Mitchell: 1975 at the age of 86. Photo Courtesy: A.R. Mitchell Museum
Healthy River Cycles
Over the last decade, the Purgatoire Watershed Partnership, in collaboration with Trout Unlimited, has worked to improve the water quality and land management issues in the Purgatoire River watershed, which has headwaters starting in the Sangre de Cristo Culebra range of western Las Animas County and flows 196 miles east to the confluence with the Arkansas River.
Together they are actively engaging local youth through water education, increasing recreational opportunities, and enhancing river health and wildlife habitat along the river as it winds through downtown Trinidad. An example of this work includes creating access to fishing along the Purgatoire River Walk trail. It’s a great opportunity for those seeking bike fishing experiences.
If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, please join the Purgatoire Watershed Partnership and Trout Unlimited volunteers for a Bags & Brews river cleanup. They meet on the first Saturday of every month.
purgatoirepartners.org & tu.org
Traveling with minimal fishing gear to the river on either a bike tour or ride, bikefishing is a great way to add to the cycling experience. Photos Courtesy: Swift Industries
Special Thanks to Gravel Guide Supporters
- Topo Designs
- Life Time
- Pearl Izumi
- The Colorado Welcome Center
- Tidbits of Southern Colorado
Hotels and Accommodations
- Maple House
- Spanish Peaks Guest House
- La Quinta Inn and Suites
Restaurants and Pubs
- AIMack’s Kitchen
- Club 14
- Colie’s Cakes and Pastries
- Moose’s Social Club
- Sexy Pizza
- Sita’s Kitchen
- Tequila’s Mexican Restaurant
- The Coffee Can
- Trinidad Lounge
- Trinidad Smokehouse
- Freedom Road
- Trinidad’s Higher Calling U
Museums and Shops
- A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art
- Art Cartopia Museum
- Mutiny Cafe
- Coin Dancer Antiques
- Southern Colorado IT
- SOCO Massage Therapy
Gravel Adventure Guide Credits
Route Creation, Photos & Content:
Juan Delaroca // Backshop Bikes Travel Co.
Publisher, Creative Director, Maps, & Illustrations:
Stephen Beneski // Beneski Design
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
City of Trinidad Office of Economic Development, Wally Wallace
Ride Spot & PeopleforBikes, Tobie Depauw
City of Trinidad Tourism Board