If you're on the hunt for an isolated biking experience packed with scenic views, the McQuaid and Salt Creek Trails Loop near Fairplay, Colorado, should be on your radar. Situated along the eastern edge of Buffalo Peaks Wilderness, the loop offers cyclists an impressive mix of terrains, fantastic views, and the likelihood of spotting wildlife.
The McQuaid Trail serves as a delightful prelude to its more formidable sibling, the Salt Creek Trail. While McQuaid is easier and flowier when ridden from south to north, Salt Creek presents a more primitive biking experience with its narrow tread and steep inclines that might require dismounting. Overall, McQuaid is the warm-up act that preps you for the Salt Creek main event.
Rain transforms the Salt Creek section into a challenge even for experienced cyclists. The vegetation gets thick and wet, rocks and roots turn slippery, and descents become treacherous. On the other hand, a dry day brings out the best in both trails, making for a smooth and satisfying ride.
The trail loop is a treasure trove of wildlife, offering chances to spot elk and various other mountain fauna. Thanks to its remote location, this loop is a great option for those seeking solitude on their ride. Keep in mind, however, that you'll be sharing some parts of the dirt road with 5th wheels and ATVs.
From Fairplay, drive 19 miles south on HWY 285, and turn right onto FS 435 (Salt Creek Road). Proceed for about 3 miles until you reach a parking area, where the McQuaid Trail begins.
Given the lack of cell service, it’s advisable to ride with a companion or make sure you’re self-sufficient. Maps 110 (Leadville/Fairplay) and 129 (Buena Vista/Collegiate Peaks) from Trails Illustrated will illuminate all the possibilities for extending your loop.
If you’re willing to take the drive to Fairplay, this trail loop rewards you with some of the finest intermediate-level mountain biking in the state. Though not the longest or the most well-known, this trail system offers an unforgettable mix of isolation, challenge, and beauty. Riding it clockwise seems to be the popular choice for maximizing the trail's potential.Plan your trip today to experience this underrated jewel in the heart of Colorado's wilderness.