By Christopher Kolomitz
The Little Rainbow Trail outside of Salida stretches about 7.5 miles, from the east flank of Methodist Mountain near the Burmac road, to west of CR 110 where the trail ends at Sand Gulch.
About 1,500 feet lower in elevation, wider and more intermediate than its big brother, the Little Rainbow is another success story written by the volunteers at Salida Mountain Trails.
The group has long championed the idea of building non-motorized, multiuse trails around the Salida area; they took off in a big way around Tenderfoot Mountain, where a series of trails has blossomed into a wide-ranging network.
However, some of those trails can be intimidating for beginning mountain bikers. That’s where the Little Rainbow comes into play. The wide, easily accessed, machine-carved trail is perfect for less experienced mountain bikers, and it’s even attracting joggers, equestrians and moms pushing strollers.
Leaders of SMT, including Tom Purvis, Dave Mesaros, Yvonne Barnes, Mike Sugaski, Kent Davidson and others, had initially thought of a trail system on Methodist all the way back in 2005, when the Bureau of Land Management was revising the local travel management plan. After the plan was wrapped up in 2008, SMT began their epic trail-building projects around Tenderfoot.
That success and experience led SMT to revisit ways of construction more trails around Methodist. Using some of the same ideas of the stacked trail system that was developed on Tenderfoot, SMT knew they needed a “backbone” trail to begin with on Methodist. The Little Rainbow idea emerged, and soon, Davidson and Sugaski were spending multiple days scouting and flagging a route. Construction eventually began in October 2010.
At a cost of more than $40,000, the original five miles of the trail was dedicated in February 2011. A recent 2.5 mile extension to the west was finished in the summer of 2012.
Helping finance original construction was $15,000 from both the City of Salida and Salida Mountain Trails. Chaffee County pitched in about $5,000, and the BLM was good for $6,000. The trails group held fund-raisers, secured individual contributions and gained proceeds from the Run Through Time Marathon sponsored by the local running club.
The money was used to hire Salida-based Arrowhead Trails to use specially designed machines to carve out the trail. Without the machines, the work would have taken several months to construct by hand. With the machines, it was done in about six weeks.
Following the machine work, a crew from the Southwest Conservation Corps and a series of volunteer meet-ups organized by Salida Mountain Trails, used hand tools to fine-tune the route. The SCC and BLM had constructed trailheads before the trail work commenced.
With the extension complete, Salida Mountain Trails is beginning to explore options to create a system of loops, using the Little Rainbow as a focal point. Additionally, there’s an idea of developing a link between the Little Rainbow and Rainbow trails, and the group would eventually like to push the Little Rainbow west, reaching Poncha Springs.