Check out this great short film and learn a bit about us and Trinidad Gravel.
The roads of Trinidad take in the expanse of the eastern plains and the western mountains. Part of Las Animas County, Colorado they have 1600+ miles of gravel roads.
Welcome to adventure cycling in southeastern Colorado. 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.
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.
“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
Overlooking the river west of Trinidad. The Purgatoire River was also known locally as the Picketwire. French trappers named the river after Spanish explorers killed by Native Americans. Purgatoire means Purgatory in French. Photo Courtesy: A. R. Mitchel Museum
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Turn-by-turn navigation made easy. Get the app, enjoy our routes, free.
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 on any of the following map pages to immediately see, save and navigate the gravel route. Together We Make Biking Better:
Famed Trinidad western artist Arthur Roy Mitchell was a man ahead of his time. After Mitchel: 1975 at the age of 86 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