This trail begins 5 miles east of Johnson Village at Shields Gulch Trailhead and leads west to Buena Vista. Users may gain access to this route from the Shields Gulch Trailhead. (The railroad grade extends north beyond Shields Gulch Trailhead and past Trout Creek Pass. Some riders may wish to explore the area north of Shields Gulch.) The route traces the historic, abandoned Midland Railroad grade. Users see traces of a bygone mining era in old railroad ties, hillside cuts, mine tailings and telegraph poles. Stunning views of the Sawatch Mountain Range and the Collegiate Peaks abound.
The trail is inconsistent as far as terrain; some sections of the trail follow single track and some follow gravel roads. The maintained bike trail leads west 3.75 miles to the Midland Hill Trailhead. Approximately 0.3 miles after crossing the last draw on the single track the railroad grade intersects a graded, single lane road. Continue almost straight west on this road for another 2.5 miles and look for a trial taking off to the left between two rocks. This is the Barbara Whipple Trail and it descends to the Arkansas River footbridge at the east end of Buena Vista's Main street. This section is steep in some places, but manageable for most riders.
Stretches of the actual grade are easily ridden with only a few difficult areas where the walls of some of the cuts have partially collapsed. The draws are more difficult with some short, steep and loose descents and climbs. Riders without much trail riding experience will find these sections a nice introduction to "single-tracking," but use discretion and dismount for areas that exceed ability.
Directions from Johnson's Village: Drive north on Highway 285 for 4.5 miles to County Road 315. Turn left on 315 for .5 miles to the trailhead. The trail can also be taken from the Arkansas River footbridge, located at the end of Buena Vista's East Main Street.
Mid-April through November .