This segment of the Rainbow Trail extends 13.5 miles from Big Cottonwood Creek to Stout Creek south of Salida. This part of the trail passes through Hayden Creek, which has 2 developed campgrounds. Both campgrounds have toilets, fireplaces and tables (See Salida Campgrounds for more details.) Big Cottonwood Creek does not have developed campground although there are good undeveloped sites.
Hayden Pass, west of Hayden Creek, was a short cut to the San Luis Valley during the 1800's. It is now a popular 4 WD road over the Sangre de Christo Range. Although steep, narrow and rough, it offers excellent views of the area. The area west of the Rainbow Trail is Wilderness and motorized vehicles are not permitted within it. This section of the Rainbow Trail offers excellent views of the Arkansas River Valley and surrounding terrain.
Directions from Coaldale: Kerr Gulch Access: Traveling east on Highway 50 from Salida turn right on Kerr Gulch Road, BLM 6110. The turn is approximately 4 miles northwest of Coaldale. Drive about 4 miles to BLM Road 6117. Follow Road 6117 1 mile to the trailhead. This access is recommended for high clearance vehicles and dry weather only.
Directions from Salida: Drive south on Highway 50 to County Road 6. Turn right on to County Road 6 in Coaldale to reach Hayden Creek Campground. The Rainbow Trail passes through the campground.
Directions from Salida: Big Cottonwood Creek: Follow Highway 50 southeast from Salida to County Road 40 about 1 mile southwest of Coaldale. Take 40 about 3.5 miles to the trailhead. The above sites are accessible by autos and small trucks with small trailers.
Late May through September .