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Sunshine Kitty - Rock Drops Loop

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.7 (45) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A short loop option with fun climbing and descending that hits some of Penitente's highlights.


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Map Key

8.1

Miles

13.0

KM

90%

Singletrack

8,546' 2,605 m

High

7,912' 2,412 m

Low

860' 262 m

Up

865' 264 m

Down

4%

Avg Grade (2°)

19%

Max Grade (11°)

Dogs Off-leash

E-Bikes Unknown

Features Drops/Jumps · Views

Overview

This is a great loop that could be done as a "just passing through" or a "laps from the campsite" ride. Really well-built trail and awesome natural topography pay off big time with super fun climbs and descents.

From the main entrance, drive Penitente Canyon Road through the campground to the main trailhead. You can access this loop from a number of points, but this access point is recommended.

Need to Know

There are "trail confidence markers" at trail junctions, but unless you have a picture of the main trailhead map to reference, they're useless. Be sure to download the Colorado data on the MTB Project mobile app for easy navigation.

There's a developed, self-pay campground right at the main trailhead. More info.

This is a great shoulder season ride (spring and fall). Summer can be brutally hot. Be alert at all times for rattlesnakes.

Description

From the main trailhead parking, head southwest on the Blue Sky Loop. The trail climbs at a nice grade along a sage and juniper-covered hillside. Be sure to look over your shoulder toward the prominent Sangre de Cristo mountain range to the east. Pass through the gate and continue to a 4-way junction. Here you'll diverge from Blue Sky Loop by continuing straight (Blue Sky goes right) onto South Witches Canyon Road / Capulin Loop.

Descend the road and look for the first right onto another doubletrack that's steep and cobble-covered. At the bottom, turn right onto the connector that leads to a gate at the canyon mouth. Once through the gate, enjoy the scenery inside the canyon along Sunshine Kitty trail. At the first junction make a hard left (note the hazard symbol on the map) to stay on Sunshine Kitty.

This trail was extremely well built and many thanks are owed to Brink, of Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, and the youth trail corps that made it happen. A nice climbing grade paired with creative routing that utilizes the area's amazing topography, make this a trail that is a blast to climb. It's so good you won't even realize how much vert you're gaining.

At the top (around mile 3.5), a signpost marks the junction with Rock Drops, which splits off hard to the right. Continuing straight (west) at this sign post would put you on a non-system trail. Rock Drops starts with a short, mellow climb followed by an almost continuous descent.

As you start downhill, you'll quickly find out where the trail's name came from. Advanced riders will love launching off drop after drop and beginner/intermediates should feel pretty comfortable rolling everything. The trail will leave you wanting more laps after your first as you're unlikely to see/hit every optional line the first time around.

At the next junction, stay left to ride the northern portion of Blue Sky Loop and get ready for more of the same. At about mile 5.7, stay left again to follow Iglesia de San Juan into the gulley. A quick, fun descent here leads to a mellow climb on Los Hermanos. Finish with a cruising descent on an open sage hillside and bang a right on the road to follow it back to the lot or your campsite.

History & Background

Penitente Canyon is well known amongst Colorado climbers. If you're a climber, bring your shoes and a sport rack for some multi-sport fun. Visit Mountain Project for climbing beta.

Contacts

Shared By:

Brian Smith with improvements by Scott Wickberg

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 45 votes

#266

Overall
  4.7 from 45 votes
5 Star
73%
4 Star
27%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#82

in Colorado

#266

Overall
181 Views Last Month
7,964 Since May 25, 2016
Intermediate/Difficult

0%
0%
19%
22%
59%
0%

Photos

Rock and roll.
Nov 9, 2018 near Del Norte, CO
Blue Sky Loop Trail at Penitente Canyon
Aug 18, 2017 near Del Norte, CO
Rocks, lots of rocks!
Feb 4, 2018 near Del Norte, CO
When you find opportunities to get airborne and sideways on a CLIMB, you're on a good trail and killing it.
May 25, 2016 near Del Norte, CO
Another view - this time, through the hole!
May 25, 2016 near Del Norte, CO
Epic views on Sunshine Kitty!
Oct 30, 2015 near Del Norte, CO

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

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All Clear 10 days ago See History
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Check-Ins

May 29, 2021
David Death
Apr 3, 2021
Douglas Clark
Turned around at Witches canyon. Still muddy. Might be rideable next weekend.
Oct 3, 2020
Matt Castelli
Clean! W side hits
Sep 19, 2020
Sonya Lu
Rode with Mike I went slow because of my knee. Mike crashed and hit his face on a rock — 1h 40m
Aug 20, 2020
Larry Collins
Awesome loop...going up Sunshine Kitty was fun. 8.3mi — 1h 20m
Aug 16, 2020
Kendall Beggs
Super fun. A few spots where the drops were beyond my skill level. 8.2mi — 1h 09m
May 17, 2020
Sue U.
Sep 26, 2019
Chris Killer