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Sunshine Kitty - Rock Drops Loop

 4.7 (26)
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Map Key

8.1 Miles 13.0 Kilometers



860' 262 m


-865' -264 m



Avg Grade (2°)


Max Grade (11°)

8,546' 2,605 m


7,912' 2,412 m


Shared By Brian Smith



Getting forecast...

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

Brian Smith

Dogs Off-leash

Features -none-


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.


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.


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Your Check-Ins


Oct 20, 2018
Brandon McCann
Got lost at the end
Oct 18, 2018
Brian Bass
Aug 10, 2018
Ester Kim
Awesome. Must do it again.
Aug 9, 2018
Stephanie Striefel
amazing landscape! did a few cool moves, but felt dizzy toward the end. cut out the easternmost section. have to come back when i am feeling better. 6mi
Jul 3, 2018
Ben Stephens
Cut out on blue sky after rock drops trail. 5.7mi
May 27, 2018
Kristian Keane
May 21, 2018
Becky Rewey
Mar 3, 2018
Adam S

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 26 votes


  4.7 from 26 votes
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26 Views Last Month
5,228 Since May 25, 2016
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Cara Hubbell
Arvada, CO
Cara Hubbell   Arvada, CO
Worth the drive from the front range just for this ride. It leaves from one end of the campground and dumps you back at the entrance. Rock climbing here is spectacular as well. I think Penitente might be my new favorite destination for adventure. Jun 19, 2017
Ben Carelock
Cortez, CO
Ben Carelock   Cortez, CO
One more reason to love the San Luis Valley. Aug 30, 2017
John Poynter
Taos, NM
John Poynter   Taos, NM
Get off the dirt and ride the rock. The rolls in these fins and whale backs are so much fun. If the rock let's you in, it will let you off. Sep 7, 2018

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