The Rainbow Trail is a harder backcountry-type trail. Be prepared for fallen trees, wildlife, etc. Also, dirt bikes are allowed, and the local dirt bike club actually maintains most of the Rainbow Trail, clearing the trail of fallen trees, etc. Be nice to all other trail users.
Bear Creek Road is often used as part of a loop with the Rainbow Trail #1336
. The first three miles are relatively easy gravel grind miles to the Columbine
trailhead. The second three miles, to get to the actual Rainbow Trail, are way harder, with steeper grades and bigger rocks, but the sound of the creek and the shade of the trees make it tolerable.
On this second half, you'll pass several primitive campsites, keep going up until the road dead ends. That's where the Rainbow Trail goes left (east) and right (west).
Locals use Bear Creek typically like this:
1. Drive up to the Columbine
trailhead, park. Ride up Bear Creek to Rainbow, turn right (west) onto Rainbow Trail for almost four miles, turn right and go down Columbine
back to the car. This is a nine mile loop. Or just do Columbine
as a (tough) out, and (easy) back.
2. Ride from town, up Bear Creek all the way up to Rainbow, turn right onto Rainbow and ride as far west as you can and then come back down, via CR108 perhaps, to Salida.