The loop is located in a seldom-visited area of Colorado which many would never suspect to have good mountain biking opportunities. The trails can be extremely difficult to find because of the low traffic but perseverance will reward you with canyon land views in a forgotten area of the state.
Need to Know
Camping is allowed at the picnic area. A pit toilet is available at the picnic area but there is no water. Bring your own or filter it from the springs about 0.5 miles south of the picnic area. There are no services within 20 miles of the canyon so all supplies much be brought with you.
There is also no cell phone service within at least 20 miles of the canyon. Download maps, carry paper maps, or use the MTB Project mobile app
. They are necessary to find the trail in many areas.
The area is remote. Any help will have to come from either Springfield, CO (40 miles away) or Lamar (83 miles away). The last reliable cell phone service is about 10 miles south of Springfield. This is snake country.
The route is not initially difficult. About 0.5 miles from the trailhead, there is an archeological area that gives the canyon its name. The trail climbs up a side canyon to hoodoos of Dakota sandstone. The hiking path climbs up a steep wall while a horse/bike trail allows for skirting this climb. The horse trail is not very well marked. It climbs up a hill to the southeast before the rock wall and rejoins the trail at a two-track road. The trail continues across the road to the northwest.
The trail comes to a rock canyon with an option to go around the canyon on another horse/bike bypass (poorly marked) or by riding down the canyon. The trail down the canyon is rocky but rideable but caution should be used as help in the case of injury is many hours away. The rock canyon opens up into another canyon. Arch Rock is up hill to the north.
A nice singletrack proceeds to the southwest until it meets with another doubletrack road. Continuing south, you come upon a rock cabin and the Oklahoma state line about 100 meters to the south. The doubletrack continues on in a westerly direction to Cave Spring. Water from the spring is potable if you need water at this point. The entire area is lush and green from spring water from Cave Springs as well as numerous other springs in the area.
The trail eventually becomes a very poorly maintained singletrack that appears to end at the edge of a wetland. The trail continues across the wetland to the north and climbs out of the canyon for a short distance. The trail is marked by cairns and posts but they can be easy to lose. Keep close to the canyon edge until the trail drops back down into the canyon. The trail will climb to the northwest until a two-track road is reached.
The road is marked "Outlaw Loop." Bear left on the road to the west. The road is fairly smooth although deep sand can slow your progress significantly in places.
Outlaw Loop follows the road for about two miles until it drops steeply into another canyon. At the bottom of the hill, there is a side canyon to the north. Numerous springs and potholes hold water although quality is questionable.
Rubble can be seen on the hill above the side canyon. This is the remains of a flagstone quarry. A short climb will take you to the quarry where you can find dinosaur tracks in the exposed stone.
After exploring the quarry (be snake aware), the two-track continues for a mile before coming to a Y. The road south takes you back down to Arch Rock. Bearing left as the the road climbs up a canyon. Stay on the main road to the top of the hill. The road down the hill will take you back to the Picture Canyon access road and the parking area.
History & Background
Picture Canyon has been occupied for millennia. Within 0.5 miles of the trailhead, there are numerous pictographs, petroglyphs, and settlement sites from ancient Native peoples to modern times. One of the places of interest is Crack Cave which is an equinox marker. The area abounds with permanent springs which has drawn people to the area from prehistory to now.
Shared By: Stuart Black