Fourmile Area: Natural Bridge

Buena Vista, Colorado (Chaffee County)

Last Updated: 09/27/2020
4.6 / 5 ( 14 reviews )
Zoom in to see trails...
Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 3-3
( MODERATE )
Length: 6.99 miles
Highest Elevation: 9200 feet
Duration: About 1 hour, 20 minutes
Shape of Trail: Loop
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Buena Vista
Nearest Town w/ Services: Buena Vista
Official Road Name: 373, 311
Management Agency: San Isabel National Forest
District: Salida Ranger District

Highlights

Highlight: Fourmile Area: Natural Bridge
The Natural Bridge Loop is a scenic trail with a hiking option located just northeast of Buena Vista. The trail snakes back and forth over small ridges and through steep gullies before reaching the Natural Bridge rock formation. While an impressive photo opportunity from the road, the optional .75 mile hike to the bridge allows for an up close look and an amazing view of the Arkansas River Valley below. The return trip is equally as impressive with panoramic views of the 14,000' Collegiate Peaks as the backdrop. Bring your hiking gear and some water if you plan to hike to the bridge as it's a steep non-maintained trail up the mountainside.

Video

Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
Stock SUV with High Clearance and 4 Low
Concerns:
Summary:
The trail has a few mild hill climbs, but the majority of the trail is flat with only small rocks.

Technical Rating

MANDATORY
3
MODERATE
OPTIONAL
3
MODERATE
Typically, more rock or undulated road surface. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 12" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 12" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 24" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep.
Read more about our rating system

Community Consensus

1 votes
0 votes
0 votes
Easier
Spot On
Harder

Description

This trail is part of the Fourmile Travel Management Area northeast of Buena Vista. The Natural Bridge route follows FS 373 and part of FS 311 making a large loop. The road surface is mostly sand and/or smooth dirt as the trail climbs up and out of the valley. There are some steep gullies to navigate before the trail drops in elevation near the Natural Bridge hiking trail. The route then circles back toward Buena Vista giving a panoramic view of the Collegiate Peaks for the return trip.

Waypoints

1. Trailhead (0 mi)
The trailhead is immediately after you pass though a fence and over a cattle guard where FS 376 goes straight and FS 311 splits off to the left. Take FS 311 to the left.
2. FS 373 (0.5 mi)
Take a left hand turn at this intersection onto FS 373. FS 311 goes to the right, you will return on this road to conclude the loop. There is a nice photo op here of Mount Yale, 14,199'.
3. FS 373 to Right (1.02 mi)
Drop into a sandy wash and turn right to follow FS 373. Stay on the designated trail as this has been an area with resource damage in the past.
4. FS 373 to Right (3.38 mi)
Turn right and head downhill to follow FS 373 at this intersection. A left turn will take you to the Davis Meadow mountain bike trail.
5. Little Fourmile Creek (3.47 mi)
Cross through Little Fourmile Creek and make a sweeping right hand turn as you come up the hill.
6. Natural Bridge (4.3 mi)
The small turn-out marks the the trailhead for the Natural Bridge Hiking trail. The optional hike is a .75 mile (one way) trek on a non-maintained trail with a substantial elevation gain to the rock formation.
7. FS 311 to Right (4.84 mi)
Turn right onto FS 311 heading back toward Buena Vista at this intersection. A left hand turn here will take you to the Sevenmile Creek Trail.
8. Continue Straight (5.78 mi)
Continue straight on FS 311. FS 1414 takes off to the left, this is not a full-size motorized vehicle trail.
9. End (6.79 mi)
The trail ends when you get back to Waypoint 2. You can re-trace your route back to the trailhead and continue on the Lenhardy Cutoff Trail or you can turn right here and head back to Waypoint 3, turn left and take FS 376A back to the Fourmile Creek Trail.

Directions to Trailhead

From the stoplight in Buena Vista head east on East Main Street and in two blocks turn left onto North Colorado Street. Continue north on Colorado Street as it becomes CR 371. Continue on CR 371, you will cross the Arkansas River and wind through a residential area before CR 371 transitions to dirt. Continue on 371 as the dirt road begins, soon you will see the Midland Train Tunnels, turn right onto FS 375 just before you get to the first tunnel. You are now at the trailhead for the Spanish Mills Trail, you must first complete Spanish Mills before reaching the trailhead for the Natural Bridge Loop.

Camping

Dispersed
Formal lodging is available in the town of Buena Vista only a few miles southwest. Camping is allowed where there are existing dispersed sites along the trail. The campsites with the best views are located just between Waypoints 5 and 6. Camping in these areas is limited to 14 days. Please camp only in existing sites with a campfire ring, do not build new campfire rings. Extinguish campfires thoroughly with water and always know and observe current fire restrictions. Please help us keep this trail clean and pack everything out that you pack in.
Camping: Fourmile Area: Natural Bridge

Land Use Issues

This area is part of Pike-San Isabel National Forest, and as such is part of the 2011 Lawsuit where a coalition of conservation and recreation groups are suing the U.S. Forest Service over what they say is the illegal addition of 500 miles of motorized roads and trails. A settlement was reached in late 2015 that is requiring the U.S. Forest Service to re-evaluate the roads and create a new travel management plan. Over the next year, 30 roads will be partially or completely closed while this evaluation takes place over the next 5 years. It is imperative that the OHV community let's their voices be heard on this issue. If we do nothing, those 500 miles will be shutdown. Contact the local ranger districts and let them know why the area is important to you and the history you have there. Salida Forest Service District Office Leadville Forest Service District Office

Trail Reviews (17)

Author:
Status: Open
Difficulty Accuracy: Easier
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Fun trail although not one if you’re looking to go wheeling for the obstacles. Hiked to the top of the arch and enjoyed the beautiful views with the yellow aspens.
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Ran this trail with our Colorado Springs Tacoma Group, trail is in great shape with a few water crossings. It was busy on the trails with motorcycles and OHVs, beware the blind curves. We stopped and hiked just below the Natural Bridge. It's little more than a goat path, so take some good shoes and be ready to scramble up in places.
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Glad I came back here and made the hike this time, well worth it. Nothing to report, all clear and dry.
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
I 100 percent agree with the person below me. Keep an ear open for OHV and dirt bikes. They go so fast and there is a lot of blind corners. Other than that the trail was beautiful and had great views. Nothing unnerving with basic off roading experience in my opinion.
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Overall the trail was fun and quiet. Trail was dry. The biggest obstacle on this trail network is other vehicles. Dirt bikes and OHVs tend to go fast here, and there are plenty of blind hills and turns. I’d recommend keeping a window down to listen for them. I hiked to the bottom of the arch and it was just about 1mi and 500’ elevation gain round trip. Some scrambling is required.
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Open with a mix of dry areas, wet areas, and a small number of areas of packed snow. Snow sections were typically rutted and depth was no more than 8 inches (and generally closer to 2 - 4 inches).
Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
National Public Lands Day cleanup project with Stay the Trail and CORE. Trail is dry and dusty.
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Another nice, easy loop near BV. Missed trailhead to bridge as waypoint must not of worked. Loop has a couple nice camp sites with views of collegiate peaks.
Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Trail is fully open and dry.
Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Did the Natural Bridge drive and hike as part of 14erFest--the road is in good condition. We did the hike with approximately 30 people! It is relatively short but steep with two spots where you have to scramble over big boulders. Took us thirty minutes +/- to reach the top of the bridge. This is a very scenic road in autumn, and the views from the Natural Bridge are amazing!
Author: Official Crew
Social Media:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
What a great trail!! I enjoyed the western side, from waypoint 3 to 7 the most. I took a look at the bridge, but didn’t hike it. Filled up some side by sides that were running low on gas :) It was a nice solo day on the trail.
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
I led a small group from the Overland Bound Buena Vista June Jam on a large loop of the north side of Fourmile on this day. For this trail we ran just the top part of the loop connecting from Eagle's Nest to Seven Mile. The trail has character and was fun in 2wd in my stock full size Chevy. It was dry and in good condition.
Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
I drove the Natural Bridge loop as part of 14erFest (a huge street party that brings trail user groups together--hikers, mountain-bikers, fly-fishing anglers, runners, motorcycles/ATVs, and 4x4; see 14erFest.org for details). We had seven Jeeps/trucks/SUVs and over 20 people total, including a dozen hikers who joined us specifically to hike to the natural arch. The trail conditions are dry and dusty. There are some ruts and rocks, but nothing a stock 4x4 cannot handle. The hike is pretty easy, with only a couple of large rocks that you must crawl/climb over. The views from the natural arch are FANTASTIC!
Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
The closure order has been lifted and the trail is open.
Author: Official Crew
Status: Temporary Closure
Offroaded on:
This trail is currently closed due to the Weston Pass Fire.
Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Did a quick overnight camping trip over new years and camped off the 311B Spur. Nice spot and great views!
Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
I drove the Natural Bridge loop on Saturday, September 30th as part of a small group from the 14erFest. Weather was good (overcast but didn't rain on us) and trail conditions were great. We hiked to the natural bridge and enjoyed the Arkansas River Valley views.

Questions & Answers (1)

Q: Does anyone have a gps coordinates for the bridge?
–Justin Noland (10/15/2020)
A: 38.908400,-106.093000
–Justin Noland (11/24/2020)

Writer Information

Marcus Trusty

Mapping Crew - Colorado

Marcus is a 3rd generation Buena Vista, Colorado native who grew up bouncing around the central Colorado mountains in the back of his dad's CJ5. During his younger years, Marcus grew to appreciate public lands and the recreation opportunities backroads and 4-wheel drive trails offer. Marcus has been wheeling for 20 years now and has wheeled in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and California. Until a few years ago Marcus had just been a participant in the wheeling community, but he has become much more active in preserving trails and working to make sure the wheeling community has their access maintained for future generations. Marcus helped to found Colorado Off Road Enterprise - CORE, based out of Buena Vista. CORE has worked with the Forest Service and BLM and has volunteer agreements in place with both organizations. CORE also has a Forest Service trail adoption agreement in place for Grizzly Lake, Pomeroy Lake, Hancock Lake, Hancock Pass, and Tincup Pass, Tomichi Pass, Williams Pass, Ptarmigan Lake, Mineral Basin, Clohesy Lake, Lost Canyon, Champion Mill, Iron Mike Mine, and Slide Lake. If Marcus is not working you can generally find him somewhere out on the trails around Buena Vista.
For individual use only, not to be shared.