Early Season Guide to Mountain Biking in the Valley

Posted on April 22, 2022 by Chris Klug

Early Season Guide to Mountain Biking in the Valley

This weekend marks the last resort closing day of the 2021-2022 ski season, as Ajax will host closing festivities on Sunday the 24th. As sad as we are about saying goodbye to pow days and bluebird corduroy laps, we welcome the cycling season with open arms! Most upper valley trails remain closed, but there are already plenty of trails to ride in the lower valley. Use this blog post as a cheat sheet for where to ride and when.

Open Trails

In Carbondale, Crown BLM, Lower Prince Creek Trails, Red Hill BLM (aka Mushroom Rock), and some sections of Lorax Trail and Thompson Divide are open for business and have been for about a week. It is fair to expect wet, muddy, icy or snowy conditions on the more shaded areas of the trails, but for those itching to get out there, these trails are waiting for you! Please avoid any soggy trails even if open, so as not to cause trail damage and erosion. We would recommend a climb up Buckhorn to the Traverse or Mushroom Rock to get the rust from last season off and make sure your bike is still working properly.

Closed Until Late May

Sunlight Mountain, Hay Park Trail, Basalt Mountain, Arbaney-Kittle Trail, Sky Mountain Park, and Smuggler Mountain/Hunter Creek all have a May 22nd bike access dates for those who still need a month to mourn the loss of skiing. Snowmass Bike Park, however, typically opens in mid-June. Sorry, park rats, but you’ll have to wait a bit longer than everyone else.

If you can’t wait to get out there but want conditions to settle for a week or two, now is a good time to get your bike tuned and ready for the season. Wait times are already getting up to two weeks out and the season will be in full swing before you know it. It’s also a great time to head to the desert to Fruita, GJ and Moab. Hope to see you on the trails soon!

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For decades, adventurers from all walks of life have sought out Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley for being the hiker’s paradise that it is. Whether it’s the expert only multi-night trek across the Four Pass Loop or a paved path for beginners, the scenery through fields of wildflowers, across rushing streams or deep into a dense forest will stay with you forever. You can find endless options for day hikes and backpacking trips surrounding Aspen. Use this blog as a way of determining the best day hikes in town from some of our most sought-after trails, starting from easiest to hardest.

Easy Trails

Rio Grande Trail: Elevation: 7,700 ft. – 7,900 ft.

This is both a hiking and biking trail. The trail starts behind the Post Office on Puppy Smith Road. The first two miles of the trail are paved and then becomes a dirt trail after crossing Cemetery Lane. Very flat with no steep grades.

Hunter Creek Trail: Elevation: 8,900 ft. – 10,400 ft.

The trail begins just east of the apartments on Lone Pine Road or directly off the Rio Grande Trail extension. This is a gradual uphill climb along Hunter Creek towards Hunter Valley.  To access the upper trail, drive north on Mill Street, veer left onto Red Mountain Road and follow for 1.1 miles to Hunter Creek Road.  Turn right onto Hunter Road and follow the signs to the parking lot.  Upper portions of the trail pass through alpine meadows scattered with several abandoned homestead cabins.

Smuggler Trail: Elevation: 8,000 ft. – 8,800 ft.

This trailhead accesses Smuggler Mountain Road, one of the most popular recreation areas in the immediate Aspen vicinity. Any spring, summer or fall afternoon, Smuggler Mountain Road is busy with Aspenites hiking, running, mountain biking or walking their dogs. Smuggler Road provides a short (1-1/2 mile) workout with great views of Aspen from the look-out point, which makes it very popular. You can access the Hunter Creek Trail or Continue to Warren Lakes.

Moderate Trail

Sunnyside Trail: Elevation: 8,000 ft. – 10,000 ft.

The first part of the trail contains a series of switchbacks through sagebrush and scrub oak. About 1 mile along the trail, you will cross a driveway then continue to Red Mountain. The trail finally joins with the Hunter Creek Trail in the Hunter Creek Valley. As there are many spurs that can lead to one getting lost, a topographical map is recommended.

Difficult Trails

Ute Trail: Elevation: 8,000 ft. – 9,000 ft.

The trail starts close to town on Ute Avenue. The sign for the trail is approximately 0.4 miles up Ute Avenue on the right if you are headed east. It is steady uphill with switchbacks, 0.9 miles and 1,000 vertical feet to a rock outcropping. The view of Aspen from the rock outcropping is spectacular. A mile long aerobic workout.

Red Butte Trail: Elevation: 7,900 ft. – 8,400 ft.

This trail is accessed off Cemetery Lane and is a quick but difficult trail with amazing views. Some parts feel more like rock climbing than hiking, so be prepared for narrow, steep and rocky portions of the trail.

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Categories: Hiking | Spring | Outdoors | Guide

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