Rio Grande Trail Colorado -Photo Tour
Hard to believe that there are 42 miles in Colorado that are nearly level, take a bike ride on the Rio Grande Rail Trail and you will become a believer. The Rio Grande Trail is a converted rail road corridor, aka rails-to-trails, that stretches between Glenwood Springs, Colorado and Aspen, Colorado running down the middle of the Roaring Fork River Valley. This is the longest rail-trail in Colorado and it connects to Glenwood Canyon Trail with will ultimately be part of a network of trails that allows you to bike from Denver to the Colorado/Utah border.
This blog is a quick photo tour riding from west to east, Glenwood- Mile 0 to Aspen- Mile 42, this is the “uphill direction”, keep in mind max gradient is a friendly 2%. Starting in Glenwood, you are at the confluence of the Roaring Fork River and the Colorado River, the environment is quite dry and is very much the desert. The scenery will change dramatically as you cycle your way into the folds of the Elk Mountain range and ultimately the high alpine environment of Aspen.
The image below is looking over your shoulder towards Glenwood Springs from about mile marker 5. The mountains in the background are the “Flat Tops, and stretch for about 100 miles towards Steamboat Springs. The canyon feature is the Colorado River heading due west. Notice the age brush and the desert scrub brush that lines the trail. Yes- this does look like a road, it is one of the nicest trail surfaces you have ever biked on. Almost the entire 42 miles of the Rio Grande Trail are paved (a 1 mile section just outside of Aspen is crushed limestone).
The Roaring Fork Valley has long been a ranching community, in the late 80’s the streets in Carbondale were still dirt, and spring cattle drives though town were like clock work. There are still a number of active ranches adjacent to the trail.
Approaching Carbondale, your average speed is sure to be impacted by the photo-ops presented by Mount Sopris. Really the photo-ops never stop on this ride, so plan on a relaxing pace. Look carefully this is the confluence of the Crystal River on the right in the photo with the Roaring Fork River.
There are a few remnants of the old Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, which became the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad in 1920 and later merged with Southern Pacific Railroad.
Crossing the Roaring Fork River just south of Basalt. This is a blue ribbon trout fishery, bring along your rod, there are a number of public access points from the Rio Grande Trail.
One of my favorite things about the Rio Grande Trail is that it has features, twists and turns, keeping it interesting.
This amazing trail is now managed and maintained by the Roaring Fork Transit Authority, in conjunction with Pitkin County Open Space and the City of Aspen, in their respective jurisdictions
Go to Traillink to see a for a full list of amenities and trailheads for the Rio Grande Trail.
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