Bicyclists will be able to ride the length of the 42-mile Rio Grande Trail starting in the late afternoon today when the Rock Bottom Ranch stretch of the route is reopened.
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and Aspen Center for Environmental Studies will celebrate the spring reopening with a party at 5 p.m. today that features food and refreshments. The party will be held at the trailhead nearest to Catherine Store Bridge. The public is welcome.
The trail section from the bridge to Hook’s Lane closes from Nov. 30 until April 30 to avoid interference with wildlife. Gates make it difficult to intrude on the 2-mile stretch. Motion-detection cameras provide further security.
The trail between Aspen and Glenwood Springs was completed in June 2008, about two years ahead of RFTA’s original schedule.
“It’s been hugely successful,” Mike Hermes, who oversees RFTA’s trail and facilities. “It’s the Highway 82 of the bike trails.”
Some riders travel the entire route. Other cyclists use it for access to various road bike or mountain bike rides.
The busiest stretches of the part of the trail managed by RFTA get close to 90,000 annual users, Hermes said. RFTA manages from Emma schoolhouse to Glenwood Springs. The busiest stretches are through Carbondale and between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. They are open to year-round use.
Use from Catherine Bridge to the upper valley is less, on an annual basis, because of the winter closure. The Rock Bottom Ranch stretch is one of the most popular during biking season.
Pitkin County Open Space and Trails manages the section from Emma to the upper valley.
RFTA will undertake maintenance on eight sections of the trail this summer, Hermes said. In some places, particularly upvalley from Catherine Bridge, tree roots have popped up the route. RFTA must remove the asphalt and shave the roots to create a smooth surface.
“Roots are the bane of an asphalt trail,” Hermes said.