Efforts to connect Glenwood and New Castle trails could make the area even more bike friendly

Two mountain bikers ride on an unauthorized trail in New Castle near Bureau of Land Management land.
Roaring Fork Mountain Bicycling Association |

A growing network of mountain bike trails in eastern Garfield County, and a crucial link to better connect them, could add a new pinpoint on the map of Western off-road biking destinations.

In recent years, the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association has partnered with Glenwood Springs and New Castle to enhance the area’s soft trails offerings.

Already there’s the new Grandstaff Trail on Glenwood’s Red Mountain and newly constructed and enhanced trails on public land north of New Castle. Work also has begun on what will eventually be a series of some 18 miles worth of trails up South Canyon.

By June, three new single-track biking and hiking trails, totaling 5.5 miles, will be ready for riding in South Canyon.

Planning is now underway to create an uninterrupted stretch of paved trail between the three destination points.

Once completed, the easternmost section of the Lower Valley, or LoVa, Trail would open a world of new mountain biking opportunities and a non-motorized option to get from one trailhead to the next.

That potential has leaders from both communities talking about joint marketing possibilities.

“It’s the new golf,” Graham Riddile said at a meeting between Glenwood and New Castle elected officials earlier this year. He is a New Castle trustee and member of the New Castle Trails group.

The trails group formed as a way to build not only trails, but a whole culture around mountain biking as a reason to visit New Castle.

A concept to turn a network of illegally established trails into a “formal, developed and maintained trail system” quickly caught the attention of the area’s mountain biking community.

With the addition of new and improved trails in the Glenwood Springs area, and a link south to trail systems near Carbondale at the Red Hill and Prince Creek trail systems, the promotional possibilities are endless.

“We’re developing a little niche here,” Riddile noted, adding that proper marketing can give mountain bikers a reason to consider Glenwood/New Castle alongside Fruita and Moab, Utah, when planning trips.

Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association Vice President of Tourism Marketing Lisa Langer believes that’s a great idea. That is, once the area trail networks are more fully developed and the connections and related amenities are in place.

“It would be difficult to compete with some of the larger cycling communities with the limited trails we have at this time,” Langer said. “Down the road, there is a lot of potential.”

Among the considerations is to make sure amenities, such as secure bike storage lockers, are in place at area lodges where mountain bikers would be staying, she offered.

“There’s lots to consider when you’re marketing to a particular group like that,” she said.

Once those kinds of things are in place, “it’s a perfect opportunity to say, ‘come here, spend the night, hit the trails, soak in the hot springs and have dinner,” Langer said.

Mike Pritchard is executive director for the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, the local affiliate of the International Mountain Bike Association. He agreed that the framework is taking shape to increase marketing, and his organization stands ready to assist with quality trail system mapping and photos of the different trail amenities.

“Our pitch is two-fold,” Pritchard said. “We’re all about serving the local community with options for healthier living, and getting out on the trails that are right here in our backyard.

“Quality trail systems also result in growing the local economy and visitation,” he said. “It drives traffic to existing businesses, and it can draw people here who might open new businesses.”

Eventually, Pritchard said the lower Roaring Fork Valley communities could do something similar to the IMBA Ride Center that directs mountain bikers to the 60-some miles of “epic ride” options in and around the Aspen and Snowmass areas.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.