Trail Talk: Mushroom Rock offers a fast, intense workout |

Trail Talk: Mushroom Rock offers a fast, intense workout

Carla Jean Whitley
Mushroom Rock is a popular trail just north of downtown Carbondale.
Carla Jean Whitley / Post Independent |
Mushroom Rock Trail Getting there: Park at the lot where Colorado 133 and Colorado 82 intersect. From the parking lot, walk toward and through the gate, and then continue as the road ascends. About a quarter-mile up on the left, you’ll see the entrance to the trail system. Signs will point you toward Mushroom Rock. Learn more: Download an area map at

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The experience

It doesn’t sound so tough. One mile, give or take, round trip? I’ve got this.

That’s what I think each time I approach Mushroom Rock, part of the Red Hill Recreation Area adjacent to Carbondale. Then I get out of the car and begin the hike.

Part of Mushroom Rock’s charm is, indeed, that it’s a quick out-and-back hike, sure to make you break a sweat and feel you’ve done some work. The length is deceptive; if you’re not breathing heavily by the time you reach the pinnacle, I want your trainer’s number.

But that’s half the charm. This is a great exercise hike that can fit into a lunch hour or the beginning or end of your day.

The other half? The scenery.

Regardless of whether you scramble onto the trail’s namesake rock, the summit offers a sweeping view of Carbondale and its surrounding ranchland. It’s the perfect place to pause, reflect and down a liter of water before you begin the quick descent to your waiting car.

Hot spot

Reward yourself post-hike with your favorite food or beverage. Downtown Carbondale is a short drive away, with plenty of places to linger after you’ve squeezed in the day’s workout. Park on Main Street and wander till you find culinary delight, whether that’s organic juice (Tonic Juicery), local beer (Batch and Carbondale Beerworks) or a sit-down dinner (so many choices!).

Keep going

If you’d rather keep your feet in the dirt rather than your butt in the seat, continue to explore the recreation area. It’s popular for hiking and mountain biking alike, with a series of short, connecting trails to choose from. A handful of them close for the winter, so if you’d like to check out Elk Traverse, Northside Loop, Outer Loop or Sage Loop trails, plan accordingly.

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