‘Like nothing else in Garfield County’ | PostIndependent.com

‘Like nothing else in Garfield County’

Land at Rifle Arch like a blank canvas for developing bike trails

Gumption Trailworks owner and avid mountain biker Aaron Mattix rides a portion of the Grand Hogback trail that was just created within the last couple of days.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Nearly 20 miles of curvacious turns, rock gardens and yeehaw-inducing bike trails will eventually adorn the rugged but diverse terrain enveloping Rifle Arch.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun out there right now.

Riding is not allowed until June 1 but that date can fluctuate. Once it’s open, outdoor adventurers can park their vehicles at the newly developed drive-in parking lot and bike 6 miles of the first phase of what will be an 18-mile project.

The Grand Hogback Trails at Rifle Arch are located 9 miles north of Rifle, on Colorado Highway 13. The parking lot is on the east side of the road.

Work, however, is still underway.

Avid mountain biker and trail builder Ben Mays rides a new portion of the Grand Hogback mountain biking trail that he helped build within the last couple of days.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Equipped with colloquially-named tools like pickmatics, rogue hoes and mustache rakes on a sun-bathing Wednesday, workers currently paving the way for the new trail system are covering ground at about $5 per foot. That equates to roughly $25,000 per mile.

Meanwhile, depending on conditions — degrees in cross slope, amount of rocks and the desired features, to name a few — it roughly takes any time between two weeks to a month to forge one mile of new bike trail.

In the end, however, the sweat will be worth it.

Gumption Trailworks owner and avid mountain biker Aaron Mattix rides a portion of the Grand Hogback trail that was just created within the last couple of days.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“I’m frickin’ stoked riding this trail,” said Rifle Area Mountain Bike Organization member Ben Mays. “I’ve built a lot of trail around the way, and this one I’m chomping at the bit after work to ride.”

Hays was helping build a portion of trail called “Miller High Life.” This is in honor of Gary Miller, 74, a pioneer of the mountain bike culture in Rifle.

The vast extension at the Grand Hogback Trails system at Rifle Arch is speculated to be an anomaly within biker circles scattered throughout the Roaring Fork and Colorado river valleys. Like an expanding snake with seemingly no end, it continues to encompass an area never before touched by the spade of a shovel.

“The big stand out is kind of having a blank canvass to start with,” Gumption Trail Works owner Aaron Mattix said. “There are no other trails here.”

Gumption landed a contract for roughly $70,000 with the city of Rifle to complete the first phase alone, will either complete the entire project in two or four phases. That all really depends on funding.

Ben Mays(right) and Gumption Trailworks owner Aaron Mattix work to remove rocks and debris while building the new Hogback mountain bike trail system near the Rifle Arch trail.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

So far, collaborators — which include the Rifle Regional Economic Development Corp. and Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association — have applied for a $100,000 ​​​​​​Colorado State Recreational Trails Grant offered by Colorado Parks & Wildlife. They’ve also applied for a Santa Cruz Bicycles PayDirt grant.

All applications, however, weren’t awarded.

Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association executive director Mike Pritchard said the trails “are going to be a nice mix.”

“It’s a very bike-optimized trail system,” he said. “It’s going to function with a number of loops. At some point this summer, it’ll be ready for people to go out and visit and enjoy, even if they have to do multiple loops because there’s limited mileage.”

When it’s built, people can easily do 20 miles, no sweat.

“The views are kind of national park quality views when you’re looking at the cliffs that the arch is part of,” Pritchard said.

Garfield County alone is bursting with bike trails. The checklist is enormous: South Canyon, Grand Staff, Price Creek — you can’t go for a walk in the woods without hitting at least one.

Ben Mays uses a pickaxe to move rocks and debris while working on the new Hogback mountain biking trail system near the Rifle Arch Trail.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

RAMBO vice president Alison Birkenfeld, however, predicts the trails at Rifle Arch will be another great trail to add to the list.

“I think (Rifle Arch) is to compete because the Roaring Fork Valley has a lot of flow trails. There’s not a lot of rock in the roaring fork valley,” Birkenfeld said. “The further west you go, the more rock you get.”

“We’re definitely going to be up there.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com

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