Upper Hummingbird Trail cleared for takeoff in Aspen’s Hunter Creek Valley | PostIndependent.com

Upper Hummingbird Trail cleared for takeoff in Aspen’s Hunter Creek Valley

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Riders climb the Hummingbird Trail in fall 2015. The trail was a hit with riders and hikers. The Forest Service granted approval recently to extend it by one-half mile.
Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association/courtesy photo

A new trail in the Hunter Creek Valley that will complete a gateway to the high country around Four Corners recently received a green light from the U.S. Forest Service.

Construction of the Upper Hummingbird Trail can proceed after the State Historic Preservation Office determined it would not affect any cultural resources, according to Aspen District Ranger Karen Schroyer. A new alignment for the Upper Sunnyside Plunge also was cleared, she said.

“Those should be moving forward this summer,” Schroyer said.

Work can commence anytime after the Forest Service verifies it wouldn’t interfere with nesting birds, she said.

While the Upper Hummingbird Trail will only be about one-half mile long, it’s value surpasses its length, according to Mike Pritchard, executive director of the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, an advocacy group. It will connect with the lower Hummingbird Trail, a popular 1.7-mile route constructed three years ago.

“The Upper Hummingbird will act as an extension for the existing trail, providing more time on trails and less on roads when heading up or down from the Van Horn Park and Four Corners areas,” Pritchard said.

The upper trail will have a similar feel to the lower trail, traveling through aspen forests and scrub oak. The views will get better throughout the ascent.

The lower Hummingbird allows cyclists to climb from the Hunter Creek Valley floor on a sweet, singletrack trail and, likewise, enjoy a thrilling descent. However, the lower Hummingbird spits riders out on an old Jeep road. Riders continuing to the high country had to use that road. The Upper Hummingbird will pick up where the current Hummingbird ends, snake around a south-facing hillside and deliver riders to the Hummingbird property held by Pitkin County Open Space and Trails.

It will create a pleasant gateway to the existing trail network in Van Horn Park and on Red Mountain.

Construction of the Upper Hummingbird Trail was scheduled in July but placed on hold when the Forest Service learned it did not run the project by the State Historic Preservation Office. It was an inadvertent oversight that the agency rectified, Schroyer said.

No information was immediately available on construction plans for the Upper Hummingbird.

The same state clearance was required and received for the Upper Plunge realignment. The trail, which is decades old, peels off the Sunnyside Trail and makes a quick descent to connect with the Lower Hummingbird’s upper trailhead.

The realignment is needed to make the trail more sustainable without removing the challenge, Pritchard said. The new alignment won’t feature switchbacks. It will retain a steep pitch but in more sustainable terrain.

“The Upper Plunge will remain a fast descent for mountain bikers,” he said. “The reroute will probably encourage more riders to enjoy looping this trail from Hummingbird via Four Corners and the Secret Trail.”

The Lower Plunge Trail, which completes the connection to the Hunter Creek Valley floor, also will be rerouted onto a more sustainable path this summer. It is one of the projects planned by Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers. More information will be released soon on RFOV 2018 projects.

scondon@aspentimes.com