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New trail on Sutey Ranch will create new connection to Red Hill trail network

New route ’optimized’ for bikes, open to foot traffic

A mountain biker rides past the new trailhead at Red Hill in Carbondale on Monday, April 26, 2021. A new trailhead on the north side of the network could ease crowding later this summer. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Work will begin this month on a short trail that will have big implications for hikers and bikers in the midvalley.

Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, the Red Hill Council and Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association are teaming to perform work on the new Sutey Ranch Trail that the Bureau of Land Management says will be “optimized for bike riders, but also open to foot traffic.”

The new trail will be only about 3 miles long but it will serve as an important connector to the popular 19-mile trail network in the Red Hill Special Recreation Management Area. Sutey Ranch is to the north of that network, about 6 miles northeast of Carbondale. The new trail will provide access to Red Hill via the Northside Loop and the Elk Traverse Trail.



“For a biker, this will be big news,” said Mike Pritchard, executive director of the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association. “Most riders might seek out a 10- or 12-mile ride from the new Sutey trailhead by creating a big lollipop with the Sutey Bike Trail — Big Top Loop, Northside Loop and then retracing back to the Sutey trailhead.”

The trail will be closed from late fall to spring for the benefit of wildlife. An existing trail from the Sutey trailhead off of County Road 112 will be reserved for hikers and equestrians. That trail is off limits for mountain bikers.



The new access may relieve pressure at the Red Hill trailhead at Highway 133 and 82. On any given day and particularly on weekends, there are hordes of bikers and hikers accessing the trail network from that trailhead. While work has been done to separate uses, there can still be conflicts.

The new trail might result in more bikers accessing Red Hill via the Sutey Ranch trailhead, which would benefit hikers at the main trailhead.

“I think it will help some,” said Davis Farrar, a longtime member of the Red Hill Council, a nonprofit organization that works with the BLM to preserve and maintain the Red Hill trails.

“The new normal is everything will be overwhelmed,” Farrar said, reflecting on soaring trail use and outdoor activity during 2020 and into this year during the pandemic. “(Sutey Trail) will have its own crowd, I think.”

Some trail runners, hikers and mountain bikers will prefer the Sutey trailhead because of the “unique experience” on the north side of the Red Hill network, he said.

There is an inherent dilemma in creating a new trail and access point, he said. In this case, the good news is it opens up the north side of the network for more use. The bad news is it opens the north side open to more use, he quipped.

This map shows where the new Sutey Ranch trail will be built and its relation to the existing Red Hill trail network.
RFMBA/courtesy image

The three local trails groups will enlist volunteers for work on about half of the 3-mile trail. Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers is coordinating the project. Work will be performed on three successive Tuesdays — May 11, 18 and 25, from 4 to 8 p.m. each session.

RFOV rates the work as physically easy and family friendly. Volunteers must sign up at RFOV’s website at http://www.rfov.org/calendar.

The Bureau of Land Management will hire a contractor to finish the other half of the trail, a portion of which will require use of a mini-excavator. The “pro-built” segment will be about 1.42-miles long. The volunteers will build about 1.57 miles.

Pritchard said the goal is to have the volunteer work finished in May. Additional workdays might be required, he said. The BLM has put the job for the professional build out for bid and a contractor could be on the project in the next two months. Pritchard said the trail should be open to riders and hikers by mid-summer.

“We would like to say it will be ready in July,” he said, “but there is no hard date.”

Speaking of trails …..

The Sky Mountain Park trails will open May 16 after the winter wildlife closure is lifted. Viewline, Cozyline, Airline, Deadline, Skyline Ridge and Ditchline will see the first legal use of the year Sunday as will Rim Trail North and Seven Star Trail. The trails are closed Dec. 1 through May 15.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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