Red Hill road work — and trail closure — coming soon

The parking lot at the base of Red Hill hike trailhead is frequently overcrowded. Photo: Garfield County Sheriff's Department

For at least a month this spring, the iconic and popular Red Hill trail will likely be inaccessible from Colorado Highway 82 while the road is realigned and new parking lots are built.

The current road has a sharp bend that curves around into a parking lot before continuing up the hill.

Given the popularity of the Red Hill Special Recreation Management Area, and the use of the parking lot as commuter parking for carpoolers, the intersection has become congested, inefficient and at times unsafe.

But the town of Carbondale is hoping to fix that. Garfield County, working with Carbondale and the Colorado Department of Transportation and Garfield County, will begin the earthwork to realign the road in the coming months.

There’s no firm date for the start, but it could start in late April or early May.

“We need to have consistent, decent weather, and we also need final approval from CDOT,” Carbondale Public Works Director Kevin Shorzman said.

Provided. A rendering of the proposed new Red Hill road realignment and new commuter and recreation parking lots.

The road will eliminate the switchback and tight curve at the intersection, and shift the parking area, including the commuter lot, to the west side of the road.

When complete, there will be about 50 spaces in a designated recreation lot, and 50 more in the commuter lot once the project is finished, about double the existing capacity.

“There’s about 50 spaces over there now, depending on how you shoehorn them in,” Schorzman said.

During construction, set to begin in the spring, the parking lot will be closed and carpool commuters will be asked to park at the lot across from Town Hall, or at the Gus Darien Rodeo Arena along Catherine Store Road east of downtown Carbondale.

Short-term inconvenience

“There was very, very strong support and positive feedback” from the residents who live up Red Hill Road, Schorzman said, but he recognizes the temporary inconvenience to trail users.

Due to the extensive excavation, there won’t be any access to Red Hill Trailhead, which leads up to Mushroom Rock, during the project.

The closure is “100% about safety. It has nothing to do with inconvenience as far as construction goes,” Schorzman said.

Large trucks will be moving across the area throughout the project. For example, crews will use topsoil from the west side of the road to help reclaim the existing parking area.

Even after hours and on weekends, there may be large holes and slides that could be hazardous to pedestrians.

But despite the loss of the trail use in the short term, Schorzman believes the new road will make the whole area much better for recreation, neighbors and commuters.

For one thing, new system will remove the need for hikers and cyclists to cross the dirt road to access the trailhead.

“I hope people can see that, and I hope they can get past the month-to-six-weeks inconvenience to have the long-term solution,” Schorzman said.

The town plans to hold virtual meetings regarding changes to recreation and commuting during the construction in the coming weeks.

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