Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, Glenwood celebrate completion of newest South Canyon trails
Volunteers cleared debris as Guns N’ Roses “Welcome To The Jungle” blared over a loudspeaker at South Canyon’s cleanup and ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday evening to mark the opening of new trails.
Standing on a recently installed new bridge, Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes and Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association (RFMBA) Executive Director Mike Pritchard cut the red ribbon to celebrate the addition of three new trails to the South Canyon Trail System.
In 2015, RFMBA worked on a concept trails plan for areas surrounding the city. The plan studied how to evolve current trails, but also identified land for potential new trail systems.
Shortly after its completion, the city and Garfield County helped with getting the wheels rolling even more so by contributing funds to RFMBA and its partners’ efforts.
“We hired some professionals who helped us identify the unique opportunities and constraints within the canyon here,” Pritchard said of the way funding facilitated the South Canyon trails plan.
“We were able to come up with a trail system that’s maybe about 18 miles of trail, over the coming years,” he said.
A significant portion, 8.5 of those 18 miles, were completed last fall and include three trails known as Tramway Trail, Lightning Bug and Coal Camp.
Classified as easy, the shared use Tramway Trail features a 780-foot ascent spanning 3.2 miles. The two-way trail utilizes the Canyon’s eastern slopes with portions following the same route that was once used to transport coal to the railway at the Colorado River.
The Tramway Trail, in particular, begins with a repurposed bridge that was moved from its former resting place on Red Mountain.
“Part of the project was to install this new bridge and to get trailhead map signs in at two locations,” Pritchard said. “And, we have intersection signage at each of the trails so that people can find their way. The trails are bike optimized, but we do see hikers and runners enjoying the trails.”
With a 450-foot descent spanning 1.7 miles, Lightning Bug earns a “more difficult” classification and travels downhill only.
According to the South Canyon history description, Lightning Bug was the name given to the electric locomotive that ran on the original South Canyon coal mine tramway’s gauge tracks.
The name was coined by miners who saw sparks fly when the trolley’s overhead lines transitioned between circuits and wires.
Also categorized as “more difficult,” Coal Camp ascends and descends 915 feet over 3.6 miles. The trail begins in the canyon’s lower meadow before a steep climb takes users through shady spruce and a pine forest. Coal Camp was a nickname given to the 1903 company town that took shape to support the area’s mining operations.
Future South Canyon trails, not yet completed, include the Alpine Slide, Red Onion, Gem Trail and Horse Mountain.
“It’s really awesome to see these dozens of volunteers just taking the bull by the horns and saying, ‘we want this asset to be nice, welcoming and safe for everybody.’” Mayor Godes said. “If you are going to take an area like South Canyon and develop something on it, having a low impact, non-motorized use is a great asset.”
According to Godes, all of the new South Canyon trails were designed to respect other uses and facets of the canyon, including the Glenwood Springs Gun Club, the city-owned landfill, historic coal mining artifacts and wildlife habitat.
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