EPIC rides to get you stoked for summer | PostIndependent.com

EPIC rides to get you stoked for summer

Colleen O’Neil
coneil@postindependent.com
Garfield County offers some of Colorado's most scenic singletrack.
Flickr: Daniel Bayer |

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We all know about Red Hill, Prince Creek and the Wulfsohn trails. Folks from Carbondale and Glenwood Springs hit those systems on their lunch breaks. But what if you want a ride that’s a little further into the wilderness? It’s not hard to find. In our area, you can get into some of Colorado’s most awesome high-mountain riding just a few miles from town.

Three Forks, Rifle

Distance > 5.8 miles

Difficulty > Moderate

Elevation > 3000 feet (the whole loop)

North of Rifle in the White River National Forest, this trail climbs in and out of spruce-fir-lined drainages, along creeks and into flatter terrain lined with aspen trees. You can ride this trail as part of a 20-mile loop by riding up Forest Road 825 to FR 211, then turning left to the upper trailhead. Before you start riding, make sure you stop into the Forest Service visitor’s center off I-70 to get a good idea of where you’re going.

Mansfield Ditch, New Castle

Distance > 9.5 miles

Difficulty > Moderate

Elevation > ~1650 feet

Drive north on Seventh Street in New Castle until it becomes New Castle-Buford Road for about 6.5 miles until you reach the trailhead. Turn off New Castle-Buford Road onto FR 819, head north and down a drainage to Mansfield Ditch. The trail stays on a contour between 8000 and 8500 feet for 5 miles. Then it dips lower for a long, fun descent in the last 1.5 miles. Turn it into a loop by following the Cherry Creek trail near the top of Calhoun Basin.

Deep Lake, Heart Lake Loop, Dotsero

Distance > 5.75 miles

Difficulty > Moderate

Elevation > ~200 feet

Ride through wildflower meadows along the edge of Deep Lake to Heart Lake and back. Spectacular views abound. You’ll gain most of your elevation in the first 2.5 miles of the trail—some parts are pretty steep. After passing Deep Lake, turn onto Heart Lake Road. Then you can take a series of Forest Service roads back to Deep Lake to make a loop.

Hay Park, Carbondale

Distance > 17 miles

Difficulty > Moderate

Elevation > 1900 feet

What this trail lacks in technical challenges (though there is a mile of baby-head rocks and loose gravel at the start), it makes up for in amazing, high-mountain views and wildflower meadows. Access this spectacular ride from Prince Creek Road in Carbondale, and park at the Thomas Lakes trailhead. Once you grind out the bulk of the climb, bear left onto Hay Park Trail, not right toward Thomas Lakes. Cross small streams and ride along a river, through stands of aspens and pine. The upper meadow area has incredible views of Capitol Peak and other mountains. This is about the halfway point of the 8 1/2-mile trail and the usual decision point. You’ve gained about 1,000 feet, and it’s about a 600-foot elevation loss to the other end of the trail at Capitol Creek Road, so you can turn around and cruise back to the trailhead for an 8ish-mile ride, do the full 17 mile out-and-back, or make a shuttle ride out of it.

Leak King Loop, Marble

Distance > 16 miles (ride from town)

Difficulty > Difficult

Elevation > 3100 feet

This spectacular route gives you some of the most amazing views of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness and the Ragged Mountains, as well as a chance to see one of the most photographed sites in Colorado. At the beginning, a super-steep climb takes you far into the pines. Then the trail (really a four-wheel-drive road) winds further and further up until you reach the highest point of your ride. Bomb down the other side to see the historic Crystal Mill, and finish your ride in the town of Marble, where magnificent barbecue awaits. Be careful on the ride down, though, because you’ll be sharing the road with lots of tourists in SUVs.


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