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July 5, 2014
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Hunter Creek trail network in Aspen’s backyard could get tasty additions

One approved trail project and a second proposed one will make mountain-bike riding and hiking in the Hunter Creek Valley even better, according to a planner.

A steep, rocky trail called the Iowa Shaft Cutoff will be rerouted to make it more accommodating to uphill cyclists, according to Gary Tennenbaum, assistant director of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program. The trail is considered underutilized because of grades exceeding 10 percent. It’s a route sandwiched between the more popular and longer Iowa Shaft Trail and a road spilling off Smuggler Mountain to the Hunter Creek Valley floor.

The new route will have a grade of less than 8 percent, Tennenbaum said.

“It will make it a longer trail,” he said, estimating that the length will increase from one-half mile to one mile.

The project won’t affect the main Iowa Shaft Trail, a singletrack route.

“Nothing is happening to the Iowa Shaft,” he said.

Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers will coordinate the workers on the reroute. Volunteers are being sought for each Tuesday through July. They are being asked to arrive as soon as they can after 4 p.m. and continue until dusk. Dinner will be served right after work. More information can be found at www.rfov.org.

The trail work and other projects in the Hunter Creek Valley are being coordinated by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Pitkin County, the city of Aspen and the U.S. Forest Service. Another aspect of the project will be placement of a “very big sign package” on the network in Hunter Creek Valley and Smuggler Mountain, Tennenbaum said. Trails are poorly marked in the area.

A new trail proposed for the network is undergoing final design and likely to be reviewed this summer by the Forest Service. The Hummingbird Traverse would provide a new connection between the Hunter Creek Valley floor and the Hunter Creek Toll Road on the north side of Hunter Creek.

Currently, bike riders coming off Smuggler Mountain cross Hunter Creek to the north side and then head downstream before switching back and climbing a route that leads to the Hummingbird open space parcel, Four Corners, Van Horn Park and various trail connections.

The proposed route would take riders upstream from the existing upper footbridge in the Hunter Creek Valley. It would angle back and connect into the Hunter Creek Toll Road, where it is intersected by the Sunnyside Plunge Trail.

The proposed trail would have a 6 percent grade, making it similar to the new Cozyline Trail at Sky Mountain Park, Tennenbaum said. It will be designed to minimize switchbacks and rely more on a long traverse, he said. He estimated the proposed trail’s length at two miles.

Another envisioned project is the reroute of the lower Sunnyside Plunge.

“It’s just an unsustainable trail,” Tennenbaum said. “It’s such a rocky mess that it’s unrideable.”

The lower Plunge also crosses through wetlands. Riders avoiding the soupy part are braiding it. The rerouted trail would swing it farther down the valley. It would be more accommodating, sustainable and less ecologically intrusive, Tennenbaum said.

The goal is to get the new Hummingbird Traverse and lower Plunge reroute approved by the Forest Service this year and to get work underway. It is too soon to tell if those projects can be completed this year, he said.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Jul 6, 2014 09:22AM Published Jul 7, 2014 03:08PM Copyright 2014 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.