In the saddle: County does it right with Crystal Trail |

In the saddle: County does it right with Crystal Trail

CARBONDALE – I finally had a chance to ride the Crystal Trail south of Carbondale this week and was thrilled with what I found.

Nothing against the Rio Grande Trail, which is a convenient connection between destinations, but the Crystal Trail is loads more fun. While the Rio Grande is mostly straight and mostly flat, the Crystal Trail twists and turns and climbs and falls enough to keep you on your toes and create some excitement.

The short trail teases riders and pedestrians with a hint of what might be in store the length of the Crystal Valley. Officials with the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program want to extend the trail to the summit of McClure Pass. Someday.

And folks with really big dreams envision Pitkin and Gunnison counties working together on a trail that would run between Carbondale and Crested Butte via McClure and Kebler passes. Sweet.

The first-leg from the Carbondale side was completed this spring. It’s only a 5.3-mile stretch from the southern outskirts of Carbondale to the BRB Cabins. The trail parallels Highway 133 and sometimes butts up against the busy road, but often it’s separated by trees and vegetation. It’s scenic enough that you forget about the traffic. The trail takes you through the ranch fields and pastures that make the Crystal Valley so special. Travelers are often treated to views of the Crystal River churning by.

I had a chance to get out for a short spin one morning before work this week. A companion and I combined a ride on the Rio Grande Trail to Carbondale with the venture onto the Crystal Trail. From my house in the midvalley, I was able to make the 30-mile out-and-back ride, including the short burst up White Hill Road, with only about 2 miles on roads.

We can only hope the short trail is a sign of what’s to come up McClure Pass.

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