In the Saddle: Riding the Rio Grande |

In the Saddle: Riding the Rio Grande

PITKIN COUNTY ” The bicycle beckoned, and so did another new stretch of the Rio Grande Trail I had yet to explore.

The one-time railway corridor now offers a fairly seamless link from Aspen downvalley to Carbondale, and work is ongoing to finish it off all the way to Glenwood Springs.

Newly paved at the close of the last biking season was the stretch from Emma upvalley to the intersection with the existing paved trail above Holland Hills ” a distance of some three miles.

And a fine stretch it is. At Emma, a rider headed upvalley can take an underpass beneath Highway 82 and pedal into Basalt to link up with the Basalt-Old Snowmass Trail on the east side of the valley, eventually connecting to the Rio Grande Trail. Or, a rider can continue upvalley on the new section of the Rio Grande Trail, which stays south of the highway, bypassing Basalt, until it finally crosses the highway on an overpass and feeds into the existing trail above Holland Hills. At that juncture, a rider can continue up the valley or turn downvalley toward Basalt.

From the Emma end of the new stretch, heading downvalley, an already-paved stretch of bike trail reaches the Hooks Spur bridge behind Willits. From there, it continues downvalley ” through a section closed until May 1 ” to a paved bikeway from the Catherine Store bridge to Carbondale.

The long and short of it is, once the seasonal closure (to protect wildlife) is lifted in May, trail users can travel between Carbondale and a point above Holland Hills on a trail segments that were all finally built and/or paved just last season.

And it’s an awesome, rural stretch. Much of it runs alongside the Roaring Fork River or slices through pastures and meadows, far enough away from Highway 82 to give the trail an out-in-the-country feel, though it does pass by Basalt High School and cut across the Roaring Fork Club golf course.

It’s also a far gentler climb than the one offered on the trail headed upvalley out of Basalt.

Though the latest stretch of trail is paved and rideable, signs posted along the route warn there is work yet to be done that will mean trucks and machinery at times, and detours/closures.

The work is scheduled through April 30; the most critical of the projects is paving the connection between the Rio Grande Trail at Emma to the bypass beneath the highway ” a distance of probably less than 10 feet, but it’s a gravel disaster waiting to happen on a skinny-tired road bike.

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