New biking trails planned in Aspen, Snowmass and El Jebel | AspenTimes.com

New biking trails planned in Aspen, Snowmass and El Jebel

Pink flags mark the path of a future trail along Owl Creek Road on the opposite side from Aspen/Pitkin County Airport. The singletrack route will provide a link between the Buttermilk parking lot and Airline Trail at Sky Mountain Park.

A bevy of new trails is in the works in the upper and middle Roaring Fork Valley that will either serve as convenient connections to existing routes or create exciting, new singletrack routes in their own right.

The work includes a connector from Buttermilk parking lot to Airline Trail, a new singletrack segment between the Rim Trail and the paved Brush Creek Trail, a rerouted access into the Crown off of the Rio Grande Trail and, in the longer term, creating a trail on the Glassier Open Space and connecting it to existing singletrack in the Crown.

"There are a lot of little projects going on," said Mike Pritchard, executive director of the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, a nonprofit advocacy group that has helped on the design of the trails.

The midvalley will experience a significant change. A trail called Buckhorn is currently the only access into the Crown from the north side, in the El Jebel area. Buckhorn requires a nasty, rocky climb on a route that crosses private property.

The Bureau of Land Management approved a reroute onto land it manages. Funding is being provided by the Mid Valley Trails Committee, which is funded by Eagle County.

The project has been "on the radar" for roughly five years, according to Pritchard. About 1.4 miles of singletrack trail will be rerouted onto public land, starting at the Rio Grande Trail in the area of a winter closure gate. The machine-built trail will provide a more pleasant climb for bikers, he said. The work is scheduled for the second half of October, weather permitting.

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The rerouted lower Buckhorn Trail will hook into a lesser-known segment called the Buckhorn Traverse. The BLM is enlisting the help of a volunteer trails crew to widen and improve the traverse, according to Pritchard. Work could start as soon as next week.

The alignment of upper Buckhorn will remain the same. The beauty of the work this week is it will make access to the Crown more pleasant from the Basalt and El Jebel side, Pritchard said.

A few miles upvalley from Buckhorn, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails is planning a new trail on the Glassier Open Space. A 2-mile singletrack trail will be built into the open space from the Rio Grande Trail and climb to provide access to BLM lands in the Crown, said Gary Tennenbaum, assistant director of the open space program.

"We're going to make a big push to build it next year," Tennenbaum said.

Pritchard said the BLM is preparing to conduct a study under the National Environmental Policy Act on a trail that would connect the Buckhorn Traverse to the trail on the Glassier property. That study could start as soon as November, he said. The proposed trail, dubbed the Buckhorn Traverse Extension, would cover about 3 miles. Once built, assuming it is approved, it would create a loop for midvalley riders without requiring a drive to a trailhead, Pritchard said.

"The bottom line is, when you add that up, it will be 8 miles of new or refreshed singletrack," he said.

Pitkin County Open Space and Trails also is working on a plan for a new parking lot at the intersection of Hooks Lane and Hooks Spur Road. A soft-surface path would be added parallel to the paved Rio Grande Trail for the half-mile to the Glassier trailhead, Tennenbaum said. The open space board of directors is reviewing conceptual plans.

Further upvalley, Pitkin County and Snowmass Village are working on plans for an "amazing" new singletrack trail between the existing Rim Trail and the paved Brush Creek Trail, Tennenbaum said.

Some of the Seven Star Ranch property acquired by Pitkin County Open Space and Trails is north of Brush Creek Road. (The better-known part of the ranch south of the road was developed into Sky Mountain Park.) Tennenbaum said the proposed trail, tentatively dubbed Rim Line, will be about 2 miles long. It will come of the Rim Trail and hook into the middle off the 6-mile-long Brush Creek Trail.

It will provide great riding on its own and also serve as a connector to Cozy Line, an ascent and descent of Sky Mountain Park.

Construction of Rim Line is planned in 2016. Tennenbaum believes it will make the Rim Trail even more inviting and relieve some pressure from Sky Mountain Park.

"It will help spread out the use," he said.

The county open space program is teaming with the city of Aspen for a project this month. They will jointly fund a singletrack connector between the Buttermilk parking lot and Sky Mountain Park.

The new trail will be a little more than 1 mile, Tennenbaum said. It will be on the opposite side of Owl Creek Road as the paved Owl Creek Trail. It will traverse the hillside before crossing over the road and hooking into the paved trail a short distance from the bottom of Airline Trail.

The trail is being built with the cooperation of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, which owns some of the land that is needed.

A longer-term goal is to provide singletrack trails from Aspen to Sky Mountain park, tying into routes on the Buttermilk ski area.

"The goal is to provide more singletrack connectors," Tennenbaum said.

scondon@aspentimes.com

new trails projects

• Connector planned this fall between Buttermilk parking lot and Airline Trail

• New singletrack planned from Rim Trail to middle of paved Brush Creek Trail, 2016

• New 2-mile trail planned on Glassier Open Space, 2016

• Rerouted lower Buckhorn Trail off of Rio Grande Trail into the Crown this fall

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