New hiking trail on Light Hill in the works for Basalt, to be completed by the fall

Basalt will gain a hiking trail by fall that will take pressure off the popular Arbaney Kittle route.

The Bureau of Land Management approved the relocation of a trail up Light Hill from a trailhead behind Basalt High School. There is an existing trail, but it heads straight up a fall line and is rutted up to 4 feet deep in spots.

The land bureau has teamed with Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers on the trail work, which is already underway. The town of Basalt is helping with funding.

RFOV executive director and Basalt resident Ron Rash said the Light Hill Trail is among his favorite projects for the summer.

“I’m excited about it for a number of reasons,” he said. “It gives us more opportunity for trails other than Arbaney Kittle. I’m excited with the fact that it’s so close to Basalt and gives us an alternative.”

Arbaney Kittle is as popular for midvalley residents as Smuggler Mountain Road is for Aspen residents. The Light Hill Trail will be another popular outlet for Basalt like the Ute Trail is for Aspen.

The Colorado River Valley Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management analyzed the proposed project in an environmental assessment last year. The project includes closing the existing 0.52-mile trail and restoring the terrain. A new trail approximately 1.2 miles long will be built.

The old trail was open for hikers and equestrians only, as will the new trail. Mountain biking won’t be allowed.

“The project will reroute the trail, adding switchbacks, reducing the steepness of grades, improving the trail tread surface and adding drainage features to provide a better hiking/riding experience and improve sustainability,” Bureau of Land Management officials said in an email.
The environmental assessment identified a clear need for the trail at a time of growing demand for outdoor recreation opportunities.

“Light Hill and its one hiking/horse trail provide close to home access to recreation for residents and is the only access to Light Hill from the main Roaring Fork Valley,” the EA said. “With the construction of employee housing behind Basalt High School and near the trailhead it is likely that the trail will see increased hiking/dog walking use.”

The Basalt Vista housing project will be near the trailhead.
The goal is to have the trail completed by October. RFOV started work earlier this month. The organization has created group workdays for families. Since they are from the same household, they can work in close proximity of one another. Strangers coming together on projects must remain spread apart. A public workday is currently scheduled for Oct. 3.
“That’s an exciting one for us,” Rash said.