New segment will top off Aspen’s Hummingbird Trail in Hunter Creek Valley

Riders climb the Hummingbird Trail in fall 2015. The trail was a hit with riders and hikers. It will be extended by a half-mile this summer.
Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association/courtesy photo |


Trails advocacy groups are reminding users to obey seasonal closures even if dry conditions persist.

Closures remain in effect until May 16 on popular cycling routes such as Sky Mountain Park in the upper Roaring Fork Valley and Glassier Open Space in Emma. Gary Tennenbaum, director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, said there is always some pressure to open early every spring that conditions dry out sooner than average. The agency will stick to the May 16 opening.

“It’s a pretty solid date of giving the animals enough time to migrate higher,” Tennenbaum said.

Consistency is another reason to stick to the date rather than change annually.

The paved Rio Grande Trail is closed until May 1 in the Rock Bottom Ranch section in the midvalley for the sake of wildlife.

Mike Pritchard, executive director of Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, said riders should remember that there is a closure until April 16 on many holdings managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. There are exceptions, such as lower-elevation trails on the Crown on the Prince Creek Road approach and Red Hill.

There are numerous closures on the interface between national forest and Snowmass Village. Tom Blake Trail, Sequel Trail, Anaerobic Nightmare Trail are closed April 25 to June 21. Rim Trail North is closed until May 16.

Government Trail east of Elk Camp Work Road is closed May 15 to June 21.

Another single-track trail segment will be added to the Smuggler-Hunter Creek network this summer and enhance its allure.

Pitkin County Open Space and Trails revealed Monday it will add the Upper Hummingbird Trail this year. The 0.55-mile single-track will extend the lower Hummingbird Trail, a 1.7-mile segment that opened in July 2015 to wide acclaim among mountain bikers, trail runners and hikers.

“It’s just continuing the system,” said Gary Tennenbaum, director of the open space program. “It gets you further up the mountain on a single-track. You don’t have to be on the road for that steep section.”

Lower Hummingbird switchbacks on a hillside on the north side of Hunter Creek Valley and ends at the Hunter Creek Toll near the start of the Lower Plunge. Upper Hummingbird will pick up from that point, traverse the hillside, make some major switchbacks and end up where the Hunter Creek toll road comes to a fork, the left branch climbing to Four Corners and the right fork climbing into Van Horn Park.

The upper trailhead will be very close to the Hummingbird Lode, which was purchased in the 1990s to prevent construction of a home on a private parcel surrounding by national forest.

Mike Pritchard, executive director of the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, said part of the upper trail will wind partially through aspen forest and partially through scrub oak. It will have a feel similar to the lower trail.

“The views only get a little bit better as you go higher,” he said.

Views include the Williams Mountains to the east and Maroon Valley in the distance, west-southwest. Hunter Creek meanders below.

Pritchard predicted that the Hummingbird Lode, which once had a wooden platform for a tepee and a picnic table, will again be a convenient rest stop for hikers and bikers climbing higher into the forest. Another trailhead for the Hunter Creek Overlook is nearby.

“In the past it used to be a nice place to take a break,” he said of the Hummingbird Lode.

Tennenbaum said the trail will be constructed this summer and likely open in late July or early August. The trail was envisioned in the Hunter-Smuggler Cooperative Plan, a collaborative effort that designed a stewardship plan for the Hunter Creek Valley and Smuggler Mountain areas, where land is held by Pitkin County, the city of Aspen and the U.S. Forest Service. The plan outlines improvements to forest health, wildlife habitat, recreation and education opportunities.

Plan partners include local conservation groups Wilderness Workshop and Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.

“Everybody’s signing off on this,” Tennenbaum said of the Upper Hummingbird Trail. The trail was also reviewed through the federal National Environmental Policy Act.


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