Spring Gulch a midvalley gem | AspenTimes.com

Spring Gulch a midvalley gem

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
A skier cruises on the Finlandia trail at Spring Gulch, with its stellar views of Mount Sopris. (Janet Urquhart/The Aspen Times)

CARBONDALE ” Judging from the number of vehicles in the out-of-the-way parking lot on a midwinter weekend, the Spring Gulch Trail System is no undiscovered gem. It is a gem nonetheless.

The midvalley boasts a groomed trail system that, while not maintained with the Johnny-on-the-spot tenacity that is a hallmark of the Aspen-Snowmass cross-country system, boasts a backcountry feel you won’t get on a golf course. Located outside of Carbondale, Spring Gulch offers a sprawling, interconnected and well-marked system of trails beneath the flank of Mount Sopris.

The high valley is hemmed in by sage- and juniper-dotted ridges, giving skiers 20 or so kilometers of routes groomed for both classic and skate-style skiing. After a night of plentiful fresh snow, grab your backcountry touring gear and make tracks before the groomers get to work. It takes them awhile to get it all re-rolled and the tracks set.

The terrain, where ranchers graze cattle in the summer months, offers easy flats, plenty of rolling, intermediate trails and some decent climbs/descents with far more route options than anything in the Aspen-Snowmass system. The highlight is a meandering climb up the ridge ” seek out Finlandia ” for sweeping views of the valley and commanding Mount Sopris.

To challenge your downhill chops, try Highball. Big Dipper, Little Dipper and Bulldogger are also fun to zip down ” when they’re groomed.

Spring Gulch is strictly for cross-country skiing ” no snowshoes, walking, snowboards, sleds or dogs (or bikes, come summer). It’s strictly a bring-your-own-gear kind of place; no rentals available. There is a porta-potty at the trailhead and trailmaps are available there, too. The skiing is free, but envelopes are provided for those willing to become a Spring Gulch member and send a donation toward its upkeep.

From Highway 82, head south on Highway 133; turn right at the 7 Eleven in Carbondale (Thompson Creek Road) and go 6.9 miles to a parking area on the right. It’s marked with a red and white ENTRANCE sign.

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