Red Hill Council urges hikers, bikers to stay off Carbondale-area trails during mud season
Hikers, bikers and other trail users are being asked to cool their jets on the Red Hill network and other routes while conditions remain muddy.
Too many people are using Red Hill, encountering mud and taking steps that damage the trail, according to Davis Farrar, president of the Red Hill Council, an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and maintaining the Red Hill trails Mushroom Rock at the entrance to Carbondale.
People are walking and riding around the muddy sections causing the widening of the single-track trail, Farrar said Friday. They also are trampling the vegetation on the fringes.
The biggest problem is the sage meadow where the Three Gulches Trail meets Blue Ribbon.
“When it’s slimy they should use their heads and turn around,” Farrar said.
People who walk or ride through the mud end up creating ruts or footprints that eventually solidify into concrete, he said.
The council is urging people to use the trail when it is still frozen. Once the sun thaws out the trail, it turns sloppy quickly.
Bike shops in Carbondale have urged riders to stay off and there has been pretty good compliance, according to Farrar. Foot traffic has been the bigger issue from what he’s witnessed.
“You’ve got your user population and they’re saying, ‘I’m a maniac and I’m going to get out there,’” Farrar said.
Other trail users from upvalley who aren’t as familiar with Red Hill assume it’s dry without checking. Farrar urged all users to check conditions on Facebook at the Friends of Red Hill page and at http://www.redhillcouncil.org. They can post updates of conditions as well.
The U.S. Forest Service keeps many roads and trails closed during mud season to prevent damage. Pitkin County Open Space and Trails places a wildlife closure on many of its properties and trails from fall to spring. The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees Red Hill, closes the northern part of the Red Hill network for the benefit of wildlife but doesn’t close the lower trails.
It has a similar policy in place on the Prince Creek trails, a popular area southeast of Carbondale. Lower trails are open year-round while upper trails are closed. Farrar urged people to use common sense there as well this time of year.
“People are going to have to say, ‘It’s muddy. I’m just not going to use it,’” he said.
The Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association will remind its members and the mountain biking community throughout the spring to stay off the mud. Its message says: “Riding muddy trails causes ruts that hold water on the trail, requiring more work from volunteers to maintain the trail’s tread structure. Trail users who step or ride next to a muddy trail only succeed in making the trail wider and wider. Even if it’s just considering the wear and tear on your bike’s components, it’s simply best to be patient and let the trails dry out.
“Don’t be shy about turning around and coming back to the trails another day,” the association’s message concludes.
Mike Pritchard, executive director of Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, said Friday the organization teamed with the city of Glenwood Springs to have signs made to post at the new Grandstaff Trail on Red Mountain. The sign says in big, bold lettering, “Ride dirt not mud.”
Smaller print notes that if a cyclist is leaving a visible rut in the trail, then it’s too muddy to ride.
“(Similar signs) could be used elsewhere in the valley by other land managers as a reminder and brief education message at trailheads,” Pritchard said.
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