Tackle An Epic Mountain Singletrack
Like much of Colorado, opportunities for biking adventures abound around Basalt. A few of the trails you may want to try are the Basalt Mountain Road, Beaver Creek Trail, Cattle Creek Trail or the Dexter Park Trail. Some are difficult, some moderate and some easy. Take the ones most fitted to your level of skill.
The 2.3 million acre White River National Forest (fs.usda.gov) offers vast wildernesses for remote hiking and camping and developed areas near resorts. Seven campgrounds in the Basalt area have wooded sites near the river and the Ruedi Reservoir, and hundreds of miles of mountain biking trails run through the forest. Mountain bike paths at the Chapman Group Campground are closest to Basalt; day hiking and overnight backpacking trails lead to overlooks with views of the mountains and the Fryingpan valley.
Mountain Biking Trails in Basalt
Basalt Mountain Road Bike Trail
Difficulty - Easy to Intermediate
Description - There are several options for rides of varying distances from this parking lot. For the Middle Loop (a.k.a Mill Creek) ride up the double track Jeep road (Basalt Mnt. Rd) approx 4 miles. This ascent is somewhat grueling but not too technical. There are amazing views of the Elk Range including Mt. Sopris, Capitol Peak, and The Snowmass. After passing the usually open gate, start looking for the Mill Creek Trail marker in the trees on your left. The next 4-5 miles of single track will bring a perma-smile to anyone’s face. Its mostly wooded with several creek crossings and a narrow bridge at one section. When you get to the bottom, take a left and head up Cattle Creek Rd 1-2 miles back to the parking lot.
Directions - From Carbondale take Hwy 82 east to El Jebel and turn left at the Texaco and head up through El Jebel and Missouri Heights for approximately 6 miles past Spring Park Reservoir. Here the road forks. Take the right fork onto forest road #509 for approximately 2 miles to the intersection of Cattle Creek and Basalt Mountain Roads. Turn right on road #524 and go 6 miles to the top of Basalt Mountain. The Trail starts by a locked gate and the bulletin board is 300 feet past the cattle guard on the top.
Beaver Creek Trail
Difficulty - Easy to Intermediate
Description - This trail offers a pleasant and scenic hike or bike ride, only a few minutes from Glenwood Springs. The trail follows Beaver Creek out of 4-mile Park, climbs a ridge and drops into the Yank Creek drainage. Using the gas pipeline, this can be made into a loop trail for bicycles. It is recommended that you do the route using the pipeline to access Yank Creek. Due to some very steep grades, it would be very difficult to attempt to climb from Yank Creek up the pipeline to road #300. It is best to park your vehicle at the 4-mile trailhead, ride the road to the pipeline, take the pipeline to Yank Creek and return to 4-mile via the Beaver Creek trail.
Directions - From Glenwood Springs, travel on County road #117 approximately 11 miles. Before you reach Sunlight Ski Area, follow the gravel road #300 to the right for four miles until you reach the 4 mile park. Continue on road #300 to the south end of the park. Just before reaching the timber you will notice a bulletin board on the left side of the road. This bulletin board is the trailhead for the Beaver Creek Trail. This trail can also be accessed via the natural gas pipeline located 5 miles beyond 4-mile park on road #300. The pipeline is closed to motor vehicle travel (including ATV), but is open to foot, horse and bicycles.
Cattle Creek Trail #1909
Difficulty - Intermediate
Description - The trail travels through aspens and meadows with patches of spruce and fir. It is hard to follow at times so be sure and carry a compass and map. Cattle graze in the area making lots of trails. Please leave gates in the position that you found them. For safety, bicycles must yield to hikers, who in turn yield to horses. Keep your speed down and ride safely. To protect wildlife please leave your dog at home; this is an important wildlife area for elk. This trail should not be ridden prior to June 21st annually to avoid disturbing calving elk.
Directions - From Carbondale follow Hwy 82 east and turn left at the stoplight at El Jebel. Go through El Jebel and travel about 5 miles on county road 13 to the Basalt Mountain Road (509). Turn right onto road #509, proceed 2 miles and take the left fork, which immediately goes downhill. At the bottom of the hill is cow camp, go right and follow this road about 2.5 miles to an old wooden locked gate. The trail starts approximately 50 feet south of this gate. Please park in the new parking lot 300 feet back. Note: Road #509 is impassable when wet past the intersection with the Basalt Mountain road #524.
Dexter Park Trail
Difficulty - Easy
Description - The trail starts out through a pine forest, then opens up into large meadows on the top. The descent into coal basin travels mostly through aspens and is hard to follow. This trail makes a pleasant day trip to the top to view Coal Basin and back.
Directions - From the Forest Service office in Carbondale, travel west on Main Street,past the stoplight and follow county road #108 for 7.4 miles. Turn left onto a dirt road that immediately goes downhill. The road goes downhill for 2.5 miles to a stream crossing, then uphill for about a mile to a pass. In an other half mile take the right fork onto road #306. At the end of the railroad grade, the road goes uphill, across Middle Thompson Creek, and continues on past Lake Ridge Lakes Trail for about one mile. Just before the end of the road,Dexter Park Trail is on the south side of the road. It is fairly hard to find but it is shortly after the road makes a turn west and sits in a meadow. Road #306 is a 4WD road.
Rules of the Trail
- Only Ride On Open Trails: Respect trail and road closures, avoid possible trespassing on private land, obtain permits and authorization as may be required. Federal and State wilderness areas are closed to cycling.
- Leave No Trace: Be sensitive to the dirt beneath you. Even on open trails, you should not ride under conditions where you will leave evidence of your passing, such as on certain soils shortly after a rain. Observe the different types of soils and trail construction: practice low-impact cycling. This also means staying on the trail and not creating any new ones. Be sure to pack out at least as much as you pack in.
- Control Your Bicycle: Inattention for even a second can cause disaster. Excessive speed maims and threatens people; there is no excuse for it.
- Always Yield Trail: Make known your approach well in advance. A friendly greeting (or bell) is considerate and works well; startling someone may cause loss of trail access. Show your respect when passing others by slowing to a walk or even stopping. Anticipate that other trail users may be around corners or in blind spots. Up hill riders have right of way. Always yield to horseback riders.
- Never Spook Animals: All animals are startled by an unannounced approach, a sudden movement, or a loud noise. This can be dangerous for you, for others, and for the animals. Give animals extra room and time to adjust to you. In passing, use special care and follow the directions of horseback riders. Running cattle and disturbing wild animals is a serious offense. Leave gates as you found them, or as marked.
- Plan Ahead: Know your equipment, your ability, and the area in which you are riding – and prepare accordingly. Be self-sufficient at all times. Wear a helmet, keep you machine in good condition, and carry necessary supplies for changes in weather or other conditions.
Weather and Seasonal Hazards
Summer days in the Colorado mountains are notorious for beautiful cloudless mornings and intensely thunderous afternoons. Storms move in rapidly an d temperatures drop suddenly. It’s not unusual for it to be 70-80 degrees in the morning and 50-60 degrees in the afternoon, depending on the altitude. Along with the cold temperatures and stormy skies comes the threat of lightning. When hiking or mountain biking, it’s best to plan for an early morning start, especially if your route takes you above timberline.
Acute mountain sickness occurs within a few hours to a few days after arrival at altitudes above 8,000 feet. The symptoms are characterized by headache, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, and breathlessness. It can also be accelerated by drinking alcohol upon arrival to high altitudes without proper acclimatization. To help prevent altitude sickness: avoid alcohol, drink plenty of liquids, and avoid over-exertion.