Destination Showcase: Carbondale, Colorado

Jun 4, 2019
by Tory Powers  

CARBONDALE, COLORADO
A gem in the Roaring Fork Valley
Photography & Words: Tory Powers
Presented by Visit Carbondale

Sorry, Colorado natives. People need to know! In the spring of 2018, we hit five of Colorado’s best areas to ride. One of those was a small town known as Carbondale. The picturesque town of Carbondale is located 170 miles west of Denver, 12 miles from Glenwood Springs and 30 miles from Aspen, in the heart of Colorado’s central Rocky Mountains. With under 10,000 people, this gem is often considered a pass-through on the way up to Aspen. But little do most people know, Carbondale is full of amazing and diverse riding within a 2-mile square radius.

At an altitude of 6,181 feet, and resting in the magnificent shadow of 12,953-foot Mount Sopris, the Carbondale area is characterized by an average of 295 days of sunshine, low humidity, cold but mild winters and comfortable summers. Every which way you turn within the Roaring Fork Valley where Carbondale sits, you'll have a glimpse at Mount Spris' beauty.

The most interesting thing about this area is how the two main riding areas (that we hit), Prince Creek, and Red Hill, are complete opposites in terms of terrain, ecosystems, and riding styles. Prince Creek, which sits in the Southern section of Carbondale, is a north/west facing slope with low shrubs and green valleys. On the opposite end, you have Red Hill, which is south/east facing and reminded me a lot of Sedona in terms of vegetation and riding.

Kevin Stiffler (left) in the Prince Creek area and (right) Amy Shenton at Red Hill


Now, enough about how pretty it is, let’s get into why you’re here- the riding. I have multiple friends who grew up in Carbondale but never really heard much about the riding. Probably because they wanted to keep it a secret. While we were only here for roughly 24-30 hours, we squeezed in 3 rides and an evening at the bike park.

We met up with the amazing and hospitable crew at Aloha Mountain Cyclery who were generous enough to show us around and even shuttle us and all our gear up Prince Creek.


You can’t beat a rig like theirs. It’s low, barely made it over some of the rough sections on the dirt road, had no AC, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Not very often do you get dropped at the top of a hill in a stallion quite like this. We rode (and pushed up) the trail Father Ginormous at Prince Creek. This is the “must-ride” trail and I can absolutely see why. Now, I’m a sucker for smooth and fast (and shuttle-able roads), and that’s what we got. Dropping in you have an amazing head-on view of the beast of Mt. Sopris overlooking the trail.

Kevin leading Amy into the valley that is Prince Creek.

Kevin giving Amy a little taste of Carbondale dirt.

Hitting it in the early summer we had immense amounts of green shrubbery and it felt like nothing I was used to riding in Colorado. Barely any rocks, and constant high-bermed turns mixed with tunnels of vegetation. There’s even a bit of a jump trail in the middle with optional lines. I could have ridden this trail all day. It’s one of those ones that leaves you with a smile on your face the whole way down.


After our first ride, we went downtown to check out the Why Cyclery factory. On our way there, we got to ride on a bike path that has singletrack with rock features/jumps alongside it. It was super awesome to see Carbondale squeezing out every bit of terrain to make it a more fun place to ride.


Why Cycles is a super unique company based out of Carbondale that produces solely titanium frames. It’s run by some really awesome people who were more than excited to let us demo some bikes and also do some riding with us that evening and night.

Also, the latest edition to the fleet of bikes being produced in Carbondale is Revel Bikes. You can read more about them here.

bigquotesWe launched Revel on March 1, 2019 with a home base in Carbondale. We run Revel side by side Why Cycles in our location at the base of Red Hill, which has some of the best bike testing grounds anywhere and makes for some pretty awesome lunch rides. Customers can come visit us and demo a Revel anywhere around Carbondale whenever they would like.Adam Miller, Revel Bikes


The Revel team (left).

Following our much-needed sushi dinner, we stopped by the Carbondale public bike park. Sitting in the valley, it had a small slopestyle area, amazing pump track, and multiple jump lines.



Amy and I both took a liking to the Why Cycles 27.5 titanium DJ bike. Something neither of us had ever experienced. Coming in just over 20lbs it was spec’d with carbon components and a Gates carbon belt drive- making it super quiet, fast, and floaty.

We all rode until we couldn't see anymore. Nothing beats an evening session at the dirt jumps. Once our evening was up, it was time to prep for our night ride. We went back over to Prince Creek after dusk and rode some amazing trails until midnight. Coincidentally we were there with the full moon which made for a perfect night on the trails.

The Carbondale area offers a variety of lodging options including rustic lodges and cabins, rugged yet comfortable campgrounds, a historical landmark inn, quaint bed & breakfasts, and more traditional hotels with modern-day amenities.

Mt. Sopris overlooking the Prince Creek valley as we rode under the full moon.

We got a whopping 3.5 hours of sleep before we got up at 3:45 am to head over to the next area, and our last ride- Red Hill. We wanted to make it up for sunrise, and with about 1200 feet of elevation gain, we had to head up early. We got to the trail while it was still dark and used the full moon and our headlamps to our advantage. We could hardly tell what the vegetation and terrain were like until dawn and it was a nice surprise.


Once we made it to the top, the sun had just started peaking over the horizon. I’d get 3.5 hours of sleep and ride uphill in the dark any day for the view we had. We were facing south directly toward Mt. Sopris and town which catches some of the most stunning morning light I had ever seen. I think we all wanted to sit there forever.

Kevin hitting the first turn of the descent at Red Hill (left). Can you find Amy + Kevin in the deep brush (right)?

When we started heading down, everybody was hollering with excitement. If you’ve ever been to Sedona, you know it’s a solid area to ride. This felt almost exactly the same. Large slick rock sections mixed with Redstone and chunky bits. This was like night and day compared to Prince Creek. Heavily technical riding with a view. This area had much more coverage which was nice to be in the shade after Prince Creek being widely in the open. 


Amy following Kevin as they headed into one of the technical sections with an awful view.

Amy floating through the chunky/rooty mix that is Red Hill.

I honestly don’t know if I’ve seen Amy have so much fun on a bike. Every time I told her to push back up a section for a shot she would smile and say “Okay!” like she was already planning on it.

Thanks a ton to the Aloha Mountain Cyclery crew. Couldn’t have done it without them! Check out their shop when you’re in Carbondale for the extra hidden secrets this little town has to offer.

The Aloha Mountain Cyclery crew (left). Every good shop has a shop kitty (right).

Touted as one of the “Top 12 Towns” in the “50 Next Great Places to Live and Play” by National Geographic Adventure Magazine, Carbondale is a great base camp for recreation enthusiasts. There is plenty to do including biking, kayaking, and world-class fly-fishing. In winter, excellent cross-country skiing can be found at Spring Gulch.

While Colorado has countless areas that are worth traveling to, make sure to add Carbondale to your list. The trails aren't the slightest bit crowded, the riding is top notch, and the town has plenty to do.

Sincerely,

A Colorado native who already knows how many people are here. We don't have to be selfish.

Carbondale mountain biking trails


Pinkbike would like to thank:
Visit Carbondale.

To learn more about biking in Carbondale or to book a trip visit, Visit Carbondale.


MENTIONS: @pinkbikeoriginals



Regions in Article
Carbondale


41 Comments

  • + 11
 Not going to lie, I read this showcase article last year when it originally came out and decided to check Carbondale out. Amazing! I had no idea there were so many amazing trails out there! Proper signage, bike only, directional, shuttle-able trails is a rarity in Colorado. Father of Ginormous might be the most fun I have ever had on a trail in Colorado.
  • + 2
 Super awesome to hear. I've lived on the front range my whole life and never heard of the riding in Carbondale but was blown away when we got to check it out. Absolutely making another trip back!
  • + 12
 Que all the CoolRadBros saying “Colorado sucks, don’t come here.”
  • + 12
 Colorado sucks, don't come here.
  • + 2
 Have you ever felt the dirt in the PNW? It's f*cking incredible, life changing.
  • + 8
 I still have friends who live in Colorado and are trying to leave. Ever since they legalized cannabis every one under the age of 40 has moved there from the midwest. So not only is CO overpopulated, but its overpopulated with flat landers and gappers who try to act like locals. *This is what I have been told*
  • + 6
 @Boardlife69: Actually have to agree... at least as far as the front range goes... the mtns I grew up in there are completely saturated now and if you're not at least 3 hours from Denver you end up having to "book" backcountry campsites like 2 months in advance... it's nutters. On the plus side though the influx has made the western slope a lot less redneck and inbred than it was when I grew up there.
  • + 1
 Colorado sucks don’t come here.
  • + 3
 @Boardlife69: Having grown up in Colorado the vibe has definitely changed. People have moved here to consume the Colorado lifestyle not contribute to it. Some groups are doing what they can to combat the mentality and foster responsible trail usage and repair but the sheer growth in numbers has forever changed the riding scene.
  • + 7
 Kitty got two diff eyes,nice
  • + 1
 Seducing broads in Chernobyl, nice.
  • + 3
 The Roaring Fork Valley has been my favorite place to recreate in Colorado for decades with an huge volume of riding from Glenwood Springs to Independence Pass - and you can finish up the day fishing for browns.
  • + 2
 Love riding in Carbondale. Dropped truck is awesome. But a little down the road you have off road designs. If you have a pre 1987 Chevy 4x4 check them out the got what you need. Riding is awesome out there and if you plan right you can ski lift ride aspen in the morning shuttle a trail in the afternoon and DJ at the park until dark awesome adventures await you in Carbondale.
  • + 4
 Where is Titaniumdale?
  • + 2
 I live in Colorado and didn't know how great Carbondale was! This place looks awesome.
  • + 4
 That DJer tho
  • + 3
 I love west-slope riding.
  • + 1
 Different eyes on the cat. Sign of the Devil?

Otherwise, Carbondale looks like a real gem of a town.
  • + 1
 Is a carbon canondale mandatory or can you ride what you want in Carbondale?
  • + 1
 Non mtb question: what sliders do you mess with to get the color style in the pictures with the aloha pickup?
  • + 2
 A lot of it comes from messing with the curves. Adding a bit of a fade to the shadows (dragging the lowest point up) gives it those not-so-harsh blacks that make it feel less contrasted!
  • + 2
 How can your winter be both cold and mild ? Those are opposites.
  • + 1
 Mild can mean just lower snowfall, not necessarily temperature related. Definitely a confusing term though!
  • + 3
 Tory P. slays it again.
  • + 1
 My man. Much appreciated!
  • + 1
 Colorado doesn't suck, go ride there.
  • + 2
 Awesome piece, Tory!
  • + 2
 Thank you!! Love this place.
  • + 2
 @torypowers: Yeah - another awesome story!
  • - 1
 Have very bad experience with Revel (Why cycles) though as they seems to be focused on ripping you off being excited only about getting $$$$.
  • + 1
 Love that lowered truck!!
  • + 1
 Agreed. But wouldn't a tailgate pad/moving blanket be better than using 7 or 8 tie downs for 3 bikes?
  • + 1
 @Endurahbrah: not when the front wheels won't clear the ground haha!
  • + 1
 Nothing good lasts forever.
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