A gem in the Roaring Fork Valley
Photography & Words: Tory Powers
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.
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 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.
Also, the latest edition to the fleet of bikes being produced in Carbondale is Revel Bikes. You can read more about them here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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