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Cycling Made Easy: Paved Trails in Glenwood Springs Ready for Riders in Early Spring

March 14, 2014 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

unnamedWhen it comes to warm-weather activities in Glenwood Springs, cycling tops the town’s list of outdoor pursuits, along with soaking in the Glenwood Hot Springs Pooland riding the thrill rides at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

With the snow retreating and the trails being cleared, Glenwood’s multi-use pathways will soon be ready for cycling enthusiasts. Smooth riding surfaces that extend 42 miles south and 16 miles east of Glenwood Springs provide plenty of places to pedal for seasoned road biking enthusiasts and occasional riders alike.

Despite its location in one of the most mountainous regions in the state, many of Glenwood’s trails are surprisingly easy rides, making them ideal for families who may have riders of varying levels of skill and endurance. Thanks to grades that follow rivers and rail corridors, ascents and descents are relatively gradual, with only a few exceptions. Of course, while the grade is typically easy to moderate, the challenge for road bikers is to accumulate miles. Round trip from Glenwood Springs to Aspen is 84 miles – an excellent early-season training ride.

“Glenwood Springs is the ultimate bike-friendly town, and spring is when the wheels start rolling,” said Lisa Langer, vice president of tourism marketing for the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. Indeed, the city welcomes cyclists and is often a stop on two of the state’s biggest cycling tours: Bicycle Tour of Colorado and Colorado Ride the Rockies. Though both bike tours will stop in other towns this year, Glenwood Springs’ trails provide a scenic and safe place to train for distance rides. “Glenwood’s recreational trails are equally ideal for road bikers who want to spend a few hours in the saddle and for families looking for rides that can accommodate different ages and abilities,” Langer said.

The Trails

Rio Grande Trail, Glenwood Springs to Aspen, 42 miles one way

The Rio Grande Trail offers riders 42 miles of continuous multi-use surface and is protected from vehicular traffic except at intersections. The rails-to-trails project is built along the historic Denver and Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) railway and is paved with the exception of a four-mile section at the trail’s eastern end between Woody Creek and Stein Park in Aspen. The surface in this section, however, is well-maintained, hard-packed gravel that can be ridden with a road bike. Between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, the trail gains roughly 2,100 feet in elevation over 42 miles – a gentle incline that makes for an enjoyable ride. Many cyclists choose to do portions of the trail, such as Glenwood Springs to Carbondale. Along the way, bikers can take in the sights: historic old ranch buildings, bald eagles soaring above the river, herds of elk passing the hours in wide open meadows and majestic Mount Sopris in the distance. Spoke trails that intersect with the Rio Grande Trail in Snowmass Village and Carbondale enable riders to explore even further.

With one exception, the Rio Grande Trail is currently open to cyclists. To protect wintering wildlife, a two-and-a-half-mile section of the trail near Carbondale (between Rock Bottom Ranch and Catherine Bridge) is closed until May 1. The detour route is clearly marked at the Catherine Bridge trailhead parking lot and at Hooks Lane. The detour follows county roads through the valley’s ranch lands.

For cyclists who want to ride one way between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, the Roaring Fork Transit Authority’s (RFTA) Bike Bus is the way to go. Operating weekends from mid-June through the end of August, the Bike Express is outfitted to carry up to 14 bikes. From several stops in Glenwood Springs, visitors can ride to Ruby Park in Aspen, where it’s easy to connect to the Rio Grande trailhead for over 40 miles of cruising on a gentle grade. See RFTA’s website ( for rates and schedules.   

Glenwood Canyon Recreation Trail, Glenwood Springs to Dotsero, 16 miles one way

The trailhead is located just behind the Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves, near Glenwood Hot Springs. After roughly a half-mile, it crosses Interstate 70 and then follows the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon for 16 miles of stunning scenery. Along the way, the trail intersects with four rest areas – No Name, Grizzly Creek, Hanging Lake and Bair Ranch – making it easy to cycle smaller portions of the trail and connect to other recreational pursuits, including the Hanging Lake trailhead. Barring any late-season snowstorms, the Glenwood Canyon Recreation Path traditionally opens in late March or early April. It closes occasionally during high spring runoff. Signs are posted during closures, but local bike shops are often the best source of seasonal trail information.

Cyclists can ride out and back or take a shuttle through one of the bike rental shops to the Dotsero rest area and pedal mostly downhill back to town. The majority of leisure riders can easily cycle the entire distance within three hours. For road bikers, this trail provides convenient access from town for a workout ride that still leaves time to enjoy other Glenwood Springs activities.

The Details: Rentals, Shuttles & Tours
Glenwood Canyon Bikes –
Glenwood Adventure Company –
Glenwood Activities –
MG Cycle and Sport –
Mountain Sports Outlet –
Sunlight Ski & Bike Shop –

In addition to the almost 60 miles of paved trails, Glenwood’s biking trails traverse the region’s diverse topography and provide access to other recreational amenities like fishing holes on the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers, wildlife viewing areas, picnic spots, hiking trails and other towns in the area, such as Carbondale, Basalt and Aspen.

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