Running through the heart of Woody Creek in Roaring Fork Valley, the Rio Grande Trail offers a fun way to explore this beautiful part of Colorado. Take to the trail on foot, bike, or horseback to head up to Glenwood Springs or down to Aspen. Nestled alongside the Roaring Fork River, the path delivers stunningly scenic views along the way.
History of The Rio Grande Trail
The Rio Grande Trail is located on the former tracks of the Denver and Rio Grande Western railroad. First established in the 1870s, the tracks went out of use in the 1960s. In the 1990s, local government entities decided to purchase the Aspen Branch of the rail corridor. It was then transformed into a paved trail extending from Glenwood Springs to Aspen as part of a rails to trails project.
Today, the Rio Grande Trail is managed primarily by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA). Some trail maintenance is handled by Glenwood Springs and Pitkin County Open Space and Trails.
How to Access the Rio Grande Trail
There are multiple access points located along the Rio Grande Trail, many of which are accompanied by convenient parking lots. Some of the most common access points include:
- Glenwood Springs: The Two Rivers Park trailhead marks the northernmost point on the trail. There’s a bike repair station and parking lot located on site. This spot also meets up with the Glenwood Canyon Recreational Trail.
- Carbondale: The Catherine Bridge trailhead features a small parking lot, restrooms, a bike repair station, and a picnic area. It’s also conveniently located about a half mile from the Catherine Store.
- El Jebel: Trail access is available at the Hooks Lane Bridge over Sopris Creek, which is about halfway between the two ends of the trail. A picnic area is located near Rock Bottom Ranch.
- Basalt: The Basalt High School access point has a parking lot and bike repair station. It also features the only potable water source along the trail.
- Aspen: The southernmost point on the trail is located at Herron Park. Access is also available at Stein Park where the Rio Grande Trail meets up with Cemetery Lane Trail.
- Snowmass Village: The Rio Grande Trail does not pass through Snowmass Village. To reach the trail from Snowmass Village, take the Brush Creek Trail (which begins near the Snowmass Village Mall), then follow the Aspen Mass Trail.
Taking the Rio Grande Trail from Woody Creek
Located less than a half mile north on Upper River Road from town staples like the Woody Creek Tavern and the post office, there’s a trail access point with a small parking lot. This lot can be found on the east side of the road just north of Woody Creek Lane.
Activities on the Rio Grande Trail
The Rio Grande Trail is largely asphalt surfaced, though some portions of the trail feature concrete or compacted gravel. It’s about 8 to 10 feet wide, which leaves room for a number of fun outdoor activities, including:
- Horseback riding
- Inline skating
- Cross-country skiing
The trail is also located near a number of area attractions. At the north end of the trail near Glenwood Springs and New Castle, attractions include state parks, hot springs, and whitewater rafting. At the south end, the trail meets up with Aspen and is just a few miles from Snowmass Village, both of which are popular skiing destinations.
The trail has a speed limit of 20 MPH. Bicyclists must ride at a safe speed and announce themselves before passing. All trail users must yield to equestrians by stepping off the trail until they’ve passed.
If you’re walking a dog on the trail, keep your pet leased and under control at all times. Carry waste bags and dispose of them in the proper receptacles.
The trail is free from vehicular traffic, but it does intersect some roads. Trail users should exercise caution when crossing these intersections.
Rio Grande Trail FAQs
Where can I find a map of the Rio Grande Trail?
This RFTA trail map offers a detailed view of the trail with important features and services marked, such as restrooms, parking lots, bike bus stops, and repair stations for cyclists.
How many miles long is the Rio Grande Trail?
The trail extends 42 miles from Glenwood Springs to Aspen. It features a gentle grade along a continuous path.
When is the Rio Grande Trail open?
Most of the trail is open seven days a week, year-round (weather permitting). However, seasonal closures are put into effect on the portion of the trail between Catherine Bridge trailhead and Rock Bottom Ranch to protect important wildlife habitats.
Is the Rio Grande Trail plowed in winter?
The area between Glenwood Springs and Main Street in Carbondale is plowed when snowfall exceeds 3 inches. Some areas between Aspen and Basalt are groomed for cross-country skiing as well. Current trail conditions can be found at the RFTA website or AspenNordic.com.
Are dogs allowed on the Rio Grande Trail?
Dogs are not permitted between Catherine Bridge and Rock Bottom Ranch to protect important wildlife habitats.
Are e-bikes allowed on the Rio Grande Trail?
Class 1 e-bikes are allowed on the entire trail. The portion of the trail between Glenwood Springs and the Pitkin County line at Emma Road in Basalt also permits Class 2 e-bikes.
All road bikes and mountain bikes are allowed on the trail, and many visitors to the area use local bike rentals to access the trail.
Are wheelchairs allowed on the Rio Grande Trail?
Both motorized and non-motorized wheelchairs are permitted on the trail, which is largely paved.