Glenwood Springs to Break Ground on New Trail System in South Canyon!

Phase 1 will add over eight miles of singletrack!

Last summer’s Grandstaff trail opening, on the slopes of Red Mountain, is just the beginning of fresh mountain bike trail construction around Glenwood Springs.  Work on a new trail system on city-owned land in South Canyon, located two miles west of the West Glenwood I-70 exit, will soon be underway.  If current digging conditions continue to cooperate, Phase One could break ground as soon as the end of February.

South Canyon Phase One will provide a diverse trail system to appeal to many different types of mountain bikers from beginner riders, to cross country climbers to all-around expert riders.

Cyclists can look forward to riding three new trails that derive their names from the rich coal mining history of South Canyon.

Tramway, a green beginner trail, will climb 771 feet over 3 miles with an average grade of 4%.  Lightning Bug, a blue intermediate descending-only trail will drop 540 feet over 1.75 miles with an average grade of 6%.  The high point of both of these lower trails can be accessed by car from an upper trailhead, allowing for uphill shuttles.

Higher up the canyon, the Coal Camp loop is a cross-country rider’s challenge.  Climbing and descending 800 feet in 3 miles with an average grade of 8%, the Coal Camp loop features great views, rocky technical sections, and cooler summer temperatures in the north facing aspects.

Colorado based trail builders Singletrack Trails LLC will be digging the three trails. Trails built by ST that you may have already ridden include the Glassier Open Space trail in the Roaring Fork Mid-valley and the PBR & Hawkeye Trails in Fruita, Colo.   Here are other trails built by Singletrack Trails.

Phase Two = 10 more miles of singletrack

South Canyon Phase Two, located higher off the valley floor and extending to Horse Mountain in the west will provide longer, steeper climbs and descents and improved views of the Flat Tops and the Thompson Divide.  With the potential for an additional 10 or more miles of narrow, backcountry style trail, this future phase of trail development would create the types of trail challenge and experience many riders expect from a destination trail system.

Mines and Fires: The History of South Canyon

In addition to providing the opportunity to improve recreation in the area, the new trails will also become a platform to tell the story of the history of South Canyon.  A coal mining community in the late 1800’s, South Canyon had a significant impact on the regional economy.

An underground coal seam fire has been burning since at least 1906 when it is mentioned in a USGS report. The fire actually consists of two separate fires, east and west, located on either side of South Canyon Creek and separated by mine workings which are now flooded.

The fires on both sides of the canyon continue to burn underground to this day, with the smoke occasionally visible on the horizon.

South Canyon Now

Currently the canyon is the site of the City’s landfill and a large regional shooting range.  The new mountain bike trail routes are designed to minimize impact with the landfill and shooting range so riders should expect sweeping views of mountains, not trash and targets.

The Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association has worked closely with the City of Glenwood Springs to make this project possible.  Major funding for Phase 1 of this project has been secured from City of Glenwood Springs, Garfield County, Town of New Castle, Alpine Bank, and a significant grant from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW)’s State Trails Grant program.