sunnyside trail

Five of the Best ‘Earned’ Descents in the Roaring Fork Valley

If you asked five mountain bikers “What makes mountain biking great?” you might get five very different answers.  One thing we can all agree on, everyone loves a fun descent! Whether it’s the wind in your helmet, the bugs in your teeth, the swooping turns, big jumps, sketchy technical sections, or mind-blowing vistas, it’s the rush you get when going down… that makes the climb up so worth all the effort.

We’ve compiled a short (and certainly debatable) list of some of the best descents in the Roaring Fork Valley.  All of these descents have one thing in common; none of them are lift-serviced. You’ll definitely have to earn these turns!  Every trail has a unique history, so in addition to some basic trail beta, we’ll include some background on the people that made the trail possible.  We welcome your feedback and comments!

Boy Scout Trail – Glenwood Springs – If you like sweeping views and fast technical descents, the Scout Trail should definitely be on your list.  Usually ridden by starting with Forest Hollow, Boy Scout Trail has fast flowy sections interspersed with some steep rocky sections, including a few harrowing switchbacks and some true exposure that will make sure you are always paying attention.  This ride can be enjoyed as both a shuttle from the top, or a big loop from town.

Of all the descents listed here, the Boy Scout Trail may be one of the oldest and may have the most unique history.  One story dates back hundreds of year, with the Ute Indians route to the sacred Yampah Springs.  Early Glenwood settlers led tourists up the trail to view the city below, and there was even a stone observatory that burned to the ground in the early 1900s.  At some point some decades ago, a local boy scout troop further improved the trail.  We’re not sure when two wheeled riders first enjoyed this classic.  Are you a long time local with some stories to tell on this one?

Father of Ginormous – Carbondale – This downhill specific trail is one of three sizeable descents at Prince Creek in addition to Skull Bucket and Buckhorn. After a long climb up Road 8320, you reach a saddle where you are rewarded with views across Crystal River, Prince Creek, and Roaring Fork Valleys. Definitely read the MTB Project listing as the trail can be a little hard to find on your first time out. Once you find it, just point the bike down because it’s a fast and flowy smilefest to the bottom. Huge roll overs, giant wall rides, and blazing banked turns are aplenty. There are even a few steep drops to keep things interesting.

The earliest roots (routes?) of mountain biking at Prince Creek stem from social trails that evolved over many years, some of them were first cow trails, some were moto tracks, and some were cut into the dirt with skill and purpose in mind. During the BLM’s Resource Management Plan which was completed in 2015, RFMBA helped play a critical role in this area’s trails becoming adopted as part of the official travel route system.  The biggest win came when this area, known as the Crown, was designated as a Special Recreation Management Area with an emphasis on mountain bike experiences.   The official trail status ensures that this type of trail experience can be preserved by the BLM, and even improved in the future.  Please note, this trail is closed seasonally to bikes, Dec. 1st thru April  15th.

Seven Star – Snowmass Village – This is the newest trail on the list, completed in the fall of 2016. Although it’s north of Brush Creek Rd., it’s actually part of the Sky Mountain Park trail system and connects to and essentially extends the classic Rim Trail in Snowmass. Nothing steep or technical here, just good ole’ (new?) fashioned flowy downhill fun with a few small hits and berms to add to the fun. We’re fortunate to have this trail because of the combined efforts and funding of Pitkin County Open Space & Trails, Town of Snowmass Village, and RFMBA. The trail was built by Tony Boone Trails with ongoing management provided by PCOST.  Only have time for a quick ride?  Start at the Snowmass Rec. Center (aka Rodeo Lot, aka Town Park), ride up the North Rim Trail, and zip down Seven Star back to where you started.  This trail is closed seasonally for wildlife, Dec. 1st thru May  15th.

Deadline – Snowmass – Like Father of Ginormous, Deadline trail is downhill only and for very good reason. Truly a boost master’s delight this trail is ripe with berms, big hits, and table tops, all of which are easily rolled over at slower speeds.  PCOST and TOSV funded this trail project that was built by Progressive Trail Design in 2014.   Find this trail at the top of the Viewline Trail or as part of a larger Skyline Ridge Trail tour.   Looking for a double hitter from this list?   Ride the North Rim / Seven Star loop first before finishing up with a Viewline / Deadline loop.   You’ll be back at Town Park (aka Rodeo Lot) before too long, fully satiated.  This trail is closed seasonally for wildlife, Dec. 1st thru May  15th.

Sunnyside – Aspen – This classic Hunter Creek descent is the longest on the list at 5.5 miles, and traces its origins to not only mountain biking’s earliest days in Aspen, some 30+ years ago… but likely many decades prior, and at least for some segments, possibly even back to the historic mining era of the late 1880’s.  Arguably the most technical descent on the list (at key moments & sections rather than throughout), this doesn’t have any of the features of some of the more modern descents (jumps, berms). However it makes up for that with some steep ‘shark fin’ rocky sections, and mind blowing views of all four local ski mountains and the majestic Elk Mountains that tower behind them. This is a great trail to hit in the fall as it passes through dense aspen groves that are bursting with color. The trail has been maintained over time by the Aspen Cycling Club with lots of help from the Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers. RFMBA worked with the WRNF during 2016 to reroute a short section of doubletrack to make the trail 100% singletrack.  This small project was approved as part of the Smuggler Mountain – Hunter Creek Collaborative Plan, and opens up opportunities for bigger projects like the Hummingbird Extension (a great climb that accesses Sunnyside) that will be built during 2017.  Keep in mind that parts of the Hunter Creek Valley will be wet and snow covered until early June.