Posted August 23, 2018
Bike culture in Carbondale, Colorado is thriving thanks to all the outstanding biking opportunities around town. There are plenty of paved trails for leisure riding, invigorating single track trails for mountain biking and long stretches of scenic country road with little traffic for all the road bikers and gravel grinders out there.
Many of the trails and roads around Carbondale follow creeks and rivers, making for small elevation changes and magnificent views. Plus, there is no shortage of great pit stops all over Carbondale and the Roaring Fork Valley.
Whether you are a casual rider or an expert, Carbondale has it all. In this definitive guide to Carbondale, Colorado biking, we are going to share some great rides based on the type of biking you like to do. We will follow that up with helpful tips like best pit stops, what to bring, when to ride, etc.
Away we go.
Where to Ride
Here are the local favorites for mountain bikers, cyclists, and those looks for a leisure ride.
Mountain Bike Rides
Prince Creek (All Skill Levels)
The extensive Prince Creek trail system provides miles of thrilling riding for mountain bikers of all skill levels. From giant berms to stunning views and fun features, Prince Creek has a bit of everything.
To get there take the Crystal Valley Trail toward Mount Sopris along Highway 133 until you hit Prince Creek Road. Ride up Prince Creek Road past the parking lot where you will see the trails begin on your left.
We recommend downloading and using the MTB Project App so you don’t get lost on the complex network of trails once you’re there. Test your skills on the exhilarating Monte Carlo car ride.
Red Hill (Intermediate)
Red Hill is a go-to for intermediate and advanced riders, primarily due to the technical nature of the arduous ascent. Not many can complete it without having to stop a few times. However, those that make it to the top are rewarded with an awe-inspiring view of Carbondale and Mount Sopris, along with great riding on all the trails up top.
To get to Red Hill, take Highway 133 east out of town toward Highway 82. Cross Highway 82 at the intersection and ride past the parking lot until you hit the trailhead on the left-hand side of the road.
Hay Park (Intermediate)
Those looking for a mountain biking experience with some high-alpine views are sure to enjoy the Hay Park trail. The start is a bit tricky with some loose rocks and challenging uphill, but once you get above it the singletrack improves along with the views.
To get to the trailhead, head out of Carbondale on Highway 133 and take a left of Prince Creek Road. Follow the road as it turns to gravel and keep heading toward mount Sopris until you arrive at the Dinkle Lake parking lot. The beginning of the trail is across the road.
Get more information about mountain biking around Carbondale.
Road Bike Rides
Missouri Heights (Intermediate)
Missouri Heights is a sprawling network of roads on top of the plateau that sits to the East of Carbondale. The views of Mount Sopris and the surrounding Elk Mountains are spectacular from on top of it. There is also very little traffic which makes riding in Missouri Heights a rather relaxing experience.
To get up to Missouri Heights, take the Rio Grande Trail east of town. Jump from the trail onto Catherine Store Road where the road crosses the Roaring Fork River and follow it all the way up into Missouri Heights. Stay on Catherine Store until you are ready to head back to town or connect with Fender Road and ride all the way across Missouri Heights before heading back to Carbondale.
County Road 108 (Intermediate)
A local favorite for those looking for a bit of an uphill challenge, this road has light traffic and some of the best views of Sopris in all of Carbondale. There’s a short steep climb at the very beginning of the ride which levels off a bit as you pass through Crystal River Ranch. Turn around where the pavement ends or if you have a gravel bike keep on exploring.
To get there, take Main Street west through the roundabout on Highway 133. It will turn into County Road 106 just after passing Ace Hardware. You don’t have to worry about making another turn for the rest of the ride. When you are ready to turn it around, take the same road all the way back to town.
Cattle Creek Road (All Skill Levels)
Cattle Creek Road is well regarded in Carbondale for its light traffic, scenic setting, and moderate climbs.
To access Cattle Creek Road, take the Rio Grande trail west out of Carbondale toward Glenwood Springs and ride it until you get to Cattle Creek. Pass through the gate in the fence and Cross Highway 82 to gain access to Cattle Creek Road. Ride the road until it connects with Catherine Store Road, which will give you access to more riding in Missouri Heights or take you back to the Rio Grande trail and Carbondale.
Get more information about cycling around Carbondale.
Leisure and Family Rides
Rio Grande Trail West of Carbondale (All Skill Levels)
Ride the historic Rio Grande Trail west out of Carbondale. You can take it as far as Glenwood Springs if you desire. The paved trail parallels Highway 82 for the majority of the ride and offers riders a fairly flat ride with wide open views of the Roaring Fork Valley, Red Hill and Mount Sopris.
Rio Grande Trail East of Carbondale (All Skill Levels)
After the Rio Grande Trail cuts through Carbondale, it meanders east toward Basalt along the Roaring Fork River. Surrounded by vegetation and great river views, this portion of the trail passes through miles of open space and ranchland. Turkey, deer, black bears and other animals are regularly spotted on this section of the trail.
Ride it upvalley to Willits and Basalt or all the way up to Aspen if you are feeling ambitious. The great news is the ride back to Carbondale is all downhill.
Crystal Valley Trail (All Skill Levels)
Pick up the paved Crystal Valley Trail anywhere in Carbondale along Highway 133. Ride it south through town and out into the countryside along the Crystal River while taking in the astonishing views of Mount Sopris.
The easy uphill ride through the Crystal River Valley takes you all the way out the KOA campground where the paved trail ends. Enjoy a downhill ride all the way back to Carbondale.
Must See Views When Biking in Carbondale
We recommend you keep your eyes on the trail, but it might be hard with these amazing views.
Mount Sopris & Carbondale from Mushroom Rock on Red Hill
The most iconic view in all of Carbondale is the view from Mushroom Rock on top of Red Hill. It is not to be missed if you are biking in the area. After experiencing the view, enjoy the exhilarating downhill ride all the way back to town.
Elk Mountains from Anywhere in Missouri Heights
If you take your road bike out in Missouri Heights, you will be able to see one of the best views of the Elk Mountains in the entire Roaring Fork Valley from Fender Road. Stop for a minute and breathe it in.
Mount Sopris from the Crystal Valley and Rio Grande Trails
Locals alike love the view of Mount Sopris from all over Carbondale. Two places where the view is at its best is just east of Carbondale on the Rio Grande Trail and south of Carbondale on the Crystal Valley Trail.
Biking Pit Stops Not to Miss in Carbondale
Need a bite to eat after your Carbondale bike ride? Carbondale is home to great dining spots and has been recognized as a culinary hotspot.
Carbondale restaurants span the gamut of tastes. You’ll find traditional American cuisine, Mexican entrees, Italian dishes, as well as Chinese, Japanese, and Thai fare. There’s also two breweries, several sumptuous sandwich shops, and some of the best pizza parlors around. Here are our favorite Carbondale restaurants.
Many of our local eateries also buy local from nearby ranches and farms. The burger you order comes from local beef raised in the valley by local ranching families, and the salad was grown here, possibly watered by the Roaring Fork River. Eating local in Carbondale goes so much further, supporting businesses and families in this area.
What to Bring When Biking Around Carbondale
There are a handful of essentials you never want to leave home without when going on a bike ride around Carbondale.
Helmet, Sunglasses, and Sunscreen
Safety first! Riding without a helmet is EXTREMELY dangerous. Don’t leave home without one and make sure to borrow one if you are renting a bike. Sunglasses will help protect your eyes from insects, dirt and debris. A bit of sunscreen never hurts when riding during the middle of the day. Although we love farmers in Carbondale, farmer tans are another story.
Make sure you bring enough water for your ride and always anticipate you might need more than you expect.
Weather can turn in an instant in mountains surrounding Carbondale. Bring a light rain jacket if you are going out for a long ride and there is a chance of rain.
Nothing spoils a great day of riding faster than bonking (running out of energy) in the middle of it. Bring some energy bars or snacks with you and eat them along the way. Independence Run and Hike has a great selection.
ID & Credit Card
It’s a good idea to bring an ID and a credit card with you when riding. The ID will come in handy if you get in a bad wreck and the credit card will if you need to make a pit stop. Both will come in handy if you need to grab a post-ride beer.
Flat Kit & Light
Bring a flat kit compatible with your tires and a light if you are riding late in the day. Both will help prevent you from having to spend a night out in the woods.
When to Ride in Carbondale
Carbondale can get a bit toasty in the middle of the summer with highs reaching into the 90s. Given that mid-summer is the most popular time of year for biking around Carbondale, we recommend you start your ride early or push it to the end of the day when temps are a bit cooler.
With that being said, if you aren’t riding in the spring and fall, you are missing out on two of the most scenic times of year in the Roaring Fork Valley. The great thing about both these seasons is that you can ride during almost any time of day and be comfortable if properly dressed.
Where to Rent a Bike in Carbondale
Call Aloha Mountain Cyclery or Basalt Bike & Ski’s Carbondale store to inquire about renting a bike. Aloha offers mountain bike and leisure bike rentals, and Basalt bike and ski offers both of those plus road bike rentals.
Where to Get Your Bike Fixed in Carbondale
As luck would have it Aloha Mountain Cyclery and Basalt Bike & Ski’s Carbondale store can both fix almost any issues your bike is having. Call ahead or just pop in to see if they can help.
If you need a full tune, it can sometimes take a couple weeks early in the spring when everyone is itching to ride. Take advantage of off-season discounts during the winter to get your bike ready for spring riding.
If your budget is tight, the most affordable option for fixing up your bike in Carbondale is The Way of Compassion Bike Project. Located in the Third Street Center, you can bring your bike in on certain days and they will provide you the tools you need to fix your bike and give you guided instruction on how to correct any issues it might have.
There it is, the definitive guide to Carbondale, Colorado biking. If you still have questions, head into a bike shop or stop a friendly Carbondale local riding their bike and ask them for some help.