Pitkin County Open Space and Trails took the unusual step of plowing the lower Rio Grande Trail within the county Tuesday to expand outdoor recreational opportunities for the community.
The trail was plowed between Emma and Woody Creek. After four passes with a plow, about 85 percent of the trail is clear. Icy and snowy patches remain in some shaded areas – some are as long as 50 yards. Immediately above Woody Creek, conditions are spotty. The trail is open in stretches and covered with snow in others.
“Outdoor recreation is a great stress relief during this time of the community trying to adapt to social distancing and being home from work and school,” said Gary Tennenbaum, director of Open Space and Trails.
The upper Rio Grande Trail from Woody Creek to Aspen has not been plowed and Nordic skiing on the Rio may receive a boost in the form of fresh snowfall, which is in the forecast for later this week. Meanwhile, other areas of the Aspen-Snowmass Nordic System are still being groomed. Check www.aspennordic.com for trail conditions. A daily grooming report is also available at 970-429-2039 (ext. 4).
Nordic skiing at the privately owned Ashcroft Ski Touring, located south of Aspen on Castle Creek Road, is now free; trails there are being groomed. Spring Gulch Nordic Center outside of Carbondale reported late-season conditions last week and grooming of skate lanes only.
Early this week, Smuggler Mountain Road was dry to the point where plowing ceases, with snowy/slushy conditions from there to the platform and beyond. Traction devices are useful. Smuggler has been busy with hikers, according to the OST ranger crew. The public needs to practice “social distancing” (6 feet between individuals as recommended by Pitkin County Public Health) to help maintain a safe and healthy environment for everyone, even outside.
Other options for recreation include the paved Crystal Trail, which is dry and rideable, though it has not been swept yet. There is a short closure on the trail at Thomas Road, where a Crystal River streambank project is underway. The paved Emma Trail is also dry. Arbaney-Kittle outside of Basalt is drying up and best to hike in the morning when temperatures are warm.
The lower Hunter Creek Trail is muddy, as is the Prince Creek Trail outside of Carbondale, so please only ride Prince Creek when the trail is frozen or snow covered to avoid causing damage. Paved trails are generally the best option for walking, running and biking in the spring, though Prince Creek Road beyond the gate is reportedly snowy and offers spring season recreational opportunities.
The Owl Creek Trail is snow-covered between the Aspen airport and Snowmass Village. The East of Aspen Trail is also snow covered.
In the mid- and lower valley, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority reports the Rio Grande Trail between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs is dry and clean. The trail between Carbondale and the closure at Catherine Bridge is still holding spots of snow. RFTA has begun plowing that stretch. The Rio is dry between Rock Bottom Ranch and Emma, but needs to be swept, according to RFTA. The trail section between Catherine Bridge and Rock Bottom Ranch remains closed until April 30 at 5 p.m. to protect wildlife.
Other open space properties also remain closed for the protection of wildlife. The trails at Sky Mountain Park and Glassier Open Space are off-limits until May 16 and the public is urged to respect these closures.
The Brush Creek Trail remains closed until April 1; after that, it is still closed to dogs until May 16. The Perham Creek Trailhead will reopen April 1. The Rio Grande Trail is closed to dogs through April 30 in about a one-mile stretch of lower Snowmass Canyon (this dog closure area is marked with signs).
Dogs should be leashed in areas where they are allowed and where leashes are required. Please keep in mind that cow elk are pregnant in the spring and the presence of dogs and people creates stress for the animals.