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If you're looking for spectacular scenery, you've hit the jackpot with the Crystal Valley Trail (also known as the Crystal River Trail). The paved pathway offers views of emerald green fields, blue snow-capped mountains and a roaring river. An adjacent soft-surface equestrian trail can also be found along most of its length.
The trail begins in Carbondale, in the heart of Colorado's Rocky Mountains, but is soon in the country, running beside the Crystal River. It ends at the BRB Bridge, adjacent to the BRB Crystal River Resort. From here, there are plans to extend the trail farther south as part of the larger 74-mile Carbondale to Crested Butte Trail, which has been prioritized as part of Governor Hickenlooper's Colorado the Beautiful trail initiative. That trail would run from Carbondale to Redstone, McClure Pass, and Kebler Pass on its way to Crested Butte.
From the trail's northern end, you can continue your adventure on the 42-mile Rio Grande Trail, which stretches from Glenwood Springs to Aspen.
From I-70, take CO 82 south. Turn right (south) onto CO 133. A half mile after turning onto CO 133, the trail will be on the left (east side). Parking is available on the street and at businesses along the trail.
One option is the public parking lot one block north of Main Street at the intersection of N. 4th Street and Colorado Avenue. From this parking lot, ride north on 4th Street to the Rio Grande Trail. Turn left on the trail and follow it northwest about 0.7 mile to SR 133 and the start of the Crystal Valley Trail.
Another option is the parking lot at Roaring Fork High School (2270 SR 133).
It's a nice enough trail if you happen to be in the area, but not a destination in itself. Most of the trail parallels a heavily used road, so one never escapes the traffic noise. An additional problem this summer (July, 2014)is the road construction in Carbondale, which has reduced the trail to five miles(starting from Roaring Fork High School.)
Nicely paved wide path. Certainly not a rail-to-trail; however, still a nice trail. From Carbondale it is a gradual climb to the end of the trail. Hard to beat the scenery. The mile markers maybe start at edge of town. We started near the intersection of the Rio Grande Trail and this trail, we had traveled a couple miles when the 1 mile marker appeared. The last marker we noted indicated 4.5 miles and then the end of the trail appeared. The trail ends just past the KOA campground. No marker to indicate the end of the trail but is pretty obvious that was the end. The end of the trail was about 7 miles from the intersection with the Rio Grande Trail. Bike traffic going out was light but on return more bikes were encountered.
In August of 2011, my wife and I wanted to ride the 42 mile Rio Grande Trail(RGT), which runs from Glenwood Springs to Aspen. We'd heard great things about that trail. What we hadn't heard about, was the Crystal River Trail(CRT), a delightful 7 mile run which intersects* with the Rio Grand Trail in Carbondale.
Trying to find a place to camp anywhere in the Roaring Fork Valley,home of the RGT, proved to be a nearly impossible task. Yes, there are Forest Service Campgrounds nearby, but nothing we could find near enough to the Rio Grande Trail. With a bit more research, we found out about the Crystal River Trail and a wonderful little campground at the beginning of the trail. It's called the BRB Crystal River Resort. The place offers cabin rentals, RV and tent camping, shower facilities, fishing, and great hosts.
From our campsite, we could hop on the Crystal River Trail, ride the 7 miles gradually DOWN to Carbondale, turn right to Aspen or left to Glenwood Springs, where the CRT intersects with the RGT. The CRT is surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery and passes through many scenic "old school" Colorado ranches on perfectly smooth pavement. We plan to make this a "regular" in our travels. What a great find!
* The CRT in Carbondale is a bit "unrefined" for a short distance and uses some surface streets before it intersects with the RGT. You have to pay attention, that's all.
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