Get on the Road: Basalt Cycling and Running


Cycling and Running Local Roads and Trails

Just why is the road cycling so good around Basalt? Thank the 19th-century railroads that literally raced to serve the silver mines in Aspen.

Pavement has replaced steel rails on the Denver and Rio Grande Western corridor between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, but the 42-mile right of way — now known as the Rio Grande Trail — is dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists. From Basalt, riders often use the auto-free pathway as the spine of their journey and branch off for food, rest or additional cycling mileage. From Basalt, cyclists can head either upvalley or downvalley, and both directions offer frequent views and crossings over the Roaring Fork River. 

One popular option is to leave the valley floor on El Jebel Road or Catherine Store Road and pedal uphill into Missouri Heights, where rural roads and panoramic views challenge the legs and excite the eyes. 

The Rio Grande is great for runners too, and the frequent access points make it easy to choose the right mileage and configuration. There are two nearby trailheads — one at Basalt High School and another at Hooks Lane off Willits Road.

Another popular running destination is Crown Mountain Park, where a one-mile paved path encircles an array of playing fields, and runners can peel off to more primitive trails if they choose. 

The midvalley’s other premier cycling route — also on a former railroad grade — begins in downtown Basalt. The first 12 miles of Frying Pan Road were built on the old Colorado Midland route.

“You have the river on your right and mountains on both sides,” said Joel Mischke of Basalt Bike and Ski. “It’s a gentle, 2-3 percent gradient, and if you want to push yourself you have about a four-mile climb starting at the base of Ruedi Reservoir.”

Intrepid cyclists ride the 32-mile road to the end of the pavement and back, but the towering cliffs of the Seven Castles will dazzle even those who take a 10-mile round trip. 

by Bob Ward

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