Crystal River Pedestrian/bike Path
A pedestrian/bicycle path between Carbondale
and Crested Butte has been on the books since
2002. The first segments have now been started
at both ends. Planning for the next phase of the
Pitkin County part along the Crystal River has
not yet started.
History: In 2002, the West Elk Loop Scenic and Historic Byway Commission funded a study to determine feasibility and candidate routes for a pedestrian/bicycle path from Crested Butte to Carbondale. A contract for this study was awarded to Newland Project Resources, Inc. of Basalt and was completed in May, 2004. The purpose of the study was to explore and determine the feasible options for the design and construction of a non-motorized recreation trail to accompany the Byway. Several feasible alignments are presented in the study, but none was chosen as preferred. The trail will be located primarily in Pitkin and Gunnison Counties, with a small segment in Garfield County on a stretch immediately south of Carbondale
In 2006, Pitkin and Gunnison County Commissioners signed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) to build a continuous off-road bicycle-pedestrian path connecting Carbondale to Crested Butte.
Construction has already begun on both the Carbondale and Crested Butte ends. The first phase of the Pitkin County portion was completed in 2012, with a 5.3-mile segment along the east side of Highway 133 connecting Carbondale to the Seven Oaks Subdivision adjacent to the KOA campground. That segment was funded by Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, with support from Carbondale, Garfield County, CDOT and grants from the Colorado State Lottery fund. On the Crested Butte side, the trail has been completed to within about ½ mile of the summit of 10,007 foot Kebler Pass
The Next Phase. Pitkin and Gunnison Counties would each be responsible for the planning and construction of the trail in the respective county. The Pitkin County portion will start in Carbondale and go to the top of McClure pass, generally paralleling Hwy 133 over a total trail length of about 21 miles. CVEPA has long been supportive of this trail and we have focused our energies on the Pitkin County portion. A trail along the Crystal River would be a tremendous recreational benefit for both locals and visitors, would provide a safer bicycling and hiking route, and would strengthen the local economies without compromising the treasured rural character of the valley.
At the time of this writing, there has been no decision on where the next phase of the Pitkin County portion of the trail would be. There are two possible candidates; the first would be an extension of the existing trail that now ends at the KOA campground, and the other would be a segment starting at Redstone and going to the top of McClure Pass. No specific decision has been made regarding an alignment for either of these options. We believe that a trail can be sited for either segment without negatively interfering with wildlife or impinging on private property ownerships. A winter closure for part or all or part of this trail segment will be necessary to protect wildlife. Beyond the top of McClure pass, the path enters Gunnison County and would be its responsibility to complete.
The segment from Redstone to the top of McClure Pass would cover a distance of approximately 6-miles with a vertical rise of 1,700 feet. The route would generally parallel Highway 133 to Placita and likely follow the old McClure pass road which was abandoned in 1962, to top of the pass at an elevation of 8776 feet. Most of the vertical rise would be on the old McClure Pass road which is a popular winter and summer recreation route for locals. Residents in the Redstone area have expressed support for this being the next phase of the bike path.
In February 2015, Governor Hickenlooper’s office announced an initiative to identify the top priority recreation trails in the state. Over 200 trails were nominated and the Crystal River trail from Carbondale to Crested Butte was selected to be in the top 16. Being nominated a “16 for 2016 priority trail” does not guarantee any immediate funding for trail construction. It does however significantly improve the trail’s priority to receive federal, state and grant funding. Future plans and obligations for the ‘sweet 16’ are expected to released by the State in summer, 2016