Hit Eagle County’s trails this spring
June 4, 2014
Spring has arrived and on trails everywhere, there's the sound of birds chirping, water flowing, trail shoes pounding and knobby tires rolling.
That's right — it's time to take to the trails, the Vail Valley's warm-weather equivalent of its famed ski runs.
So get the hose ready (because there might be some mud), and take a look at what local residents are saying in celebration of trail time.
“One of the joys of spring hiking that is really going to be enhanced this year is seeing waterfalls and creeks.”
Mary Ellen Gilliland
Author of the “The Vail Hiker”
For hiking, biking and running, the U.S. Forest Service reminds people to observe spring closures that stretch into June and July on certain trails for elk calving. Plus, many shaded or high-altitude trails are still too muddy, and damaging trails when they're too wet is just plain bad form.
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"What people need to remember is that elk have endured a long winter with limited food and are at a critical time when they are giving birth in the few areas that are warmer and have less snow for them to deal with," said Forest Service Information Assistant Corey Myers. "It just so happens that people also want to start hiking and biking in these drier areas in the spring, which creates conflict."
As of mid-May, people can find dry dirt in Eagle, which opened all its trails mid-April. The town also celebrated the addition of a brand new trail, Haymaker, which features banked turns, smooth riding, zippy descents and rolling climbs.
Riders are also taking to the newly rerouted Pool and Ice Rink Trail. Once sandy and washed out, the trail now has taken on a new life, town officials said.
"We are adding new trails but also improving the trails that we have to make them more sustainable," said Eagle Mayor Yuri Kostick, adding that the town's smooth, flowing singletrack is perfect for early season riding.
"Not everyone realizes this, but we also have an extensive network with 100-plus miles of trails which can be ridden right from town. With this much trail, 30-40 mile rides can be linked up for big days. In addition, we have close, in-town loops which make for sweet lunch rides or quick getaways anytime of day," he said.
Upvalley, Berry Creek in Edwards and the Avon-Singletree Connector are ready to run, ride and hike.
If you prefer to slow down and enjoy the scenery, spring hiking is expected to be good this year, said Mary Ellen Gilliland, author of the "The Vail Hiker."
"One of the joys of spring hiking that is really going to be enhanced this year is seeing waterfalls and creeks," she said. "You'll see the water is going to be splashing and rolling from all the runoff, adding an exciting dimension to the hike."
Of course, the abundance of snow means that most of the hikes going to higher alpine lakes aren't ready for foot traffic, but Gilliland recommends a few lower altitude options.
East Lake Creek in Edwards should be mostly dry and offer glimpses of the first wildflowers of the season. Gore Creek Trail in Vail won't be dry all the way to the top, but it's worth the trouble to head up part of the way to enjoy the rollicking stream alongside the trail, Gilliland said.
The golden pick
Of course, trails don't build themselves, and several local groups have big plans for trail additions and improvements in the future. The Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association hopes to complete the Saddleridge trail this summer, a singletrack leading from Wildridge to the Avon-Singletree Connector.
The VVMBA's John McDade said bigger plans might be in the works if the town of Avon offers its support for the project. In mid-May, the Avon Town Council will decide whether or not to give funds to help build Saddleridge and an all-levels "family flow" trail. The extra funds would also allow the group to hire a trail building company (the same that built Eagle's Haymaker) to complete Saddleridge.
"Town of Avon seems to be very supportive of this," said McDade, who has spent several years along with a few other dedicated riders advocating for the local trail system. "They see the growing cyclist industry, and we are a winter outdoor recreation destination, so why shouldn't we participate in the summer recreation industry, too?"
You can help construct these new trails and maintain existing ones. In fact, the Vail Rec District is recruiting community trail users — everyone from hikers to mountain bikers to trail runners — to pitch in. They'll be offering the Golden Pick, an award previously given to local mountain bike teams that did trail work, to the individual or group that contributes the most throughout the season. Everyone who participates will be in the running for free giveaways and an end-of-the-year celebration dinner.
"Mountain bikers make up such a small portion of trail users. We want to make this a valley-wide community effort," said the VRD's Steve Croucher. "We have so many users who aren't connected in this valley. It's trail runners, dirt bikers or even the business owners who benefit from the biking, hiking and running that brings people to the community."
Look for the VRD's trail spotlight and opportunities to sign up for trail workdays at town series mountain bike and trail running races.
For VVMBA trail work days, check out the group's Facebook page. If you want to grab a shovel farther downvalley, then see the Hardscrabble Trails Coalition website for work dates in Eagle.
If it's any motivation to hit the dirt, there are a number of ongoing or upcoming events that bring together trail enthusiasts of all kinds.
Saturday and Sunday, the Eagle Outside Festival will return with a bigger-than-ever bike expo, featuring 40 bike companies in town with their latest bikes and gear for attendees to demo. In addition, there's the Firebird, a cross-country mountain bike race that takes riders through some of Eagle's best spring terrain.
Don't forget the festival's new LoFi Chainless Downhill race, a family-friendly 5K run/walk, Mother of a Half half marathon and a Strava challenge. For more information or to sign up for events, see http://www.eagleoutsidefestival.com.
Mountain bikers can also get geared up for the Vail Rec District's town series, which gets underway on Wednesday with a new race, Battle at Bellyache. Warm up for the series at one of the rec district's Wednesday evening short track races.
Trail runners can get their feet dusty at the La Sportiva Trail Running Series, which kicks off Saturday with the Boneyard Boogie 11K. For more information on the bike and running series, see http://www.vail rec.com.
Spring ends and summer is ushered in (at least in terms of mountain sports) the first week of June with the GoPro Mountain Games, a Vail Mountain extravaganza of all things outdoor-sports related. Check out mountain bike races, mud runs, trail foot races and more at http://www.mountain games.com/summer.
Vail Daily Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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