Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Aspen Rio Grande Trail Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 5.56 km (3.45 miles), terrain is fairly flat (50 meter gain), but elevation is high: 2500 meters (8000 feet)!

For more running routes, see Route List

Warning: Make sure that you have had time to acclimatize yourself at this altitude before attempting a run. There is 25% less air at Aspen's altitude, and you will definitely feel it!

If you are visiting beautiful Aspen, there is one running/biking/walking trail that is by far the most popular with everyone: the Rio Grande Trail. The trail follows the old roadbed of the Rio Grande Railroad, and the trail heads northwest from Aspen all the way to Glenwood Springs, 40 miles away. There are no steep sections on this trail, so it is one of the few flat Aspen trails that you will find.

We will only do the short 2-mile section of the Rio Grande within Aspen, and return to the start by running directly through town.

The route starts in the northwest corner of Aspen, on N 8th Street at Meadows Road, on the west end of town. The Meadowlands Trail runs northwards here, parallel to Meadows Road. Head north on Meadowlands Trail, which will soon dead-end into the Rio Grande Trail.
Start of run at Meadowlands Trailhead
Castle Creek is off to the left side. You will be running past lots of beautiful homes on this run, and they begin right away: riverfront lots with beautiful gardens and patios.
Along Castle Creek
Aspen is absolutely beautiful: full of beautiful people going through beautiful streets surrounded by beautiful nature. It has the highest real-estate prices in the US, and many homes are as big as hotels, but are often only used for a few weeks each year. At the little Aspen airport, I counted about 40 private Learjets waiting to fly their overpaid owners back to their other homes.
A mansion along the Rio Grande Trail
You will pass the Aspen Institute on the right side, long famous for its humanistic leadership seminars, and the Aspen Music Festival School, which brings great musicians to town each year.

Soon you will cross the bridge over the Roaring Fork River and come to the Rio Grande trail, where you turn right.
The Rio Grande Trail in Aspen
You are now running southeastwards along the river. The trail is paved, with a narrow gravel track for joggers that sometimes detaches from the paved trail.

There is plenty of traffic here: lots of bicycles, runners, walkers and dog-walkers, so you'll have to share the road!
Flowers along the trail
You'll run by woods, meadows and expensive homes, and an occasional footbridge back to town.

After 2.3 km, you'll run over a wooden bridge spanning Hunter Creek, which plunges into Roaring Fork from the left side, and you'll pass a creekside trail to the left. The Hunter Creek Trail is a great hiking trail, but the footing is so stony that I don't recommend it for running. But make sure you take a hike along that wonderful trail while you're in town!
Hunter Creek bridge
Soon after Hunter Creek, the trail bridges the Roaring Fork itself. The trail splits here, but we'll take the left-hand trail that follows the Roaring Fork along the south side.

You will now enter a series of little parks lining the Roaring Fork.

After going by the art museum, you'll cross an old iron bridge. Turn left immediately past the bridge, and continue along the river. This is the John Denver Sanctuary, a rock garden with his song lyrics inscribed on some of the larger rocks.
In the John Denver Sanctuary
After leaving the sanctuary, the trail comes up to a street, Rio Grande Place. Stay on the trail as it turns left and continues for 200 meters to idyllic Herron Park, with its wide, flat stretch of river that invites families to wade in its waters.

This is the turnaround point for our run. You could just run back the same way that you came, or see a bit more of town by following the way described here.
Entering Herron Park
Run back to where the trail comes to Rio Grande Place, before the sanctuary, by turning left up to the "Rio Grande Recycle Center" sign. Now turn right and follow Rio Grande Place westwards past Rio Grande Park, with its football field.
Run straight up that driveway on the other side of Mill Street!
Cross Mill Street and continue straight ahead on the paved way. that leads between the red-brick building and the wooden one across the street. Now keep going on the dirt path that goes uphill between two houses. This will bring you to Hallam Street, a residential street with lots of old Victorian houses.
In the Hallam Street neighborhood
Now just run westwards on Hallam until you come to N 8th Street again, where you turn right and run the three blocks back to the start. Enjoy this beautiful neighborhood. I especially love the tiny creeks that run along several of the numbered streets, often lovingly planted with flowers and trees.
A cross-stream in Aspen

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