This bike ride is a "must do" for anyone showing up in the Aspen, CO area, with or without bikes. You can easily rent bikes, with shuttles etc. if you don't have your own. We did this trail a few weeks ago. Here's what we did:
We got a spot for our Scamp
in the Gateway RV Park in Carbondale. There is an amazing KOA campground close by, but we went to Gateway RV Park because it is located right on the Rio Grande Trail. The Rio Grande Trail is a "Rails to Trails" trail that starts in Aspen and goes for 33 miles to Carbondale, then on another 10 or so miles to Glenwood Springs. Here's the good part. The whole trail is mostly downhill from Aspen to Glenwood.
Aside from being a beautiful trail, you hardly ever have to peddle! No braking or peddling for the most part. Just coast along and enjoy the ride. Any peddling that you do is easy. There are NO uphill grinds, unless you divert into Basalt for a snack or bathroom. We won't be doing that again. It wasn't really that hard to get back up to the trail. We were just spoiled and were resenting having to pedal uphill!
So, after getting settled in our campground we went early the next morning to the VelociRFTA Bus Rapid Transit
station, which is less than a mile bike ride on the bike trail from the campground. The following link has the bus schedule: VelociRFTA - BRT | Roaring Fork Transportation Authority
RFTA has other bus routes, but this is the best one to get you and your bikes to Aspen. We got on the bus in Carbondale and rode to the end of the line, Rubey Park, and got off there. The trail head is very close. We were expecting to have to wait or get in line to put our bikes on the front of the bus, but we were the only ones there with bikes. Most everyone else on the bus live in Carbondale and work in Aspen, so they leave their bikes at the bus station. Some buses can carry 4 bikes and some can carry 2. The buses run every few minutes, so getting aboard was easy. Also, there was no pressure from the bus driver to load up the bikes and get going. He asked if we needed help and then got out and helped get us loaded. On the bus ride up to Aspen we kept thinking, ". . . and we are going to ride bikes back the other way?"
It seemed like a long bus ride! Once we were on our bikes in Aspen, we got directions to the trailhead and were on our way. The trail is beautiful, mostly paved but some very easy, packed gravel parts. I did it easily on my narrow tired road bike. The only hiccup for us on the trail was that a few miles of it were closed due to a recent siting of some mountain lion cubs. We diverted this area, following detour signs through some very nice local bike trails. We were soon back on the trail and rode on into Carbondale and back to the campground. We were going to ride the rest of the trail into Glenwood Springs the next day, but Aspen was calling, so we drove back up there and spent the day looking around. Plus, our behinds were a little sore from coasting 33 miles, making a visit to Aspen even more appealing. We will be doing the trail again soon, though.
A few of tips about doing this ride:
1. The bus is just a few bucks unless you are over 65, then it's free. The bike transport is $2 for everybody. If you were to show up with a 65 year old bike, I don't know what they would do. Free bike transport? Tell you to get off the bus? That was one of the things we wondered about as we rode up to Aspen.
2. There are no vault toilets or other facilities on the trail. You can get off the trail in a few areas if you need to, but there are no facilities on the trail.
2. The signs leading to the Gateway RV Park are limited. The one and only sign said "RV Park 1/2 mile", and then a few hundred yards away there was a road turning off the highway. You turn there, then
go 1/2 mile to the campground. My sister and her husband, who made the ride with us, followed their iPhone GPS and ended up on the other side of the river from the campground and almost got into an area that they couldn't turn around in. Google maps depicts the entrance to the park very well.