Red Hill Loop
ElevationAscent: 1,139' 347 m
Descent: -1,137' -346 m
High: 6,987' 2,130 m
Low: 6,156' 1,876 m
GradeAvg Grade: 7% (4°)
Max Grade: 22% (12°)
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“Carbondale's go-to trail system is a high desert gem with unbeatable access.”— Jason Smith
On the front side, the main volume of traffic usually ascends Three Gulch & descends Blue Ribbon. If you want a steeper, more direct route with fewer bikers, consider going up Mushroom Rock and linking to the trails on the backside from there.
You'll get a short warm up as you head up the dirt road (Rte. 107) from the parking lot. It's about 1/4 mile up to the clearly marked trailhead with a map kiosk on the left side of the road.
You'll start out on Three Gulch Trail, climbing steadily and at times steeply on a mix of red sandstone and red clay dirt. Your heart rate will be on the up throughout this short-lived but righteous grind.
With your heart in your mouth, relax onto the smooth, mellow Blue Ribbon Trail, climbing very gently on the northeast aspect of Red Hill. After about 1/4 mile, bang a right on Skeeter's Ridge Trail. After ascending Three Gulch Trail, you'll find this section easy, though a few steeper switchbacks will get you working again. You'll be rewarded very quickly with incredible views out over the Roaring Fork River and Carbondale, all the way out to Mt. Sopris in the distance.
There are plenty of spots to hang out and enjoy the scenery once you reach the ridge. Just before you reach the highest point along the ridge, be looking left for a 180 degree turn to Roller Coaster Trail...or continue straight on the ridge just a short distance and you'll get to Mushroom Rock.
Roller Coaster is just that..something of a bike trail in a shallow gulley. It's a standard descent route for bikers but is very short & pleasant enough running terrain.
Next up, go straight / left on Faerie from the end of Roller Coaster. Or bail right on Blue Ribbon to head down the way you came. If you proceed, Faerie starts with a short continuation descending like Roller Coaster, but then levels out and climbs for a bit.
Look for a marked intersection with Bogus Trail, and you'll stay left to do the full Faerie Trail. Or, once again, you have the option to bail right to head back toward Blue Ribbon Trail.
If you continue on Faerie, the next stage is a notable descent for several hundred feet, followed by a moderate climb out. This is a great add-on loop if you want the mileage and some more vertical.
2/3 of they way up the climb, you'll see a signed juncture with Elk Traverse on the left. For a much longer run, head that way, or continue right. At the end of this loop, make a left on Bogus Trail. This seems counter-intuitive, but the trail bends back south shortly.
At the end of Bogus, make a left on Blue Ribbon. If you opt to continue the descent on Blue Ribbon, it is slightly steeper / more direct than Three Gulch, but either way gets you down to the bottom in short order.
Head back down 107 to the parking lot and you're done!
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Need to Know, Flora & Fauna, History & Background
Land Manager: BLM Colorado - Colorado River Valley Field Office