“A taste of high country riding but close to civilization.
— Mark Eller
The trail quality is a mix of rocky roadbed and singletrack, and it's not spectacular. However, the scenery and mountain ambiance are positively first-rate. Babyheads and loose rock create a physically challenging initial climb, but once the upper singletrack is gained, the riding improves, and the views of Capital Peak in the upper meadow are amazing.
Reach the trailhead by driving south out of Carbondale on Hwy 133. Just outside of town, turn left onto Prince Creek Rd. After a few miles the road turns to dirt and climbs steadily until you reach a flat area and road intersection called the Crown. Turn right, and drive 2 bumpy miles to the parking area.
A large, fenced-in lot makes parking a breeze. Cross the road and start climbing immediately, passing a trail marker and kiosk. When the trail bends right you'll get a short breather before the physically challenging section of babyheads and loose rock begins.
Climbing on the lower trail section is more a test of fitness than bike handling. A 180-degree lefthander (on the way up) marks about halfway through the challenges. Keep grinding until you hit the cattle gate.
After the gate the trail smoothes out and narrows to pleasant singletrack, marred only by the cattle crossings where hooves have torn the earth apart.
About half a mile from the gate, you'll encounter the only trail intersection on the ride. Bear left for Hay Park, not right toward Thomas Lakes and Mount Sopris.
Cross small streams and ride along a river, through stands of aspens and pine. The trail flattens and you'll enter the lower meadow, crossing a small wooden bridge. Punch through a final climb, go through a cattle gate, and prepare your senses for the upper meadow.
The upper meadow area offers mind-blowing views of Capitol Peak and other mountains. Soak it in as this is the highlight of the ride. Descend out of the meadow, wind along several more miles of singletrack until you reach the road, then reverse the ride back to the parking lot.
History & Background
How long will mountain bikers be able to enjoy this ride? Hay Park has been proposed for inclusion in several Wilderness proposals. Stay tuned to the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association for updates.