Colorado 2008 trip pictures from the Rio Grande Trail.

The Rio Grande Trail is a 40 mile path that connects Glenwood Springs to Aspen.  It runs in the same valley as the Roaring Fork River and Colorado Route 82.  The valley is very scenic with mountains on both sides and is very colorful with the golden aspens and lots of flowering vegetation all along the trail.  Even though the trail covers the same route as Highway 82, it is usually far enough from the road so you don't hear or see any of the traffic.  The traffic on CO 82 was unbelievably heavy, with a constant stream of construction equipment presumably serving the major new development at the Snowmass ski area and the hundreds of new multi-million dollar homes in the Aspen valley.  What housing slowdown?  Not here!  Generally the trail follows the Rio Grande Railroad right-of-way, either along the old track bed or right over it.  Even though the total ascent is about 2000 feet, you rarely feel like you're climbing because the average grade is only 1 percent, and the maximum grade is mostly limited to 2 percent.  The steepest section is 8  miles long and rises about 600 feet with a very uniform grade of about 1.5 percent.  Actually the downhill ride was more strenuous because there was a 10 to 15 mph head wind that counteracted the 1 percent grade.

The trail is mostly newly paved, but unfortunately 6 miles are still unpaved, with a surface similar to the Chicago area Prairie Path.  The unpaved section is the most scenic with spectacular views of the river gorge and three of the Aspen ski areas - Ajax, Highlands and Snowmass.  I tried to bypass part of this section using adjoining roads - a big mistake as one section of road had a quarter mile stretch with a 15 percent grade!

Nice innovation - soft "center-posts":

The Roaring Fork River near Aspen:

Fishing the Roaring Fork River from a dory further down stream: