New Coal Basin Ranch Community Trail System offers Recreation with a Focus on Restoration

Located on the site of the now defunct Mid-Continent Resources Coal Mine, which operated from 1956 to 1991, Coal Basin Ranch sits on 221 acres of private land 3.9 miles west of the town of Redstone, Colorado, and surrounded by national forest. The new trail system covers approximately five miles and is now open to the public, without usage fees, for mountain biking, hiking, and trail running.

Trails for All Ages

This new family-friendly trail system includes cross country single-track trails and flow trails designed for mountain bike skills progression. Novices can tackle beginner-friendly sections to improve their skills and confidence and continue to advance on the more difficult lines. The trails on the preserve offer scenic climbs along a mountain creek, through Douglas fir, spruce and aspen trees, mountain vistas, and trails that circumnavigate both a natural and a manmade pond. Constructed by Progressive Trail Design, the trail system also features jump lines, pump tracks around the ponds, and a Strider track for the littlest of mountain bikers.

Formerly the site of a large-scale coal mining operation, Coal Basin Ranch demonstrates the value of trails as a crucial component of land restoration in Redstone, Colorado, and beyond. During the 35 years it was in operation, the Mid-Continent mine produced more than 23 million tons of coking coal for U.S. steel mills. Over the years, some reclamation efforts have taken place, but the effects of the large-scale mining operation are still visible on the property today.

One of the longer trails in the new Coal Basin Ranch Community Trail System climbs to the “lamp house,” one of the old mine entrances, and features breathtaking views of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness to the east. As the trail makes the final descent back to the starting point, it cuts across a steep hillside, soft with coal-dust-laden soils. You may think it strange that a trail would intentionally cut through soils prone to erosion but building bench-cut trails in these areas is part of the restoration effort, helping to strategically guide erosion in the fragile terrain.

Thanks to Our Local Community

More than 1,000 trees have been planted, waterways restored, native grass seed spread, soils improved, and mining and other trash hauled out to establish the new trail system. Environmental Excavation was contracted to aid in the soils’ restoration, pond design, and construction, and the new manmade pond will also be used for irrigation to help establish new plantings. Thanks to volunteer work projects with the local Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association (RFMBA) and Marble Charter School, local community members have had a hand in the restoration of the land as well. Future volunteer opportunities will include restoration and trail building projects.

The long-term vision for Coal Basin Ranch is that it will become a valuable community resource helping to advance healthy landscapes and healthy lifestyles in the Crystal River Valley, providing locals and visitors alike with a beautiful and fun place to connect with nature through outdoor recreation. It will provide a location for local schools, mountain biking programs, and outdoor education programs to bike, run, and hike while learning about restoration, sustainably built trails, stewardship, and conservation.

Accessing the New Trails

The New Coal Basin Ranch Community Trail System is now open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. It is located at the end of Coal Creek Road, just 3.8 miles west of Redstone. Access to the trails is possible through an easement with Pitkin County. Trail descriptions can be found online at MTB Project and Pitkin Outside. Parking is available in the Coal Basin Ranch parking lot. For more information, visit the Coal Basin Ranch Facebook page.