On opening day, May 29, Marek O’Farrell and Wyatt Bronson brave the cold water of Dutch Creek while riding Coal Basin Trail #1953, part of Coal Basin Ranch’s recommended singletrack loop. Photo by Jitka O’Farrell

Coal Basin Ranch opened for mountain biking on Saturday, May 28 for the property’s first full season. To get there, visitors drive up the winding Coal Basin Road for about four miles, following Coal Creek around steep hillsides of shale and sandstone before arriving at a parking lot and closure gate.

The area first opened to the public in mid-July of 2021. The 221-acre property, just west of Redstone, was formerly part of the Mid-Continent Coal & Coke Company, which operated from 1956 to 1991. Today’s parking lot and pump track sits where towering silos and a maze of conveyor belts once moved an estimated 22 million tons of coal from the area.

“Coal Basin Ranch was designed as a demonstration site, to show how recreation and restoration can come together to transform landscapes and promote healthy landscapes and healthy lifestyles,” said Coal Basin and Trails Senior Ranch Manager Trina Ortega. “It is a highly-impacted landscape from a previous industrial coal mine, and we are bringing back the integrity of the land while offering a new community recreational resource.”

The ranch is open from dawn to dusk in spring through fall, depending on conditions. Adjacent to the parking lot is a system of pump tracks, designed to progressively build bike-handling skills. An almost five mile loop starts from the parking area.

Ortega explained, “[the loop] takes you in the woods. So it’s shaded as you climb up, a nice gradual climb. It’s not super technical, though the creek crossings are very spicy right now. Then it gets a little steeper and you’re back out in the sun. On the descent, you have new-school mountain biking with berm turns, passing through gambel oak and then you drop into an aspen grove before hitting an optional advanced jump line.”

In the future, the ranch would like to add a few more trails, so riders can get more mileage in after making the long drive. There is also interest in creating a hikers-only trail. For hikers who want to explore the area now, but don’t want to share single-track with mountain bikers, Forest Service Road 307 can take them further up the basin. Dogs are allowed on-leash on the ranch, and are allowed off-leash on Forest Service Road 307.

Surrounded by U.S. Forest Service land, Coal Basin Ranch is owned by the Carbondale-based Catena Foundation. The property was previously owned by two members of the Walton family, but the land was transferred to the foundation in 2021.

In addition to building trails, which are made available to the public through an easement with Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, the ranch has been trying to restore the mining-impacted land. Ortega says they’ve planted more than 1,800 trees and shrubs and have spread native grass and wildflower seed. The restoration work is ongoing and the public can participate in the effort. On July 24, Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers is spearheading a work day, in collaboration with the ranch, Wilderness Workshop and Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association.

Ortega explained that the foundation hopes that the concurrent goals of restoration and recreation can be a resource for local schools, organizations and outdoor education programs that aim to teach stewardship and conservation.

While Coal Basin Ranch’s website is forthcoming, you can find more information and learn about future events on Instagram @coalbasinranchmtb or Facebook @Coal Basin Ranch Community Trail System. Visitors are advised that the ranch is in a remote location with no drinking water, trash bins or cell service.