- 3.0 Distance
- 6 Difficulty (1-10)
- 846 Total Ascent
- 10302 High Point
The Red Trail is a local favorite and is used both ways by hikers, trail runners, and bikers. When I first saw this trail, I was hiking the Colorado Trail with my dad and was blown away by the views to the North towards Dillon and the South towards Mount Guyot. A wooden bench has since been added near the trail junction on the Colorado Trail, and it’s evident that I am not the only one blown away by the views.
At 3 miles total distance with a high point of around 9870 feet, you will find yourself climbing 850 feet and descending 1390 feet to the Soda Creek Ranch below where you can connect with three possible trails or the Keystone Ranch road heading back to Dillon.
The Soda Creek Trail to the right Is the return section of the Dredge Boat Soda Creek Loop. The Hey Trail is also a part of the Dredge Boat Soda Creek Loop that will take you to the Blair witch Trail, which is also a common addition to this trail to add distance. The Soda Creek Trail will also take you to the Horseshoe Trail, the Hippo Trail, or back to Dillon on the West side of the Valley from the Homestead. Either way, you choose, there are incredible options in this area between the Dredge Boat and the Soda Creek Ranch to enjoy the trails.
From the Colorado trail junction, the Red trail cuts across the side of the mountain and has some pretty decent exposure. The expansive views at this end of the trail make it seem narrow as it works its way up and into the trees. Enjoy the views and the contrasting landscapes as the trail moves in and out of mountain undulations making this section of the trail truly remarkable.
Once in the trees, the views disappear, and the climbing continues for a short time until you start descending. The descending is flowy and fun as you work your way through densely forested sections and eventually to a switchback that brings you to the most technical part of the trail. Once you negotiate the switchback and the short but tricky descent leading out of it, you will encounter one more tech section within a few hundred yards that received a lot of work in 2019. The trail crew has built up rocks and dirt into a two-foot-wide section of trail about 15 feet long across a hike-a-bike that is usually wet all summer long. When the temps drop below freezing, you can expect a lot of ice here and an exciting crossing.
After this section, the trail will turn fast and flowy again. You will be able to see through the trees and have an idea how far you have descended to get here. Eventually, you will reach a creek crossing, which is one of three on the trail. After crossing the small creek, the trail turns left and descends to the right of the willows following the stream you just crossed. Watch for moose and give them lots of room if you see any. After the willows, the trees thin out or disappear altogether, and the trail turns to double track. The next water crossing is minimal and may not even have water in it. You will follow the double-track for a bit until you get to the most significant creek section of the trail.
If you continue on the double track through the willows, you will have about a 15 to 20 foot crossing depending on the season. The water will climb above your bottom bracket at the deepest parts, and your feet will get wet. There is an alternative to getting wet if you choose to take it, providing it is still available at the time of your visit. It’s a rather convenient social trail the works its way just above the crossing, which takes you to a part of the creek you can cross in a single step. When I discovered the bypass this year, I was amazed that the creek was so small, and the double-track section was so large. Look for yourself, if you dare.
Whichever you prefer, you have some options here, although most people will look for the social trail bypass. My fat tire bike is sketchy to ride through the largest part of this crossing at speed, as it gets buoyant in the beginning until the tires settle into the water. From the crossing, you are about a half-mile to the end of the trail. As the views open up, you will get a good look at one of the earliest homesteads in Summit County from the late 1880s. It is still used as a commercial venue today.
If you are considering climbing this trail from Soda Creek Ranch, you will be in the trees for most of the climbing and should not have too much trouble. There are a few steep sections on the trail that will require a bit more effort. One part is the climb next to the willows before you get to the last creek crossing before entering the trees. The second steep section is just before the switchback, which marks the last three-quarters of a mile to the Colorado Trail Junction. After the switchback, the climbing will get more comfortable until you enter the meadow. This meadow showcases the best views of the area!
Once you reach the Colorado trail, you can continue your climb if you so choose. This trail is Segment 6 of the Colorado Trail stretching from Kenosha Pass to Breckenridge and has a lot of foot traffic. Through-hikers can be found at any time of the day and should be given the right of way unless they get off the trail for you. From this point, the Colorado trail will climb near 1000 feet in 2.5 miles to the next trail junction. This unmarked trail to the left is the West Ridge Trail and will take you back down to Keystone by way of Keystone Gulch. As of right now, I have not ridden this part of the trail but plan to in the future. I have a feeling that this loop is best done starting from Keystone and riding up Keystone Gulch road 217 and hooking up with the West Ridge trail. The Colorado Trail in this area is some of the best mountain biking you will find in Summit County.
If you choose to descend the Colorado trail from this junction, you will have a quarter-mile descent until you start climbing again. Although the climbing will only be a half-mile in length, gaining around 200 feet, it will take you to some of the best single track descending in this area. This descent will be 2 miles of flowy singletrack descending 650 feet into horseshoe gulch. From here, you can take horseshoe gulch to the hey trail, or the Colorado Trail to the Blair Witch Trail, or continue to the Hippo Trail down to the Soda Creek trail. Whichever way you choose, you will be on some great trail.
The Red Trail is an excellent trail to add to your route from either direction. Its views near the top and its intersection with the Colorado trail make it one of the best trails in this area. It’s not too tricky and can be ridden by intermediate riders. If you are new to mountain biking, be prepared to walk some sections and take your time. If you are an experienced rider, you cannot go wrong with this trail or any of the trails that connect to it.