Hiking in Aspen
Summer hiking in Aspen be the second most poplar form of outdoor recreation here second only to downhill, Alpine skiing. The reasons for this are many, hiking is social, you can go with as many friends as you like, it is easily accessible to most everyone, is provides great exercise and is a very harmonious way to enjoy nature. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and you can hit miles of trails within minutes from anywhere in Aspen. Feeling the need for solitude head out by yourself and get lost in nature and forget the world for a while, this is another reason hiking is so popular, you don’t need any special equipment or require the participation of someone else if you don’t want.
The after work favorite for Aspen Locals is “Smuggler” a great 700 foot vertical gain power hike right out of downtown that give a good quick workout with impressive views of Aspen the entire time. At the top of the Smuggler hike you will find the observation deck, a great place to stop and take it all in. From here you can branch out on several trails, some going up much higher, all the way to the Warren Lakes, a huge peat bog in the high alpine, and on to Benedict Huts. Or you can head over to the Hunter Creek Valley and drop into a historic local area complete with cabins from times gone past.
Another popular hike right out of town is the Ute Trail on Ute Ave near The Aspen Club and Spa. A steady uphill, mile long aerobic workout with switchbacks, 0.9 miles and 1,000 vertical feet to a rock outcropping. The view of Aspen from the rock outcropping is spectacular. From here continue on to the top of Aspen Mountain and ride the Gondola back down or just be happy you made it and head back to the Sky Bar for a well deserved beverage by the pool. This trail faces east so it is a great option when it is hot in the afternoon as it gets great shade.
Then if you really are looking to push yourself on your afternoon hike the Sunnyside trail on McClain flats may be the way to go. It faces south so you can hike this trail early and late in the season, can be a bit hot midsummer. The trail contains a series of switchbacks through sagebrush and scrub oak and crosses over several of the water diversions coming out of the Roaring Fork. Most hikers gun for “The Radio Tower” which is one of several radio towers utilized by the Aspen Airport, but if you want to make and adventure of it the trail finally joins with the Hunter Creek Trail in the Hunter Creek Valley via access through the 4 Corners area. As there are many spurs that can lead to one getting lost, a topographical map is recommended.
Looking for a leisurely stroll from town there are three options, the Rio Grande trail which is paved so can be roller bladed as well, runs along the Roaring Fork River and is very peaceful. The East Aspen trail which heads out the the Nortstar Nature Preserve, and the ABC trail which is a paved trail that runs to the Airport Business Center.
Looking to get out and away from things well there are many options, too many to cover here but these are a few of our favorites. Up the Castle Creek Valley you have American Lake, Cathedral Lake and Conundrum Valley. Conundrum ends at a natural Hot Springs is at the end of a gently rising 8.8 miles. Camping around the Hot Springs is available. If continuing up Triangle Pass, you can connect with the East Maroon and Copper Passes, or continue approximately 10 miles further to Gothic at Crested Butte. American Lake trail rises steeply and then follows a series of switchbacks for the first 1 1/2 miles. Then the trail levels off with gentle rises until you reach the lake at 3.2 miles. The lake is in high alpine environment and something to be seen, bring a layer it can be cold up there. Cathedral Lake trail climbs steadily and then reaches a series of switchbacks followed by a marked fork. Take the left fork to Cathedral Lake for a total hike of 3.2 miles. Cathedral Lake is very scenic with fair fishing. All of these trails are in the high country and during the summer, it is advisable to start early and descend by Noon, as lightning storms are likely to occur in the afternoon hours.
The Maroon Bells area offers several popular trails, everything from easy stroll around the lake to hikes that go all the way to Crested Butte. Bucksin Pass and Willow Lake Trails are two difficult hikes that have amazing views of The Bells and take you out towards Snowmass. Strong hikers can make it all the way to Snowmass in a day hike.
Another major area of hiking trails in the area are up Independence Pass. For something easy with the family check out The Grottos where there is a waterfall, some interesting rock formations, an ice cave, and numerous short trails. For hikers looking for a full day option you should look into the Lost Man Trail and Grizzly Lake. Grizzly Peak has a legendary ski couloir that makes for a great spring ski descent.
If you need to get outfitted for your next big hike check out the Ute Mountaineer. Owned by a long time Aspen resident, and staffed by a great team of hard core locals that are out in the mountains here every day they will have a complete selection of hiking shoes, hiking poles, hydration packs, rain gear, power bars and everything else you need to get out there and enjoy the mountains.