Hiking in the summer in Aspen may well be the most popular activity for locals and tourists alike, and for good reason. Hiking as a great way to get exercise, spend time with friends, take in the great outdoors and get that pool body ready for the Sky Bar. The Aspen and Roaring Fork Valley have hikes of every length and every difficulty, so whether you are from low altitude and not ready for to much elevation, just want to stretch your legs, or if you are looking to push yourself on something that covers some serious elevation and gets you “out there” there is a hike for you.
A couple of easier hikes would include the East Aspen trail, this is a chip and gravel trial wide enough for two to hike comfortably side by side. The trail is relatively flat and goes past the beautiful Northstar Preserve on the East Side of Aspen Mountain and town. Near the end it crosses a wetlands on an elevated wooden walkway. This is a great hike that is close to town and a good place to test your high altitude lungs.
A little off the beaten path is the Grottos, continue up Independence Pass past the East Aspen trail that was just discussed for 10 miles, turn right into the Grottos Day Use Area and park here. There is a smooth dirt 1 mile trail here that accesses the Grotto Ice Caves, these caves are amazing, the ice carves the stone in beautiful patterns and then the ice stays well into the summer once the snow above ground has melted, allowing hikers to climb down into the cave and explore the icy terrain. There is also a picnic area and restrooms making this a family friendly spot to spend a day in the mountains.
Just a mile before the Grottos Day Use area is the Weller Lake trail head. This is an easy hike with fishing at the lake. From the parking lot, the trail crosses a metal bridge across the Roaring Fork River. The trail follows some switchbacks to a very small bridge just before the lake.
Then of course there is the Rio Grande trail, this is mostly paved with a short section of packed gravel. The trial runs all the way from the Post Office in Aspen on Puppy Smith Road downvally to Glenwood Springs, so you can hop on it whenever you like. The trail is an old railway bed to it never get steep or hilly.
Also close to down town is the Hunter Creek Trail that goes into the Hunter Creek Valley, and is a popular recreation area with bikers, runners and people walking their dogs. It is popular for good reason as the valley is stunning and even has some old abandoned cabins from times gone past. Access the trail right near Hunter Longhouse just across the Rio Grande from downtown Aspen.
Smuggler Mountain Road is the go to after work hike for m any locals, it packs a great little work out in a short time. Find this trail on the South West edge of town, you can see the jeep road cutting up Smuggler Mountain from about anywhere. From the trailhead it goes up the road for a gain of about 700 feet. From here turn around or keep going into the Hunter Creek Valley, or on up higher to the Warren Lakes area, a beautiful high alpine pete bog.
If you found this one easy and want another great workout close to town with some of the best views of Aspen you will find anywhere try the Sunnyside trail. This is accessed via Cemetery Lane on the North West side of town, look for the pullout on the left just past the Roaring Fork. Cross the street and head up for a couple thousand feet with amazing views of Aspen, both the town and the mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass. You even have great views of the incredible Pyramid Peak. Most hikers will turn around at the radio tower, one of the signal towers for the Aspen Airport, but you can keep going all the way into Hunter Creek if you like.
If you wanting to get away from it all check out American and Cathedral lake trails up the Castle Creek Valley, both would classify as difficult with over 2,000 feet of elevation gain in a little over three miles. These trails both end at lakes in the remote high alpine environment.
Looking to really get in shape, well then head up the Ute Trail to the overlook, then keep going all the way to the top of Aspen Mountain for a gain of over 3,000 feet. Grab a burger at the Sundeck and then enjoy a free gondola ride down!
These are just a few of our favorites, there are many more options and for those who really want to go big you can of course hike the 14ers in the area, Pyramid, North and South Maroon, Castle and Capitol Peak. You may want to hire a guide from Aspen Expeditions if you are not familiar with this sort of adventure.
No matter what trail you choose, getting away from the computer, tv and phone and phone for a few hours, getting the heart rate up and being one with nature is always a great way to spend an afternoon.