Hiking Guide

A hiker looking over the epic scenery near Aspen Snowmass

Hiking in the Aspen Snowmass area is world-renowned. Trails laden in wild flowers surrounded by the Elk Mountain range. Aspen groves. Tall, dense forests. High alpine lakes and small, hidden streams. Short day hikes and big backpacking trips. It’s all here to be discovered once you lace up your shoes and set out on a trail.

Both Snowmass and Aspen Mountain are open to hiking in summer time, offering nature-lovers the chance to climb the mountains that they love to ski in the winter. Or, better yet for some, skip the climb in the gondola. Beyond the resort, incredible hiking options abound in the adjacent National Forest areas.

Get to know these areas with our guide below, broken down by half-day or less, full-day (easy) and full-day (challenging)

Tips & Tricks 

Dogs

Dogs are welcome on most trails—and our gondolas too—but check leash laws for individual trails before embarking. Wildlife sightings, including moose and bear, are common in the area. 

Weather

The weather changes rapidly in high-country Colorado. Even if it’s sunny when you leave, it could be storming when you’re reaching the summit. Pack layers, warm clothes, and always pack a rain jacket. At the first sign of lightning—even miles away—seek shelter and lower ground.

Altitude

Remember you’re at high altitude. Sunscreen and water are your friends. Pay attention to any symptoms of altitude sickness, such as headaches.

Bikes on the Trail

Bikers and hikers share the trail. Be courteous to one another. 

Buttermilk & Aspen Highlands

You can hike on Buttermilk Ski Area and Aspen Highlands, too—but there won’t be a restaurant to greet you at the top. 

Just In Case ...

If you get into trouble on Snowmass, call 970-923-0531.

Hiking the Lost Forest at Snowmass

Snowmass Hiking Trails

With the Elk Camp Gondola running all summer, Snowmass is the perfect place for quick-and-easy hikes or full days out with the whole family. Many trails are accessible via the Elk Camp area, where you can grab a coffee at Elk Camp Restaurant before the stroll, and return for lunch filled with locally sourced ingredients when you are done. Consider starting your day with a leisurely hike and then spend the afternoon enjoying the many activities at the Lost Forest.

Other trails in the area are not accessed via lift and wrap around different parts of the mountain. And then many trails are not on the slopes at all but begin in the area and take you to new vistas or high alpine settings.

Snowmass Village Nature Trail

Length: 0.7 miles roundtrip
Elevation: Less than 100 feet
Trailhead: Snowmass Base Village


Extends through aspen forests where wild columbine—the Colorado state flower—can be seen.

Rabbit Run

Length: 0.7 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 122 feet
Trailhead: Elk Camp mid-mountain


Weaves in and out of the subalpine forest where sharp-eyed hikers can spot a variety of birds and forest-dwelling wildflowers.

Elk Camp Nature Trail

Length: 1 mile roundtrip
Elevation: Minimal
Trailhead: Elk Camp mid-mountain


A simple hike through the coniferous forests surrounding the Elk Camp area.

Sierra Club Loop

Length: 1.75 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 533 feet
Trailhead: Elk Camp mid-mountain


This convenient loop trail climbs into a subalpine ecosystem and then returns to the Elk Camp area. Can be combined with the Elk Camp Summit Trail.

Rim Trail

Length: 7.6 miles one way (although shorter segments can be enjoyed)
Elevation: 1,199 feet
Trailhead: Deerfield Dr., Snowmass Village

A more rigorous half-day hike can be enjoyed along this trail, which switchbacks up into the meadows above Snowmass Village to the north. Gorgeous views abound.

Tom Blake & Government Trail Loop

Length: 9.4 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 1,905 feet
Trailhead: Snowmass Base Village


Criss-crossing Snowmass and winding its way through mixed woodlands and grassy meadows, the Tom Blake and Government Trails offer a fun way to experience the resort in summer.
Hiking at Aspen Mountain

Aspen Mountain Hiking Trails

Rising right from the heart of downtown Aspen, Aspen Mountain could not be an easier destination for half-day hikers. Take the Silver Queen Gondola to the top, stock up on snacks at the Sundeck, then navigate to any of the trails that fan out from atop the mountain.

Aspen Mountain boasts some of the best views in Colorado from its peak but also from the Silver Queen Gondola alone. If you're looking for a more leisurely day but still want to enjoy these million-dollar views, starting your hike from the top of Aspen Mountain is a great way to save your energy and still take in the scenery from above.

Aspen Mountain Nature Trail

Length: 1 mile roundtrip
Elevation: Minimal
Trailhead: Atop Aspen Mountain

This dog-friendly trail passes through small meadows and subalpine forest with views into the nearby Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

Richmond Ridge Trail

Length: 2.2 miles one way
Elevation: Minimal
Trailhead: Atop Aspen Mountain

Follows a wide dirt road along the ridge from the summit of Aspen Mountain. Boasts stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

Ajax Trail

Length: 1.5 miles one way
Elevation: 400 feet
Trailhead: Near Koch Park


From the base of the mountain near Koch Park, this trail skirts the base of Aspen Mountain and takes in views of the town. This is a superb hike for early evening when it is a little more shaded.
Hiking the Smuggler Trail

Hiking Around the Roaring Fork Valley

Whether it is a long walk before dinner or a brisk climb over lunch break, Aspenites love to take to the abundance of half-day hikes in and around the town. Here are some of the top choices.

East of Aspen Trail

Length: 6.2 miles roundtrip (numerous shorter segments and access points)
Elevation: Minimal
Trailhead: Stillwater Rd. & Hwy. 82 just east of town

This flat trail is unique to the valley, as it winds its way through aspens, willows and riparian habitat along the one of the Roaring Fork River’s only slow-flowing sections.

Rio Grande Trail

Length: 1 mile one way in town (numerous shorter segments and access points)
Elevation: Minimal
Trailhead: Puppy Smith Road & the River

The most popular trail along the Roaring Fork River is the paved Rio Grande Trail, which continues all the way to Glenwood Springs down valley, 42 miles away. Note: this is a popular cycling path as well.

Smuggler Mountain Overlook

Length: 2.8 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 800 feet
Trailhead: Off Smuggler Mountain Road

This short and steep hike along the dirty Smuggler Mountain Road leads to an expansive overlook of downtown Aspen and Aspen Mountain.

Ute Trail

Distance: 3.1 miles one way
Elevation: 3,192 feet
Trailhead: Off Ute Ave.

This trail’s popularity stems from its eagle’s-eye views of downtown Aspen. Ascending the east flank of Aspen Mountain, the path passes iconic Ute Rock and eventually reaches the Sundeck at the summit. Reward yourself with a cold one at the top.

Hunter Creek

Length: 5 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 960 feet
Trailhead: Hunter Creek Lane


The Hunter Creek Trail to Van Horn Park offers great views of the distant Elk Mountains. But best of all are the wildflowers in mid-summer.

Sunnyside Trail

Length: 10.8 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 2,683 feet
Trailhead: Cemetery Lane

As the name of this trail suggests, Sunnyside stays on the southern face of Red Mountain for its entire length, offering numerous views of Aspen Mountain as well as wildflowers in June and July.
The Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado

Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area

This pristine and protected area stretches across 181,535 acres of montane, subalpine and alpine habitat. More than 100 miles of trails cover the terrain, including this marquee half-day hike.

Maroon Lake Scenic Trail

Length: 1 mile roundtrip
Elevation: Minimal
Trailhead: Maroon-Snowmass Trailhead

This enormously popular trail follows the northern shore of Maroon Lake, taking in the iconic view that made the Maroon Bells world famous. Wildflower meadows and aspen groves surround the scene.

Crater Lake

Length: 4 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 490 feet
Trailhead: Maroon-Snowmass Trailhead


If the Maroon Lake Scenic Trail (above) is not challenging enough, this climb through aspens and alpine boulder fields to Crater Lake is worth considering. The lake rests directly underneath the lofty summit of North Maroon Peak. Make a full day of it by exploring the nearby meadows.

Cathedral Lake

Length: 6 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 1,980 feet
Trailhead: Cathedral Lake Trailhead


Another high alpine lake worth visiting near Ashcroft is Cathedral Lake. The lake is larger than nearby American Lake, and the trail offers a good balance between moderate and strenuous pitches.

American Lake

Length: 6.4 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 1,990 feet
Trailhead: American Lake Trailhead


Hidden away in a high alpine valley above the ghost town of Ashcroft, American Lake is a favorite among locals, featuring many wildflower meadows in July and August.

Buckskin Pass

Length: 10 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 2,877 feet
Trailhead: Maroon-Snowmass Trailhead

The climb to Buckskin Pass may be strenuous, but presents hikers with an unparalleled reward — perfect views of Pyramid Peak and the north face of North Maroon Peak. This trail climbs above treeline, so be sure to crest the pass by noon to avoid afternoon thunderstorms.

Snowmass Lake

Length: 15.5 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 5,141 feet
Trailhead: Maroon-Snowmass Trailhead

One of Colorado’s very best wildflower hikes is a doozy to do in a day. After climbing Buckskin Pass (above), the trail descends through alpine meadows and forest to the large Snowmass Lake beneath 14,092-foot Snowmass Mountain.
Lost Man, Independence Pass

Independence Pass Area

To the east of Aspen lies the twists and turns of Highway 82 as it climbs over Independence Pass. The area is filled with numerous trailheads, many leading deep into the wilderness. These two trails are much shorter and easily accessible.

Discovery Braille Trail

Length: 0.4 miles roundtrip
Elevation: Minimal
Trailhead: Discover/Braille Day Use Area

Oriented on the visually impaired, the Discovery Trail includes braille signage and cord-based navigation for blind hikers. Located just off the highway between Aspen and Independence Pass.

The Grottos

Length: 1 mile
Elevation: Minimal
Trailhead: Grottos Trailhead

This short but dramatic trail gives hikers a glimpse of waterfalls, boulder gardens and strange rock formations along the Roaring Fork River. High runoff in spring can make sections of this trail — plus river access — dangerous.

Lost Man Loop

Length: 13 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 2,500 feet
Trailhead: Lost Man Trailhead

Requiring a car shuttle, the Lost Man Loop climbs into the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness Area, visits two alpine lakes, crosses an alpine path, and connects two adjacent valleys.
Mount Sopris

Down Valley

Down valley from Aspen and Snowmass, you will find several trails that climb above the towns of Basalt and Carbondale and offer a different perspective on this slice of Colorado. 

Mount Sopris

Length: 13 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 4,412 feet
Trailhead: Thomas Lakes Trailhead

While Mount Sopris is not even close to being the tallest peak in the Elk Mountains, from the town of Carbondale it sure looks like it. This massive mountain’s 12,965-foot summit can be reached from a straightforward but challenging route.

More Around Aspen Snowmass