by Susan Linden

“The mountains are calling and I must go”

--John Muir


Nothing will refresh your soul like a walk through the woods or the view from a mountain summit. Here we’ve highlighted some of our favorites for capturing stunning views of mountain vistas and bird’s eye views of Aspen and Snowmass. Most are moderate in difficulty while one is more strenuous. Once you’ve discovered these trails, we are sure you will agree that the best views in Aspen Snowmass are seen on foot.

SMUGGLER MOUNTAIN TRAIL

A popular “in town” fitness hike for locals, the Smuggler Mountain Trail is relatively short and rewards you with breathtaking views of Aspen and Aspen Mountain. The trail is a dirt road with a half dozen switchbacks to a long cut that curves gently to the right to a turnout with a small observation deck.

Difficultly: Moderate
Length: 3.0 miles round trip to the Smuggler Mountain overlook
Elevation Gain: 800 feet
Trailhead: Follow Highway 82 (Cooper Street) east out of town. Fifty yards after crossing the bridge, turn left onto Park Avenue. Where this street curves left, turn right toward the mountain on Park Circle.

UTE TRAIL

For the truly fit looking for an aerobic workout, the Ute Trail is a steep, strenuous hike that can be easily accessed from downtown Aspen. The steady uphill path with many switchbacks leads to a rocky outcropping overlooking Aspen. The effort pays off in stunning views.


Difficulty: Difficult
Length: 2.4 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 1700 feet
Trailhead: Travel east on Main. As the street makes a turn to the right, it becomes Original and turns south toward Aspen Mountain. Where Original ends, make a sharp left onto Ute Avenue. Continue to the trail sign. A parking area is opposite the trailhead.

SUNNYSIDE TRAIL

Multiple switchbacks wind uphill through sagebrush and scrub oak on Red Mountain offering improved vistas with each turn. Take in expansive views of Aspen, the ski areas and the snowcapped peaks of the Roaring Fork Valley. The path is not rocky so serious hiking boots are not necessary, but be sure to bring a hat and plenty of water because it may be hot (hence the name: “Sunnyside”).



Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 4.8 miles round trip to antennas in woods
Elevation Gain: 1700 feet to the antenna towers
Trailhead: Head west on Main Street. Turn right on Cemetery Lane (just past the Castle Creek Bridge) and drive 1.1 miles to a parking area near Slaughterhouse Bridge. The trailhead is across the street.

THE RIM TRAIL

The meandering Rim Trail in the Snowmass Village area delivers scenery of the Brush Creek Valley and sweeping views of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. This is a dirt trail that can be hiked in its entirety or sampled in smaller bites. Choose your starting and ending points. Start from the South Trailhead to access Spiral Point, a Yin Yang symbol platform with spectacular views of snowcapped peaks in the background.


Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 7.1 miles for full one-way trip
1.3 miles from South Trailhead to Spiral Point

Elevation Gain:1,120 feet
South Trailhead: From Aspen take Hwy 82 west to Brush Creek Road and make a left towards Snowmass Village. Take Brush Creek Road for 5.3 miles and make a right onto Co 10 Road. The trailhead is on your right.

North Trailhead: From Aspen take Hwy 82 to Brush Creek Road and make a left towards Snowmass Village. Take Brush Creek Road for 4 miles then turn right onto Horse Ranch Drive. Turn left to stay on Horse Ranch Drive then turn right on Trail Rider Lane.

OFF THE BEATEN PATH: CAPITOL CREEK TRAIL

One of the most picturesque trails around, Capitol Creek Trail takes a bit of a commitment to reach, but once you are there you won’t be disappointed. You must have a 4-wheel drive to access the trailhead and you will lose cell service soon after you turn off of Highway 82.



Through beautiful forests of aspen and evergreens, gorgeous views of Capitol Peak will guide your way. If you’re really feeling ambitious, pack your tent and sleeping bag for an overnight stay at Capitol Lake. Otherwise, do the ‘loop’. Start along the Upper Capitol Creek Trail #1963 (ditch trail) then cross the stream about 3.3 miles up and head back down Capitol Creek Trail #1961.

Difficulty: Capitol Creek Loop – Moderate
Capitol Lake – Difficult
Length: Capitol Creek Loop - 6.6 miles round trip.
Capitol Lake Trail - 12.8 miles round trip.
Elevation Gain: Capitol Creek Loop - 1,500 ft.
Capitol Lake Trail - 2,105 ft
Trailhead: Drive 14 miles west of Aspen on Highway 82 to Old Snowmass and turn left onto Snowmass Creek Road next to the Conoco gas station. Continue 2 miles to the "T" intersection. Take the right turn and continue 5 miles until the pavement ends. Follow the dirt road about 3 miles to the trailhead. The last mile is on a 4WD road. You MUST have 4 Wheel Drive to access the trailhead.

BEFORE YOU GO...

Here are a few tips for preparing for safe, fun hike:

  • Wear comfortable, supportive shoes with properly fitting socks
  • Layer your clothing and prepare for sun, rain and cold
  • Carry extra water to drink at regular intervals
  • Bring snacks to fuel your energy
  • Apply sunscreen
For more information about area trails call the U.S. Forest Service at 970.925.3445.