Hikes in the Aspen and Snowmass region follow streams, or lead to high-country wildflower-filled meadows and tiny alpine lakes near mountain peaks. Along the way, the trails will flow through aspen and pine forests, where you might pass an elk or deer nibbling on high grass.
The 1.5 mile Hunter Creek Trail follows the stream through a
beautiful river valley. It’s rated as moderate but rises 700 feet in elevation.
We like to hike to a “destination” and a hike to either Cathedral Lake
or American Lake fits that bill. The popular Cathedral Lake Trail, rated
difficult, is a 5.6 mile out and back
trail. The American Lake Trail, listed
as moderate but strenuous, is a 6.5 mile hike with zig-zags through aspen forests before reaching an open meadow area
then the lake.
Hikes on Aspen mountain
A lunchtime break for some locals is a jog up the Ute Trail
to reach a lookout spot where Aspen is spread out below you. It’s 30 to 40
minutes to reach that point, but one Aspenite described it as a “stair master”
so be warned. If you want gentler
trails, take the gondola up to the top of Aspen Mountain and walk on the nature
Where to find trail guides
The Aspen Recreation website has descriptions and maps for trails in this region. Be aware
that many trails are multi-use, so mountain bikers and horseback riders may
be moving past you. The trail descriptions usually include a list.
High altitude hikes
Keep in mind you are hiking at
high altitudes. Some of these hikes start above 8,000 feet above sea level and
top out higher than 11,000 feet above sea level. Take a look at our “Breathing
at High Altitude Tips“.
Weather in the mountains can change dramatically within 10
to 15 minutes. It can drop 30 degrees and even start snowing. If you see
thunder clouds and it looks like it’s going to rain and there will be lightning,
get off the mountain as quickly as you can. (Locals start hikes early because it tends to
storm more often in the afternoon.)
Wear layers, in case the weather changes, bring more water
than you think you will need , and wear sunscreen.