Last summer, I was coaching boot camp and using the abundant hiking trails in Aspen as training tools. The hiking in Aspen is absolutely incredible, but what’s even more incredible is the fact that we don’t even have to get in a car to embark on some great hikes. Here’s a rundown of five hikes you can get to from town, no car necessary!
My fave quick-and-dirty hike with a big payoff. Sometimes called Cougar Highway or Housewife Hill, this challenging 45-minute-or-less hike is steep, shaded, and super-rewarding at the top. Expect to see diamond-encrusted hikers in the latest gear talking on their bluetooths mixed with crazies running the switchbacks and lots of off-leash pups. Take Original until it turns left into Ute Ave, the trailhead is before the Aspen Club on the right.
One of the most gorgeous hike/walks to be found in Aspen, it’s great for trail running since it’s not too steep. The scenery can’t be beat: the creek roaring over the rocks is the best soundtrack you could ask for, and the majority of the trail is shaded until you reach the rocky hill (no fun) just before Hunter Valley. It’s strictly dogs-on-leash though, so be careful. Start behind the Hunter Long Houses on Lone Pine, the first right if you follow Mill on the slight curve left, past the Art Museum. Connects to Smuggler …
The original Cougar Highway, this is my least favorite hike but for some reason everyone else seems to enjoy it. It’s a gradual, easy hike up a dusty, rocky dirt road (that cars, dirt bikes, and mountain bikers can also use) to an observation deck that gives a great view of Aspen towards the mountain. If you ask me, the only time to do Smuggler is to walk and chat, which plenty of people do. It also connects to Hunter Creek through Hunter Valley, so you can start or end a point-to-point hike there.
Its proximity to town and length renders it worth mentioning even if it isn’t a hike, per se. The paved path starting behind the post office and stretching all the way downvalley offers great scenery and easy walking, jogging, and biking.
A baby hike partially up Aspen Mountain, it’s a great quick primer hike for your first day or two in Aspen. Start a few streets past Koch Park (3rd & Hopkins?), follow some switchbacks up before the trail opens up onto Aspen Mountain near Lift 1A.
Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk, Highlands, and Snowmass all offer great hiking. The most fun way to hike Aspen Mountain is to take Ute and then continue left from the top, past Gent’s Ridge, and on up to Sundeck. Then you can gondy down! You can also hike straight up the center from under the gondola, but that’s pretty much just like using a stairmaster for a couple of hours.
Of course, there are a billion other awesome hikes over Independence Pass, through the Bells, out Ashcroft, and so on. But am I missing any hidden in-town, no-car-required gems?