hikes in Aspen
Known as Colorado’s winter playground, mere mention of Aspen immediately conjures a vision of soft powder and towering, snow-capped mountains. However, this town’s charms don’t fade away when the snow melts. Spring and summer unveil Aspen in bright new colors, wild flowers peep up from the rocks and litter the meadows, and the mirrored lakes perfectly reflect the bright blue Colorado sky. Aspen is the ultimate destination for adventure in the Rocky Mountains.
Aspen is packed with things to do for those in search of thrills out in the countryside. Head for the mountains and climb high onto dramatic ridges, overlooking incredible Rocky Mountain vistas, or take to the fast-flowing waters and try your hand at whitewater rafting or kayaking. The scenery in this part of the Rockies is simply spectacular, with jaw-dropping views over the mountains, vibrant green valleys and serene, glittering lakes.
The town of Aspen boasts a rich history and a lively atmosphere, making it a wonderful base for a hiking trip. From here you can head out to a number of regions for hiking, whether around Mount Aspen itself, or nearby Snowmass, where you’ll find routes that snake through lush, flower-filled forests, or high ridge trails that rise above the tree line for phenomenal views.
What are you waiting for? Head to Aspen for high-altitude adventures and bag yourself one of Colorado’s 14ers, or simply dip your feet into a pristine mountain lake and enjoy the views. Whatever you’re looking for, Aspen has it all.
Top 10 Hikes In Aspen
Aspen has long been a major attraction for adrenaline junkies and adventure sports enthusiasts, with plenty of thrilling activities on offer in both summer and winter. In particular, if you’re looking for a challenging hike, and perhaps an opportunity to tick off one of Colorado’s iconic 14ers, Aspen is an excellent base, with access to seven of these impressive peaks. You’ll find plenty of strenuous day hikes and steep ascents that will challenge even the most enthusiastic and experienced hikers, so this is really the place to come if you’re looking for an outdoor adventure.
However, if you’re a beginner hiker, or simply looking for something a little more low-key, don’t despair! Aspen offers many low-elevation trails where you won’t need to wear yourself out or deal with the challenges of high altitude. Head for the lakes, rivers and streams and enjoy the lush scenery and family-friendly hiking and cycling trails. There’s a route here to suit everyone.
- West Maroon Pass Hike: This classic route is one of the best hikes in Aspen, and one of our favorites in the Maroon Bells Wilderness. The views across Maroon Lake with Maroon Peak in the backdrop are incredible, and the panorama from the pass at the top is simply spectacular. You’ll have an uninterrupted view down onto the Purity Basin, set off by the looming Galena Mountain. There are several water crossings that can be treacherous during the snowmelt season, so bring trekking poles and waterproof shoes!
- Lost Man Trail Hike: This splendid hike is a good option if you’re looking for a slightly less strenuous hike in Aspen, as the access route via the Independence Pass Highway helps you gain some elevation at the beginning. You’ll pass through a wooded alpine valley, filled with wildflowers, with incredible views over the imposing Geissler Mountain. The Lost Man Loop can also be extended as a popular one-night backpacking trip.
- Midway Pass Hike: Looking for a way to avoid the crowds on the trails of Aspen? This is a quiet, peaceful route with incredible views into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, and Grizzly Peak, Independence Mountain and Green Mountain. The trail itself is lovely, passing by a tranquil alpine lake, which makes an excellent spot for a pit stop and a picnic. Take care in summer as this region is prone to afternoon thunderstorms, so you may get wet!
- Buckskin Pass Hike: This hike requires a grueling climb, but you’ll start at one of the most photogenic lakes in the whole of the Rocky Mountains, and the views just keep getting better and better as you ascend to the pass. Once you reach the top you’ll be treated to an incredible panorama over Snowmass Mountain, and the crystal clear Snowmass Lake. This is one of our favorite challenging hikes in Aspen.
- Maroon Lake Hike: Looking for an easy hike in Aspen? The route alongside Maroon Lake is a popular choice, and with good reason. The view of North Maroon Peak rising up behind the tranquil waters of the lake is simply breathtaking and is said to be one of the most photographed sights in the Rockies! Start early to avoid the crowds, and take your time as you contemplate the majesty of the Rocky Mountains and this incredible natural spectacle.
- Crater Lake Hike: The trek to Crater Lake is one of the loveliest in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, with fantastic views of North Maroon Peak. The path contours around the north side of Maroon Lake, before gaining elevation through the trees and arriving at the east side of Crater Lake. Here you’ll have wonderful views over North Maroon Peak, Pyramid Peak and Sievers Mountain. The trail is usually quiet and allows a more intimate view of the beautiful mountains in this stunning region.
- Electric Pass Hike: This epic hike is not for the faint-hearted, but you’ll be rewarded with one of the most stunning views over the Rocky Mountains. The climb starts quickly, with a relentless ascent above the roaring Pine Creek. You’ll pass through a beautiful hanging valley before reaching the Electric Pass at an elevation of 3962m. It’s best to go slowly and take care if you’re not used to hiking at elevation, but if you’re if good shape this is one of the best hikes in Aspen.
- New York Creek Trail: This slightly challenging trail is the perfect way to escape the crowds in downtown Aspen. You’ll pass through a wonderful lush forest before climbing high above the tree line to the long ridge of New York Peak. Start early to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms and come prepared as you’ll unlikely to meet many other hikers on this beautiful, secluded trail.
- Cathedral Lake Hike: Get ready to worship the glory of nature at this remarkable spot in the Rocky Mountains! The breathtaking Cathedral Mountain towers high above Cathedral Lake, a pristine body of water set in the midst of some truly spectacular scenery. The looming spire of Cathedral Peak is an impressive sight, flanked by Malemute Peak and Leahy Peak. This is a place to sit back, relax and enjoy a rest after the steep climb.
- The Grottos Loop Hike: This easy route is one of the best family hikes in Aspen, passing through some truly otherworldly landscapes. The Roaring Fork River has shaped the rocks over thousands of years, creating a unique spectacle of strange, statuesque pillars. This route will also take you past the Ice Caves, small pools of water that freeze in winter, before reaching a stunning waterfall. Kids will love this route, packed with wonderful things to see and places to explore.
When Is The Best Time To Hike In Aspen?
The best time to hike in Aspen is between June and September, when the trails are free of snow and it’s possible to access the highest-elevation routes. Although lower-elevation trails may be accessible in May and October, take care at this time, as you may find that many trails are still inaccessible. May and June can be very wet, as the snowmelt floods the rivers and streams, meaning that you may get wet feet if attempting any water crossings! However, early in the season the wildflowers decorate the trails with beautiful colors, textures and shapes, creating a magical setting for a hike.
July and August can be very busy, meaning that you may struggle to find accommodation and the trails may be crowded. There are also many culinary and cultural festivals throughout the summer, and the weather is perfect for hiking. However, if you want to escape the crowds, we’d recommend visiting in September when the aspen forests show off their finest colors and the trails are a little quieter. When the snows set in, Aspen is transformed into one of the best winter playgrounds in the United States, and you’ll find many opportunities for snowshoeing as well as other winter sports.
Other Outdoor Activities In Aspen
Although hiking is one of the most popular things to do, there are many other outdoor activities on offer in Aspen. This part of Colorado is a fantastic place for a backpacking trip, with many campgrounds and trails suitable for the entire family. Cycling enthusiasts will have plenty of opportunities to get out on the trail for either mountain biking or road biking. The fast-flowing rivers are a great place to try whitewater rafting, and the calmer lakes and streams are perfect for paddle boarding and canoeing. In winter, in addition to skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing, you can try your hand at ice-skating on the frozen lakes, or get that adrenaline fix on a snowmobile or sleigh ride.
How To Plan A Trip To Aspen
Aspen is Colorado’s playground, winter or summer, and there’s never been a better time to explore this fantastic region! To help you get started, we’ve put together a guide to planning a trip to Aspen, with everything you’ll need to enjoy the perfect hiking adventure. You’ll find advice on when to go and where to stay, as well as insider tips on all the best hikes. It’s time to grab your hiking boots and head out on the trail!
Frequently-Asked-Questions About Aspen
What is Maroon Bells in Aspen?
The Maroon Bells are two peaks in the Elk Mountains, often described as some of the most photographed mountains in North America. Reflected in the glassy waters of Maroon Lake, these towering mountains create an incredible Rocky Mountain vista, surrounded by fields of wildflowers. The mountains get their name from their distinctive bell shape, and the soft red shale that covers their peaks, which glows a maroon color under the sun.
How far is Maroon Bells from Aspen?
The Maroon Bells are approximately 10 miles from Aspen.
Is it better to stay in Snowmass or Aspen?
Both Aspen and nearby Snowmass are pleasant places to stay and either one offers a good base for some of the best hikes in the Aspen area. Aspen is a little more developed, with more restaurants, bars and places to stay, but either one is ideal for a hiking trip. Whichever one you choose, you’re likely to spend some time visiting the other!
How many 14ers are there in Aspen?
Aspen is home to seven 14ers (legendary Colorado mountains that exceed elevations of 14,000 feet). These are North Maroon Bells, South Maroon Bells, Pyramid, Capitol, Castle and Snowmass, all in the Elk Mountains, and the nearby La Plata Peak, just over Independence Pass.
The best hikes in Aspen
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