Biking and hiking in Aspen and Snowmass, Colorado
To help promote responsible tourism, Aspen Chamber Resort Association (ACRA) created The Aspen Pledge, an initiative that encourages visitors to put an emphasis on sustainability when visiting the mountain town in Colorado. Aspen and the neighbouring destination of Snowmass are hiking and biking meccas, and here we look at some of the best trails that will enable visitors to explore the region without leaving the footprint and aligned with the pledge’s motto: ‘I will travel by foot, bike when I can.’
Aspen and Snowmass are the epicentre for biking culture in Colorado. From meandering riverside trails and serene road riding to some of the region’s most extreme mountain biking, these destinations have something for every level of rider. Aspen, Snowmass and the Roaring Fork Valley recently became the first destination in Colorado to receive the designation as an IMBA Gold Ride Center from the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), one of just five in the US and seven in the world.
- The Rio Grande Trail- Aspen: The Rio Grande Trail is a gently sloping, mostly paved surface that runs 40 miles from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, completely protected from vehicular traffic. This rails-to-trails project has countless stops along the way for a scenic picnic and eight miles outside of town, bikers can stop into the Woody Creek Tavern for its famous margaritas and delicious nachos.
- Owl Creek Trail– Snowmass: One of the top rated trails for beginner road cyclists, Owl Creek Trail connects Snowmass Village to Aspen, beginning at the Anderson Ranch Art Center in Snowmass Village. This five-mile trail offers a scenic route through beautiful Aspen groves and meadows, crossing the Owl Creek drainage on to the Buttermilk Ski Area.
- Aspen Mountain Summer Road– Aspen: An intermediate 4.9-mile trail perfect for summer months, Aspen Mountain Summer Road is great for hiking, running and mountain biking. It ends up on the top of Aspen Mountain which provides some of the most beautiful views of the surrounding area.
- Expresso– Snowmass: Suitable for intermediate riders, Expresso is a classic single-track cross-country trail that runs at just over a mile long. Connecting several freeride trails in the Elk Camp area and cross-country trails to the west side of Snowmass, and can be ridden in either direction.
- Maroon Creek Road to Maroon Bells– Aspen: Biking to Maroon Bells is one of Colorado’s most iconic bike rides. Starting just west of Aspen, the 10-mile route is closed to vehicle traffic between 8am and 5pm, making it a rider’s paradise, with scenic vistas all the way up. The route can be enjoyed by road bikers who are up for a challenge, as well as riders on e-bikes for a more leisurely experience.
- Government Trail- Snowmass: Considered the quintessential mountain biking trail in the area, Government Trail begins with a challenging climb up Snowmass Ski Area and then traverses across ski runs and through dense evergreens to the Buttermilk Ski Area. This 20-mile trail is not only great for biking but also camping and hiking, and it’s a perfect way to escape the crowds and enjoy nature.
- Snowmass Bike Park – Snowmass: Featuring 25 miles of pristinely maintained downhill trails extending almost 3,000 vertical feet, Snowmass Bike Park has a trail for every ability from beginner-friendly singletrack to adrenaline-inducing downhill. Situated at the top of Elk Camp Chairlift all the way down to Snowmass Base Village, it is open daily from 21 June – 4 September, then on weekends until 2 October.
- Sky Mountain Park – Snowmass: Reached following a single-track climb up Viewline, Cozyline or Airline, Sky Mountain Park offers a variety of mountain biking route options with 360-degree vistas. A local’s favourite trail is the Deadline Trail, a downhill only, flow-style trail offering bermed turns, rollers and tabletop jumps.
Aspen and Snowmass are a true outdoor playground and the epitome of paradise for keen hikers with endless options for day hikes and backpacking trips for all abilities. Whether it’s a multi-night trek for experts or a paved path for beginners, the scenery through fields of wildflowers, across rushing streams, or deep into a dense forest, the experience in Aspen and Snowmass will stay with hikers forever.
Smuggler Trail – Aspen: This easy to moderate trailhead accesses Smuggler Mountain Road, one of the most popular recreation areas in the immediate Aspen vicinity. During the warmer months, Smuggler Mountain Road is busy with hikers, runners and bikers, and provides a short (1-1/2 mile) workout with great views of Aspen from the look-out point.
- Vista Trail – Snowmass: Starting in Snowmass Base Village and winding up through aspen groves and wild flower meadows towards the top of the gondola at Elk Camp, this two-mile trail can be combined with a gondola download for those who want to rest the legs. For the more ambitious hikers, the trail can be added to the Rabbit Run Loop (about an extra 30 minutes), Sierra Club Loop (about an extra hour) and/or continuing to the summit on the appropriately named Summit Trail.
- Hunter Creek– Aspen: A popular intermediate trail that starts a short distance from downtown, this scenic 8.9-mile route parallels Hunter Creek towards Hunter Valley and has several bridges that cross other hikes in the area. The grade is steep as the first mile of the trail ascends more than 700 feet.
- The Snowmass Loop – Snowmass: Made up of some of the best trails in Snowmass, The Snowmass Loop is suitable for visitors in search of a full day hike. Totalling 24 miles, the loop circles Snowmass Village and connects popular trails such as Viewline Trail, Tom Blake, Cross Mountain Trail and comes to a close on the Rim Trail – a 7.8 mile trail providing incredible views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
- Ute Trail – Aspen: For experienced hikers who want a challenge, Ute Trail is a perfect choice. The trail starts close to town on Ute Avenue, providing a steady uphill climb of 0.9 miles and 1,000 vertical feet, offering spectacular views of Aspen. There is a free gondola ride down for those who hike to the top of Aspen Mountain and want to walk down, adding another five miles to the route.
- East Snowmass Trail – Snowmass:Providing expansive scenic views of Willow Lake Basin, this heavy elevation trail extends for 7.3 miles, beginning with a steep ascent, continuing through spruce, aspen and pine forests before breaking out into a meadow followed by a moderately steep climb.
Make it happen with Blazing Adventures: A family owned and operated business, Blazing Adventures offers full day and half day guided biking and hiking tours throughout the Aspen and Snowmass area. With knowledgeable and friendly staff, visitors can enjoy some of the company’s most popular tours such as the half day Maroon Bells hike (costing £720 for 1-3 guests) and the full day Singletrack biking tour (£960 for 1-3 guests).
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