ASPEN - It's unlikely you'll ever hear anyone boast about hiking Aspen's Red Butte Trail. Ascending the trail is no great physical feat - it's a few hundred feet of vertical climb, moderately steep toward the top, which can easily be summited in 15 minutes or so.
But I will commend for their cleverness anyone who tells me they went up the Red Butte Trail. The trail on its own may not even add up to a half-decent workout, but as a spot for solitude and sweeping, commanding beauty, it is almost impossible to beat. Near the top (getting to the tippy-top can be tricky; getting down from there even trickier) is not quite a 360-degree view, but call it a 340-degree panorama that affords a vista from Mount Sopris to Pyramid Peak, up Independence Pass and over to Smuggler and Red Mountain. Cast your glance a downward a bit, and you see the true lay of the land - Burlingame, the Aspen Golf Course, the snaking course of the Roaring Fork River, the Aspen Meadows, virtually all of Aspen's neighborhoods. If there is a better place from which to gain a perspective on the town's place in its surroundings, I haven't found it.
Fortunately, Red Butte is ideally located to fit into a bigger workout. On a recent weekend, I ran the Rio Grande Trail to Cemetery Lane; heading toward town, the Red Butte Trail is about halfway up Cemetery Lane. The first part of the trail is a simple walk, but becomes a bit of a rock scramble toward the top. Not to worry - it's well-marked, and with proper care, you can avoid slips, trips and stumbles. Take your time coming down, then continue on with your run.
One more word of advice: do the Red Butte Trail now. The valley may never get any more beautiful, with the mix of rich green on the valley floor and the white mountains above. Let it be the first thing you scratch off the summer to-do list.