Asher on Aspen: Discovering New Heights |

Asher on Aspen: Discovering New Heights

Shannon Asher
Asher on Aspen
Photo by Anna Stonehouse

When I was in college, I worked at a small outdoor retail shop called Active Endeavors.

The store dedicated itself to bringing mountain influence to Iowa. I was drawn to the space and the culture from the moment I stepped inside. I was going into my senior year at the University of Iowa when I initially got hired. For the first time in my college experience, I felt like I had finally found my people. People who I could relate to on a deeper level — who inspired me to live an active life outdoors filled with an insane amount of adventure.

Patagonia posters of rock climbers, skiers and slackliners filled the walls. Warren Miller films played on repeat while customers watched and swapped stories of memorable ski trips. Pictures of past employees and their adventures from all over the world lined the stairway. The store sold active gear and clothing to outfit customers for almost any adventure you can imagine. Shopping here was an experience and a celebration of the outdoors.

Working at this minimum-wage job while going to school was honestly one of my favorite employment opportunities to date. All of my co-workers shared this same sense of adventure and passion for the outdoors. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this job was prepping me for a lifetime of “active endeavors” in Colorado. I moved to Aspen just two weeks after I graduated, and I haven’t looked back since.

With the pandemic limiting our social interactions, a friend and I decided that we would dedicate the summer of 2020 to hiking and finding new trails around Aspen. Throughout the summer, we hiked nearly 30 different trails around town that we had never attempted before. For me, hiking has always been a form of escapism. It’s a challenge that feels deeply satisfying. To get lost in the woods and see nature’s organic charm is metaphorically and physically a breath of fresh air. To always be wondering what’s over the next ridge or peak is intoxicating.

To start, Red Butte Trail off Cemetery Lane doesn’t get nearly enough credit. Although it can be a bit of a scramble, the panoramic views along the way show off town in a whole new light. Aspen Mountain might be one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever done but I felt like a total badass upon reaching the Sundeck. Rio Grande is a peaceful path that provides a leisurely stroll when you just need to get outside and move your body.

American Lake is incredibly steep for the first 45 minutes, but it eventually flattens out and leads hikers to a magnificent postcard-perfect lake. It seems as if no one knows about the Conundrum Creek trail and it might be one of my all-time favorites. With no service and hardly any hiker traffic, I can’t think of a better place to clear your mind. Arbaney Kittle in Basalt is much harder than advertised and I would argue it’s actually more difficult than the Ute.

Contrary to its name, Difficult Trail up the pass by Difficult Campground is not so difficult. It’s situated deep in the forest, where the Aspen trees are never-ending. Weller Lake is super quick and easy, but it spits you out at a pristine lake filled with fishermen and paddleboarders. The lake is so beautiful, it should really be in a Hallmark movie.

Sunnyside is a great hike to get your heart rate up while also offering exceptional views of town. Ajax Trail leads you sideways across Aspen Mountain from one side to the other. Rim Trail South in Snowmass takes you to Spiral Point where hikers are met with a labyrinth positioned directly in front of Mount Daly. It’s spectacular! Crater Lake is a great one to do in the early morning when the wildlife is active. Moose have even been known to linger here.

I found the hiking in Aspen offers great variety — and those were just the highlights. After dedicating a summer to exploring new paths, I developed a newfound love for hiking and the never-ending beauty that comes with it. Finding these trails this summer cleansed my soul in moments when I needed it the most. I felt the most content and grounded when I was outside exploring this summer.

In short, I never would have imagined that a part-time job at a retail shop in college would have evolved to a passion that would last a lifetime. Thank you, Mark and Eadie Weaver and Dave and Brian Nerad, for hiring me. That job brought more joy to me than you will ever know.