A ‘Stirling’ alternative for Aspen-area hikers
Hikers looking for an alternative route to the usual beaten paths this summer should check out the Stirling Trail, a fitting tribute to an Aspenite who died way too young.
The trail was created in the Little Annie area in honor of Stirling Cooper Jr., who died Aug. 28, 1999, in a hiking accident in a remote Utah canyon. His father, Stirling “Buzz” Cooper, worked on the trail between 2008 and 2011. He chipped away rock and dirt, cleared brush and thinned weeds to establish a rough trail through a stunning aspen forest. The rough trail has taken become a little more and welcoming over the past couple of summers.
Buzz, 81, reported via email that it is in good shape this year. He has checked out the main loop trail, kicked off the rocks and cleared off deadfall. A picnic table is perched in an inviting and scenic spot along the trail.
The trail crosses a patchwork of national forest as well as 54 acres of patented and unpatented mining claims the Cooper family sold to Pitkin County in 2009. The county land is known as the Stirling Open Space.
The trailhead is on the first bend on Little Annie Road, roughly 500 feet off Castle Creek Road. The trail starts around 9,000 feet in elevation and climbs past numerous old mine dumps, tunnel diggings, collapsed ruins of mining cabins and a spring that likely dates back to the mining heyday.
The historic Storm King Cabin, a mining-era cabin that became a hippie hideaway in the 1960s and ’70s, is near the high point on the loop around 10,100 feet in elevation. A super-steep spur trail goes to the Quien Sabe mine.
Buzz linked old mining routes and game trails with new paths to create the loop. He hopes that hikers will take advantage of the views.
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