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Hiking trails: Part 2

This scenic wilderness trail near the Maroon Bells offers great views of Pyramid Peak. Youll need to take a shuttle bus to reach the trailhead (see Buckskin Pass, above); ask the driver to drop you off at the East Maroon Portal. The trail starts by crossing a bridge, then bears right. At 1.5 miles in, youll reach a fork. Continue left to stay on the East Maroon Trail; the moderate Maroon Creek Trail to the right follows the creek and ends at Maroon Lake, a nice shorter hike. At 4.5 miles, the East Maroon Trail branches again. Stay straight the right fork leads to a horse camp. A mile or so farther on, youll spot two old cabins. At about the six-mile mark, just past a large avalanche area, is the first of two stream crossings. The second crossing is about one mile later. During spring runoff, these crossings can be treacherous. To reach East Maroon Pass, follow the trail two miles past the second stream crossing. When the trail forks, take the right branch (the left goes to Copper Pass, Triangle Pass and Conundrum Hot Springs). Cross a small stream and continue heading right on the main trail; soon youll reach the 11,800-foot pass.

If you want to avoid crowds, head for this trail. Its steep, and therefore camping is limited, but it does allow you to access Willow Lake, a beautiful spot surrounded by rolling tundra. You may encounter some snowfields through late July. To get there, take Hwy. 82 west from Aspen to the turnoff for Snowmass Village. Turn left onto Brush Creek Road and follow it for 5.4 miles. Make a right on Divide Road, which turns into gravel and goes past the Krabloonik restaurant. The road then descends steeply to the valley bottom, where it forks. Take the left fork; the trailhead is just beyond the wooden bridge.

This high-alpine lake is in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, at the foot of the Continental Divide. The trail follows a moderate route that traverses forests, meadows and rocky crags before switchbacking more steeply up to the lake. The wildflowers are plentiful in high season. The only catch is that youll need a high-clearance vehicle, preferable four-wheel-drive, to reach the trailhead. From Aspen, follow Hwy. 82 east for 11 miles to Lincoln Creek Road. Turn right and follow the bumpy road 6 miles to Grizzly Creek Reservoir. The trailhead is on the left before the Portal Campground. The trail, which follows Grizzly Creek the entire way, climbs steeply for the first half-mile; the next 1.5 miles are easier, as you climb through pine and fir forests alternating with wildflower-strewn meadows. For its last third, the trail climbs a steep rocky shelf, then winds through alpine tundra toward a long hillside traverse. Once you crest the knoll on top, Grizzly Lake pops into view.

Extremely popular because of multiple waterfalls and interesting rock formations, the Grottos is also easy to get to from Aspen and is a great picnicking and sunbathing spot. Drive nine miles east on Hwy. 82 to the Weller Campground. Continue past the campground on 82 for almost a mile, then look for a trailhead on the right. Turn here and drive about 200 feet to the parking area. You have several options for short hikes: The main hiking trail crosses a bridge and heads left. The easiest trail is 30 yards past the bridge, on the right of the Old Stage Road. The intermediate trail is on the left, just before the bridge. It is 200 yards long and follows the Roaring Fork River upstream. The longest and most challenging trail is the Old Stage Road, 100 yards past the bridge on the left. Its a scenic trail with a fishing dock and streamside picnic tables.

This is the gateway to Aspens backyard Hunter Creek Valley. Visitors and locals alike go for the beauty and the feeling of being a world away from town. To get there from town, walk or drive north on Mill Street, bear left onto Red Mountain Road after crossing the bridge over the Roaring Fork River, then take the next right onto Lone Pine Road. Trail access is behind the Hunter Creek Condos (look for the sign). Youll start out by descending some steps to a shaded path that follows Hunter Creek, climbing steadily to the Benedict Bridge, which crosses Hunter Creek. Its then a somewhat steep and rocky uphill until the Forest Service boundary sign and the meadows of Hunter Valley, which stretch out around you. Hike into the meadow past the Forest Service sign, staying left at junctures. Youll soon spot a side trail to the left, which descends to the 10th Mountain Bridge across Hunter Creek. After you cross the bridge, youll see the remains of several old cabins in a meadow. Follow the trail past these structures, paralleling Hunter Creek. After a mile or so, look for a small footbridge on the right; cross Hunter Creek again and hike back down the other side of it. Youll eventually wind up on the main trail again and can retrace your steps back to Aspen.

Nearly all the way up Independence Pass, this high-alpine lake (with decent fishing) can be reached from a moderate, fairly short trail. Take Hwy. 82 east from Aspen to the last switchback before the pass (about 18 miles). The parking area and trailhead are on the left side. From the parking area, the trail begins to the left of the Roaring Fork River. This also is the upper trailhead for the Lost Man Trail. In 200 yards, the trail forks; take the left fork to go to Linkins Lake. The trail ascends to a glacial cirque that shelters the lake, at 12,000 feet. Expect great views of the Continental Divide. And dont mess with the three-foot trees along the way they may be up to 200 years old.

This semi-loop hike passes three great mountain lakes. If you dont like to climb a lot at 11,000 feet, start at the upper trailhead (see the directions for the Linkins Lake Trail, above). Also, be aware that the trail does not make a true loop there is a gap of four miles along Hwy. 82, so youll need to set up a car shuttle. To reach the lower trailhead, drive 14 miles east of Aspen on Hwy. 82 to the parking area directly across from Lost Man Campground. From the upper trailhead, take the right fork shortly after the parking area. About one-third mile ahead, the trail crosses the Roaring Fork River, where it begins to climb. Independence Lake, the first one youll come to, is surrounded by a flower-carpeted area with lots of marsh marigolds. From the lake to the top of the saddle, its a steep climb. From the top, youll be able to see Lost Man Lake below. This can be a good turnaround point if you want a shorter hike. The drop to Lost Man Lake is steep. Cairns mark the trail, which descends into a marshy, muddy valley floor. About two miles from the lake, youll come to a junction with the South Fork Trail. Go left to stay on the Lost Man Trail. At the seven-mile mark, the trail crosses a creek and Lost Man Reservoir is about a mile farther ahead. Beyond the reservoir, the trail splits. Stay straight and cross the wooden bridge to reach the lower parking area.

A less-crowded and mostly downhill alternative to viewing the Maroon Creek Valley, this trail begins at Maroon Lake and ends at the East Maroon Portal, where you can flag down one of the shuttle buses to pick you up. From the east side of Maroon Lake (see Buckskin Pass, above, for access to Maroon Lake), right across from the interpretive signs, cross the bridge to the left and then take another left to pick up the trail. From here the trail heads downvalley. In about a mile, youll come to another bridge, on the left. Stay straight. Continue for another mile to the next bridge. Cross this one, stay left and follow the trail to the junction with the East Maroon Trail. Stay left at the junction and continue hiking downvalley to the East Maroon Portal.

This is probably the busiest trail in the Aspen area, but it does afford an awesome view of the distinctive Maroon Bells, two pyramid-shaped twin peaks. Just be prepared for lots of company. (To access the Bells, see the directions for Buckskin Pass, above.) The trail follows the northwestern side of Maroon Lake and then leads to several beaver ponds. Its great for families and lots of picture taking.

This lesser-known trek takes you through forests and meadows into the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness; its a superb one-night backpacking trip, too. The trailhead is located at the Lost Man Campground. Drive east on Hwy. 82 from Aspen toward Independence Pass; the campground is 14 miles up on the left. The trail begins to the left of a bulletin board and immediately crosses a wooden bridge. At a half-mile, the trail forks. Take the left one and begin a steep climb up switchbacks. Soon youll be in the wilderness and above tree line. The trail then contours through alpine meadows on the right side of the Coleman Creek drainage. After crossing the creek, youll reach Midway Pass, at 11,840 feet, which could be a good turnaround point for a shorter hike (about 5 miles round trip). If you continue, youll follow Midway Creek and gradually descend into the Hunter Creek Valley. Shortly before the junction with the Hunter Creek Trail, the trail crosses Hunter Creek itself. Turn left on the Hunter Creek Trail to hike all the way to Aspen.

If you want good fishing, wildly profuse wildflowers and a fun four-wheel-drive access road, then these easy trails are for you. A bonus: youll enjoy views of the beautiful Collegiate Wilderness peaks. Take Hwy. 82 east of Aspen 11 miles to Lincoln Creek Road. Turn right and drive 6.5 miles on the rocky, rutted road to the Portal Campground. From the campground, the road gets even rougher. Either drive or hike the last 3.3 miles to a fork in the road. Take the right fork, cross the creek and park on either side. The trail follows Anderson Creek, gradually ascending an old jeep road as it passes through thick stands of fir before emerging into alpine tundra. Youll see some privately owned log cabins at this point. About a mile in from the start, the road forks. The left fork goes to Anderson Lake, another quarter-mile. To access Petroleum Lake, retrace your steps from Anderson Lake and take the right fork. Petroleum is about .75 mile farther. Climb through some alpine meadows and tundra, and cross the lakes outlet stream. Keep climbing; the lake is just ahead, beyond the rise on the left. Even more adventures await if you keep going uphill on the trail: an alpine pond and additional breathtaking views.


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