Hiking Trails: Part 3
This trail revered by mountain bikers but its also a good alternative for a half-day hike. Start behind the Mountain View condos in Snowmass Village and begin the steep climb up the single-track trails full of switchbacks. This challenging route, some of which is through aspen groves, continues for several miles over to the Horse Ranch trail (above the Snowmass Rodeo).
This well-loved trail for hikers, bikers, in-line skaters and joggers follows the old Denver & Rio Grande railroad right of way and parallels the Roaring Fork River. Its primarily flat, and the first couple of miles are on pavement. An easy place to pick it up is across from the Aspen post office; from there you can go all the way to Woody Creek (about nine miles). The scenery runs the gamut: from views of the ski areas to small canyons and waterfalls. A popular outing is to bike to the Woody Creek Tavern for lunch. And dont worry: You dont necessarily have to walk or bike back. Buses to Aspen stop near the trailhead at the Upper Woody Creek Bridge, or you can call a taxi from the tavern.
Smuggler is Aspens most popular trail, for athletes from he casual to the near elite, because it is accessible and usable year-round. The vertical climb is about 800 feet, and getting up it in 20 minutes or less is considered good time on foot or mountain bike (fast bikers can do it under 12 minutes, and local lore has some runners doing it in under 12 minutes, too). The trail follows a wide dirt road as it switchbacks and curves up the lower flanks of Smuggler Mountain. Most peoples turnaround point is a viewing platform in a small clearing off to the right, about 1.5 miles up; from here the view down into Aspen and across to Mount Sopris is excellent.
Besides the popular Government, Ditch and Rim trails (see individual listings), the Village boasts about 18 other trails, ranging from adventurous to easy. Your best bet is to pick up the Summer Trail Map, published by the town of Snowmass Village (available at the Aspen Forest Service office; 806 W. Hallam St.). It gives great descriptions of trails, including elevation gains, distances covered and landmarks along the way. Snowmass Village has the added benefit of lift-served riding and hiking. The Burlingame chairlift is open daily for foot passengers and mountain bikers.
This trail to West Maroon Pass is another of the heavily used Maroon Bells trails, popular with day hikers and backpackers whove got their eyes on bigger sights like Crested Butte. Begin at the Maroon Lake parking area (youll need to catch a shuttle bus from Aspen Highlands to get there) and traverse the meadow to the lakes far end. From there, follow the Maroon-Snowmass Trail as it climbs through aspens to Crater Lake. Take the left fork at Crater Lake to get onto the West Maroon Trail itself. After the lake, the trail follows a stream for a short distance, then travels through forest and willow before reaching another stream crossing in an open area. From there, the hard-to-see trail angles to the right and climbs steadily into the tundra. Youll be able to see the pass in the distance. Keep climbing the switchbacks and then follow the long traverse to the pass. On a clear day, the views are spectacular. From the top of the pass, the trail descends on the other side to East Fork Creek Trail and Schofield Park, near Crested Butte.
This is a moderately difficult and moderately used trail that gets you into some awesome alpine meadows. To access the trail, take Hwy. 82 for about seven miles west of Aspen to the Woody Creek turnoff. Turn right and follow the road downhill; after crossing a bridge, bear left and continue two miles to the Woody Creek Tavern. Just past the tavern, take a sharp right onto Road 103 and follow it for 8.5 miles to Lenado. About .75 miles past this rustic mining town, the road turns sharply left and crosses Woody Creek. The Woody Creek Trailhead is on the right. Follow the Woody Creek Trail about 1.75 miles to the Spruce Creek Trail turnoff. Turn left here (the Woody Creek Trail traverses another eight miles to Deer Park and loops into the Hunter Creek Trail). After about .25 mile, the trail crosses the creek and remains on the west side until Sawmill Park (see Aspen Norrie Trail, in the Midvalley section). The trail then disappears in the parks meadow. Return the way you came.
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