Lace up those shoes and run Aspen’s trails |

Lace up those shoes and run Aspen’s trails

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
Justine Rogalle runs down Smuggler Wednesday afternoon.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |


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The recent spate of wet, dreary weather might not be fun, but it’s certainly been functional enough for local harriers to pack in their miles.

Cool temperatures and overcast skies make for nearly ideal running weather, and the Roaring Fork Valley’s racing season kicks off Saturday with the Mountain-to-Valley Half Marathon in Glenwood Springs.

If you’re not the racing type but enjoy a run, there are ample opportunities throughout the Aspen area.

Local runners will tell you that the Rio Grande Trail, which runs from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, is the most accessible trail in the area. It’s also the least challenging, at least as far as terrain goes, but don’t let the slight uphill grade from west to east fool you. The Rio Grande Trail also is an excellent spot to log in long runs without getting off the beaten path — just be aware that certain stretches, such as the upper leg in Aspen, don’t offer much solitude, which speaks to its popularity. In Pitkin County, most of its stretch also includes asphalt surfaces that run parallel to soft ones.

Another easily accessible trail runs along the North Star Preserve, parallel to Highway 82, up to Difficult Campground. Called the East of Aspen Trail, its soft surface is popular with runners, walkers and casual bikers. Plenty of parking spaces are available along the trail.

Sam Barg, an avid runner and a buyer for Ute Mountaineer, advises visitors to be careful at this altitude. Those taking in a run of at least 30 minutes should bring along water to prevent dehydration and premature exhaustion.

“If you’re coming from lower altitudes, you really need to bring water,” he said.

Barg has been hitting the local trails this spring. For the vertical-minded, he recommends Sunnyside Trail, Smuggler, Ute Trail and Little Cloud. Runoff is starting to make its presence felt on the lower Hunter Creek Trail, where “water is starting to seep through,” he said. Trail running also requires trail-running shoes, Barg noted. Road shoes simply don’t have the grip that trail shoes do, he said, and can put runners at a higher risk for injury.

“There’s all of that loose rock and loose dirt,” he said of the trails.

Trails to American and Cathedral lakes, also popular destinations for hikers, still have a lot of snow and aren’t ready for running. Those trails are typically ready by the end of June, as is Government Trail, the Snowmass-to-Aspen connection that’s also the course for the Golden Leaf Half Marathon in September.

Whatever trails you run in the Aspen area, you’ll not only be awarded with the health benefits ­— not to mention your joints will thank you for staying off the pavement — you’ll enjoy breathtaking views and the occasional encounter with wildlife.