The Winter in Aspen & Snowmass Guide to Hiking |

The Winter in Aspen & Snowmass Guide to Hiking

These winter hikes in Aspen and Snowmass are a breath of fresh air

Carolyn Sackariason
For Winter in Aspen & Snowmass
Smuggler Open Space (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

In every direction you look, no matter where you are standing in Aspen or Snowmass, there are myriad opportunities for a refreshing stroll and to breathe in the fresh winter air. How fortunate we are to have this in our backyards?

As a committed wintertime runner and hiker here for the past 25 years, these are my top three picks for Aspen and one classic in Snowmass for where your two feet can take you.

In most instances, you’ll need Yaktrax or some sort of foot stabilizer to get a nice grip and traction on the snow surface. They’re sold in any local sports shop.

* Smuggler Open Space. There are endless routes to take with 232 acres available. The most popular is Lower Smuggler Mountain Road, which cuts across the face of the mountain and has great views of town. The higher reaches offer a plethora of other trails, which can be located on a trail map situated at the bottom of the road, and at the observation deck, which is just over 1.5 miles up from the base.

You can puck up the Hunter Creek Loop from there, which drops into the Hunter Creek Valley and takes hikers to a different trailhead about one mile away from the base of Smuggler. Snowshoes are recommended for the loop.

(Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

* Independence Pass. On the other side of the closure gate a few miles east of Aspen on Highway 82, the road becomes a wide path that is a slow, gradual climb. It has spectacular views and gives a sense of being in the middle of the forest because, in fact, you are in the middle of the White River National Forest.

* Rio Grande Trail. If you are looking for a casual stroll, pick up the Rio Grande Trail behind the Aspen post office and go as far as you’d like (it goes continuously to Glenwood Springs.) New this year, the Aspen-Snowmass Nordic Council will leave the entire path snow covered and will groom it so it remains packed, so walking on it is easy.

* The Ditch Trail. Located in Snowmass, the Ditch Trail is just under two miles long and takes hikers or snowshoers across the ski area. It’s a winter escape. Its highlight: the view of Mt. Daly at the edge of the Powderhorn ski run.


A couple walks down Owl Creek Trail after a fresh snowfall in Aspen on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

With COVID-19 in the air, it’s good hiking etiquette to wear a face covering to protect yourself and others. Also remember: hikers ascending the trail have the right of way.


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