Trails abound in Snowmass
February 11, 2004
If you are looking for some trails in Snowmass Village to get away from it all, you are in for a treat. With financial support from the town of Snowmass Village, Aspen Skiing Co., and the state of Colorado, our trail system is developing into one of the nicest networks around. Whether your interest is walking, hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding, there are numerous trails that will keep you busy all summer long.
One of the basic philosophies of the Snowmass Trails Committee is to have anyone in the village be able to access a wilderness trail within five minutes of their back door. With a little ingenuity and planning, this is now possible.
Snowmass Village trails are a collection of loops on top of loops. You can mix and match different legs of trails that meander around the village. You could spend a whole summer in Snowmass without repeating the same trail combination twice.
The following are some of my personal favorite trails in no particular order. I have broken them down into the different modes — mountain biking and hiking. Ill defer the selection of horseback trails to the outfitters that guide trips in Snowmass.
There are several variants on this theme. You can ride your mountain bike in an almost continuous loop on single tracks within the town limits. The shortest and fastest of these loops will take a fit rider over two hours. By adding on longer sections with more climbing, you can add at least another two hours to the ride. Some people prefer to ride the loops clock-wise, some the other way. I would characterize the counter-clockwise direction as being more challenging but either way involves the same amount of trail and climbing.
My favorite way to do the loop is to start at the mall, cross over to the Ridge/Blake Trail, cross Owl Creek Road and continue on the newly rerouted Highline Trail, cross the Cemetery Road, ride up Brush Creek Road to Horse Ranch, climb up to the Rim Trail at Horse Ranch and then ride the entire Rim back to the mall. This is the shortest and fastest loop.
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Going the opposite direction means a little easier climbing on the Rim Trail and adds the cool descent into Horse Ranch. There are a couple of challenge sections on the Highline Trail going this way, but everything is rideable.
This has turned out to be a real popular ride both uphill and downhill. For those that feel that gravity is their friend, you can ride the Burlingame lift up with your bike and coast back down. However, because I like climbing, I prefer to ride up the trail and take the lift back down. Just kidding.
From the top of Burlingame lift, you can connect with the Government Trail West and traverse east over to the eastern part of the Snowmass Ski area. From there you can either ride the entire Government Trail into Aspen or branch out down the Power Line to the Blake trail and then back to the Mall on the Ridge Trail.
There are a couple of sections of the Government West trail traveling east that most mortals will have to walk their bikes across. Good bike handling skills and power climbing abilities come in handy on this section. The Village Bound trail itself is very intermediate uphill riding. You can even challenge people riding the chairlift to a race to the top.
One point on riding up the Village Bound — if you go during the hours of lift operations, expect to meet a lot of hikers and bikers coming down. They look at you like youre from Mars because you are headed up but just remember that sometimes its good to earn the descent by making the climb. Once the lifts shut down for the day youll normally have the trail all to yourself.
The Rim Trail has become a favorite of local riders. I have friends that live in Aspen that actually will drive out to Snowmass just to ride the Rim. Of course they have to get their visas and passports stamped and set their clocks back an hour. Either way you ride the Rim, youre going to have a good ride.
The obvious starting point is from the village mall, up from the Mountain View Apartments, head north, cross Sinclair Road, climb to the high point above Wildcat Ranch and then enjoy the quiet and fast descent into Horse Ranch. From there you can both turn around and ride back the same way or link up to the Brush Creek paved trail back to the mall.
The Rim Trail is aptly named as it follows the ridge dividing Snowmass Village from Wildcat Ranch. The views extend from Mount Sopris to all of the Snowmass Ski area. As you ride the Rim, you cross several drainages leading down into the different valleys. These drainages contain many forms of wildlife that at the right time of day you might see deer, elk, foxes, lots of grouse, and an occasional bear. Most of the time, you will see only the evidence of these animals – droppings, tracks, and bones.
My favorite viewpoint on the trail is at the northern end after Sinclair Road. You will have a 360-degree view of the valley stretching from Glenwood Springs to Mount Elbert on the other side of Independence Pass.
There is a picnic table at this spot so having a food and fluid break would be in order. It is real easy to linger here watching the light dance around the valley at the end of the day.
Other than riding straight downhill, this is perhaps the easiest ride in Snowmass Village. The first part is a grind up the Village Bound from the mall but you branch off north just above the last set of condominiums — Top of the Village. From there, follow the signs back to the Divide (by Krabloonik Kennels) and ride the Ditch Trail back to the wilderness area at East Snowmass Creek. Since bicycles are not allowed in the wilderness, you will have to turn around and come back down the same way to the mall.
Though a lot of trails in Snowmass Village are shared with mountain bikers, there are a couple that are maintained with hikers-only in mind.
This is a short 30-minute hike from right out of the mall area. The trail goes through a wetlands drainage. You can pick up a self-guided map at the kiosk on the mall for information on the flora and fauna of this trail.
I described part of this trail earlier. This is a shared trail but mountain bikers do not heavily use it because it is rather challenging. I would suggest riding up the Burlingame lift and then hike east on this trail and then back down the Funnel Run to the mall. This trail traverses through several different eco-systems — from aspen forests, steep drainages, to spruce forests.
This is the ultimate Snowmass Village hike. I would suggest riding the Burlingame lift and the Sams Knob lift to the summit of Sams Knob. From there start hiking up Sneakys run on the far west side of the mountain. There is an old road to the top of the Big Burn chair. Continue up to the top of the Cirque poma lift to get a magnificent view of the Willow Bowls.
If you have enough time, energy, food and water, keep on going to the true summit of Snowmass — Baldy. It is about another one-hour hike to the top but it is definitely worth the effort. You will get a great view of Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells. You could do this as a day trip but it would be real interesting to spend the night on top of Baldy. Just watch the weather as you are very exposed to the elements that far up.
If you want a real unusual combination of trail experience try this bike/hike excursion. Ride your bike to the wilderness boundary using the Sleigh Ride/Ditch Trails noted earlier, drop your bike at the creek (there should be a bike rack there this summer) cross the new log bridge and then hike up the East Snowmass Creek trail. You can actually hike to Maroon Lake from there and catch the bus back to Aspen. That would be quite the hike, though. You have to cross two major passes — both over 12,000 feet — and walk over eight miles. Just hiking a little way up the East Snowmass Creek Trail is well worth the effort. A trip to timberline would be a good spot to turnaround.
You can pick up a free Snowmass Village Trails map at the kiosk on the mall or at most sporting good stores in Snowmass Village. Ask around, as there are plenty to be had. One word of note – weather is a happening thing in Snowmass Village. It changes within minutes. What starts out to be a beautiful morning can turn into afternoon rain and lightning storms. My motto is “It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” This applies to food, water, clothes, tools and equipment. So you may end up carrying a bunch of stuff you may not need. Consider it a form of weight training as I guarantee you that if you need something you know you have at home, you will never go without it again.
Enjoy our trails and your time in Snowmass Village. This is a special place and we are glad to share it with you!