Props for Aspen’s Hunter Creek trail | AspenTimes.com

Props for Aspen’s Hunter Creek trail

ASPEN – Aspen-Snowmass is no stranger to glowing press this time of the year when the ski magazines hit the stands.

Just recently SKI Magazine ranked three local resorts – Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Snowmass – in its top 10 ski areas. And TransWorld Snowboarding and Freeskier Magazine declared Aspen Skiing Co.’s four mountains second only to Whistler/Blackcomb.

Now the Hunter Creek trail can join in on the orgy of great press. The October edition of Runner’s World magazine touted the popular Aspen path as its Trail of the Month.

“It’s popular for a reason: It’s downright gorgeous, any time of year, and leads into the peaceful Hunter Valley nestled above Aspen in the White River National Forest with views of the Elk Mountains when you pop out of the aspen groves,” gushed the magazine.

The article focuses on a 4.8-mile out-and-back loop starting at the Hunter Creek trailhead, for a climb of 7,850 feet to 8,750 feet, to the far north bridge for a “lollipop-shaped run.”

On Wednesday, I escaped from the daily onslaught of campaign e-mails for a lunchtime run on the trail, slightly inspired by the Runner’s World report.

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For sure, the “serene beauty” it describes is right on the mark.

But when negotiating the rocks and roots on this technical run, I found it hard to bask in any of the leaf-peeping fun or “sheer natural beauty” Runner’s World described.

Instead, the name of the game when running the Hunter Creek trail, at least the first mile or so up, is to keep your head down and avoid eating dirt. Twice I’ve sprained my ankle on this trail, but even so, it’s such a pleasant and rewarding run that I keep going back for more.

This time of the year is especially satisfying on the trail, and when you get away from the technical climb there are dirt single-tracks that go on for miles. And now the world’s most popular running magazine has taken notice.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com