From Aspen to Glenwood Springs and up the Frying Pan and Crystal River Valleys, here’s where you’ll find us on our days off.
One of the best things about the Roaring Fork Valley is that you could live your whole life here and never stop discovering new places. There are many places I return to every year, and in different seasons, that have layers of memories, stretching back to my childhood in the valley. At the same time, I am always eager to explore those places on my local bucket list just waiting to be discovered. There is nothing like a microadventure to reset your body and mind.
Here are the trails on my “summer hiking list.”
Rio Grande Trail
This paved walking and cycling trail was created from the old railroad track that brought miners and supplies up to Aspen from Glenwood Springs. It more or less follows the Roaring Fork River as it winds down through the different terrain in the valley. But no matter where you access it, you are sure to bump into someone you know.
Ute Cemetery, Park and Trail
Tucked away in a high grove of aspens and wildflowers at the base of the east side of Aspen Mountain is the Ute Cemetery. It is a really peaceful place to wander among the lichen-covered stones of fallen World War I soldiers before heading over to the dog-friendly park and playground with picnic tables and all manner of things to keep kids busy. Across Ute Avenue, you’ll find the Ute Trailhead. It is an arduous 6.2 miles with a 3,500 vertical foot ascent up the back of Bell Mountain to the Sundeck on Aspen Mountain. If you have some hiking poles, they come in handy on the descent.
Maroon Bells Crater Lake
The Crater Lake Trail is a moderate 1.8-mile there-and-back section of the Maroon-Snowmass Trail. The hike winds through some interesting geological formations, and once you reach the lake you can catch a glimpse of the waterfalls cascading down the rock faces of the Bells.
The ghost town of Ashcroft has easy walking paths in summer and cross-country trails in winter. In spring and summer, the wildflowers take over the valley, and the variety changes as you climb in altitude. Ashcroft is also the access point to Cathedral Lake.
The incredible views from the top make this difficult trail worth the effort. You will need to have a few technical abilities to make your way through the boulder field and some steep areas.
Aspen to Crested Butte
It’s a mountainous 11 miles from Aspen to Crested Butte; if you travel by car, it’s 100 miles. You will need to be in top shape to take on the steep switchbacks up to the 12,000-foot summit of West Maroon Pass and still have energy for Schofield Pass at 10,722 feet. If you plan on doing this rite-of-passage hike of a lifetime, get some local guidance and go with an experienced group.
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Views from the Rim are the main feature of the trail, which traverses the west and north Rims of Snowmass Village.
Sky Mountain Park
This 2,500-acre park with a network of mountain bike-only trails connecting Aspen and Snowmass Village is a local favorite for the flow-style riding that feels like the summer version of skiing. And with incredible 360-degree views, you’ll want to take a break for some mountain gazing. A short 2.5-mile ride from the Village, the trail features well-maintained bermed turns, rollers and tabletop jumps to add a little excitement to your day.
Snowmass to Aspen Government Trail
There are different ways of enjoying this 13-mile trail that goes across Snowmass ski mountain, Buttermilk and Tiehack and right into downtown Aspen. You can hike or mountain bike to Aspen, have lunch and take the free bus back to Snowmass Village or vice versa.
Arbaney Kittle Trail
“Boot camp” comes to mind when I think of this dog-friendly trail; it will get you in shape fast as you climb about 2,000 vertical feet in just 1.75 miles to the Frying Pan Overlook. Once at the top, there is the option to continue on the full 17.5 miles on this out-and-back hike.
Crown Mountain Park
This park does a great job of being all things to all people. A mile-long paved path offers year-round walking and running; there are tennis and basketball courts, two baseball fields, and several soccer and lacrosse fields. Two extra-large enclosed dog runs make for a social spot for dogs and their humans. In winter, a network of cross-country trails is groomed daily and an outdoor skating rink is built. The bike park is legendary, one of the best and most technical mountain biking/BMX trails on the Western Slope. For everything that the park offers there are child and adult classes and leagues to go with them.
Fourteen miles up the Frying Pan River from Basalt, Ruedi (pronounced roo-DYE) is an oasis of fun. In summer the Aspen Yacht Club, a 50+ year-old non-profit institution, holds court to the many sailboats, and there is a marina for motorboats. There are areas for swimming and stand-up paddleboarding, and infinite hiking, biking and camping surrounding the 1,000-acre reservoir. In winter there is ice fishing, and, when there is a long clear and cold stretch, some areas are safe for skating. Get some guidance from the locals who live up there before taking to the ice.
Mushroom Rock is a popular two-mile out-and-back, dog-friendly trail near Carbondale that takes you up a steep red rock and dirt trail to the mushroom-like outcroppings. On the way up, you will gain over 900 vertical feet in elevation in one mile, and the reward of the sweeping view of the Crystal River Valley that perfectly frames Mount Sopris is well worth the effort.
Prince Creek Trail
As you head up Prince Creek Road, you will have several trailheads to choose from. Keep going and you will find a refreshing lake at 9,000 feet that is perfect for swimming and SUPing and even has a little beach. Beyond the lake are magnificent views and some rustic campgrounds.
Redstone & Marble
Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs
By appointment only, but well worth planning ahead, you will find this secluded setting between Carbondale and Redstone. The different soaking pools have beautiful views to the other side of the canyon. There’s nothing better than a soak in winter after a long day on the slopes.
So much to see and do in this once sleepy town that is experiencing a revival. There are galleries, restaurants, live music, and the General Store still scoops homemade ice cream, a nice treat after hiking up in Marble.
Mill Site Park
This mostly level trail is peppered with markers that tell the story of the once-thriving mining operation as you make your way up the easy trail. Along the way are marble benches and tables for picnics. It is a great place for kids to play amongst the marble ruins.
This storied town includes visitors such as President Theodore Roosevelt and “Buffalo Bill” Cody who came to soak in the thermal mineral waters and visit the vapor filled caverns for their health benefits.
Glenwood Hot Springs Pool
Founded in 1888, the world’s largest hot springs pool today has many amenities including a gym and spa, snack bar and a kids’ zone.
Iron Mountain Hot Springs
Here you will find a “flight” of different soaking pools at varying temperatures.
Yampah Vapor Caves
The caves take their name from the Ute word “big medicine,” where thermal waters create a relaxing subterranean Turkish bath-style experience.
Deborah, aka “Ducky,” was born at the original Citizen’s Hospital and has spent most of her career growing with Aspen Valley Hospital, both as a nurse and as the official canine photographer for our Pet Enrichment Therapy Program (PET Program). Ducky comes from a ski pioneering family and continues the tradition of exploration with her family.