Climbing & Hiking Trails - 13 min read

15 Best Aspen Hiking Trails (Stunning All Four Seasons!)

Ashley Brown

Ashley Brown, Updated October 3, 2022

While Aspen Colorado is more often sought after by those who enjoy the snow, this ski destination offers more than that. Aspen is especially unique compared to other cities as they have four mountains!

They are often frequented by skiers, though in the summer you can hike on the Snowmass and Aspen Mountains. This is a great area to explore as there will always be a sight worth seeing from any viewpoint!

Whether you are planning your visit to Aspen in the summer or winter, there will be a stunning trail to discover. For those who enjoy the sight of wildflowers and green trees, Aspen will have plenty in the summer. Those who enjoy a hike that is glistening with snow, Aspen will have you covered. Making it a beautiful place to explore any season.

With over 50 hiking trails in Aspen, you may not know where to start. There is so much that Aspen has to offer that you may become distraught.

From kid-friendly trails to trails for experienced hikers, Aspen has it all! You will just need to make sure you have the proper shoes and that you go at the right time.

1. The Grottos Loop Trail

Credit: ClarkHarrisinTonkawaOK / Flickr

For those who want a hike they can take their kids or dogs on, this will be it. Your dog will also need to be on a leash throughout the hike. It’s a short and easy trail to complete with some beautiful water features.

The first hike destination will be the Ice Caves. Here, you will find small pools of water that freeze during the winter. As you continue your hike, you will be walking toward a river with a cascading waterfall.

While the cascading waterfall is not like the typical waterfall, it still offers so much beauty. The waterfall is surrounded by many carved stones making it look very unique and enchanting to see.

The Grottos Trail is one of the most popular trails in Aspen Colorado, so you will want to try exploring at a quieter time. While the best times to visit are June through September.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 0.6 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 29 feet

2. Crater Lake

Credit: Brendan Bombaci / Flickr

The Crater Lake hike starts at the Maroon Lake parking area where you should start at the Maroon Snowmass Trail. On this trail, you will see Maroon Lake to your right.

Though the Maroon Snowmass Trail can get rocky as it passes through the aspen groves, you will see the mountain peaks. Once you reach the lake, you will see a panoramic view of the Elk Mountains’ features.

From there enjoy the views of the Maroon Bells, Pyramid Peak, and the Sleeping Sexton. There is an abundance of wildlife to discover as well! With opportunities to see deer, bears, foxes, moose, and elk along with many other animals.

The best time to visit this trail is from June through October. It is a kid and dog-friendly trail as well, but once you reach the lake your dog will not be allowed.

An important thing to consider, before you make this trail, is that you will need a permit and reservation if accessed by vehicle.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance:
3.5 miles
Total Elevation Gain:
688 feet

Related Read: Best Time to Visit Aspen, CO

3. West Maroon Pass Trail

Credit: Tom Pratt / Flickr

For backpackers and hikers, this trail offers so much beauty and jaw-dropping scenery. With peaks, lakes, a huge alpine basin, and stunning waterfalls, you will feel as though this trail can not get any more beautiful.

You will even have panoramic views encompassing Treasure Mountain, Pyramid Peak, and the Maroon Bells! This trail is part of a long day hike to Crested Butte.

It can easily be the first segment of a two-day trip covering the West and East Maroon Trails. Perfect for those wanting a weekend getaway trip. This trail is populated with wildlife and birding, so for those animal lovers, this trail will be wonderful.

The best time to explore this trail will be from April through September as most of the snow will have been melted. Thus, helping you see many beautiful green trees.

Difficulty: Challenging
Distance: 20.4 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 5,396 feet

4. Buckskin Pass

Credit: Rein Ketelaars / Flickr

The Buckskin Pass trail is one that you will not want to miss. With panoramic views of the fourteen thousand-foot peaks of Snowmass Wilderness, this trail will have it all.

You will be able to observe peaks, lakes, and alpine meadows. Where the views will be stunning. Though this hike is more challenging, it will be well worth every strenuous step.

It is recommended that you bring shoe spikes or poles on this hike. There have been many reviewers commenting about how slippery and muddy this trail can get.

Difficulty: Challenging
Distance: 8.2 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 2,916 feet

Related Read: 11 Best Places for Snowtubing in Colorado

5. American Lake Trail

Credit: Bureau of Land Management / Flickr

The beginning of the American Lake Trail is at Castle Creek Road. The Castle Creek Road is also where the trail will finish. It follows the route with a 2,000+ feet elevation gain, working its way to the American Lake.

This trail ascends steep switchbacks through aspen groves until you reach a forest with wildflowers. It is recommended to hike this trail in July as you will be able to see an abundance of wildflowers. Though, it is nice from May through October as well.

You will want to download an offline map as there is no phone service once you reach Cattle Creek Road. Another important note is that you will want to wear bug spray as there are many bugs!

Difficulty: Challenging
Distance: 6.8 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 2,043 feet

6. Four Pass Loop

Credit: BLM Bob Wick / Flickr

The Four Pass Loop Trail is frequently done by backpackers, taking an average of three to four days to complete. So, this is definitely not a family-friendly trail!

You will pass through Buckskin, Trail Rider, Frigid Air, and West Maroon. This is also how it got its name, as there are four 12,000 foot passes that the trail traverses.

Throughout the Four Pass Loop, you will encounter so many beautiful views. You will not want to forget your camera when you go on this trip! There are forests, rocky passes, meadows filled with wildflowers, and alpine lakes.

Going on this trail will be worth it, as you will feel like you’re in another country. You should plan on visiting this trail in the late summer as this is when most of the snow will be melted. You will also have the benefit of warm weather.

Consider checking the forecast before going on this hike, as you do not want to be caught in an afternoon thunderstorm.

Difficulty: Challenging
Distance:
25.7 miles
Total Elevation Gain:
7.752 feet

7. Lost Man Trail

Credit: Fredlyfish4

Lost Man Trail is perfect for those wanting to have an escape from their everyday life. You will be able to find beautiful sights here in every direction.

With stunning views of mountain peaks, lakes, mountain goats, and wildflowers, there will always be something to explore. This trail is a point-to-point trail, but it can also be made as a loop.

Those who are looking to make it as a loop will need to use two cars, leaving one car at the ending point. It will not be possible to do the loop without the cars as walking along Route 82 is very dangerous.

You will also want to download the map to help you can find the lakes that you can use as resting places!

Difficulty: Challenging
Distance: 8.7 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,387 feet

Related Read: 10 Best Campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park

8. New York Creek Trail

Credit: David Herrera

Those looking for a hike full of quiet and solitude will not have to look much further. The New York Creek Trail is wonderful for those tired of all of the busy trails. You will not have to worry about missing any views either.

As this trail gives you spectacular views while you hike over steep stretches of mountainous woodlands. The trail not only offers sights of the woodlands, will also offer you spectacular views of the open meadows and creeks.

Make sure you visit July through September to get the most out of your visit! With plenty of green all around. Your furry friend is also welcome, but they will need to stay on the leash.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance:
7.8 miles
Total Elevation Gain:
2,299 feet

9. Electric Pass

Credit: Tony Webster

The Electric Pass Trail is a well-frequented area for hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing. Therefore, there may be people out while you are exploring. This trail is open year-round so you may want to visit it during every season!

As in every season, it will feel like you are exploring a new place. This will take a while to hike, averaging around 6 hours. Though, do not let that deter you as the views are gorgeous.

For those looking to form a loop trail, there is also the possibility to connect this trail with the American Lake Trail. The Electric Pass will give you a viewpoint on a high ridge that runs between Cathedral Peak and Peak 13635.

An important caution to be aware of before hiking this trail is that you will need to be off the pass and below the saddle before noon. After noon there are frequent electric storms that will hit the pass which is also how it got its name.

Difficulty: Challenging
Distance: 9.2 miles
Total Elevation Gain:
3,740 feet

10. Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail

Credit: Lorie Shaull / Flickr

The Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail is one of the most popularly photographed trails in Colorado. And it is all for good reason. No matter what time you visit, you will have beautiful and stunning views from the trail.

Though, the best time to visit is May through October as this is when most of the snow has melted. Independence Pass will only be open from May through mid-October.

During the summer season, access to the Maroon Bells Scenic Area hours becomes restricted. You will only be able to explore the Maroon Bells Scenic Area from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

While in the winter, the roads will close so they can be turned into a cross-country ski trail. For those looking for a little longer trail with their family, this would be nice as it is kid friendly.

Dogs are not allowed on this trail. Another important note is that a permit is required in order to access this area by vehicle.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.9 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 160 feet

Related Read: 20 Best Romantic Getaways In Colorado

11. Midway Pass

Credit: Ken Lund / Flickr

Midway Pass is a wonderful trail for those camping near Lost Man Campground. The route to Midway Pass begins at the trailhead of the Lost Man Campground! The best times to visit this trail are July through October.

It is a dog-friendly trail, even allowing them off-leash in some areas. There are many switchbacks while on this trail, but they will be worth it! They will also offer you some much-needed shade for those hiking in the summer.

The trail also has no reports of any avalanche debris or wet crossings, making it well maintained.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance:
7.6 miles
Total Elevation Gain:
1,916 feet

12. Cathedral Lake

Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

Cathedral Lake Trail is a great trail for those experienced hikers looking for an additional challenge. It is perfect for backpacking, camping, and hiking, so it is likely that you will meet other people.

Roads that lead to this trailhead may have seasonal closures, so you will want to check the guidelines. With beautiful lakes, rivers, wildflowers, and a stunning waterfall to see, this trail feels like it has it all.

Those visiting in the early spring may want to bring waterproof boots as the trail can get wet and muddy. There will also be a creek before you reach the lake where many reviewers have said to cross it from the left.

Difficulty: Challenging
Distance: 5.4 miles
Total Elevation Gain:
2,070 feet

13. Lower Hunter Creek Trail

Credit: SeattleGrrrl / Flickr

Those who are in town and are wanting a quick trail before or after their city adventure will want to check this hike out. This trail is close to town so you will not have to do much traveling in order to get to it.

It’s an easy trail, though at times it can get rocky and steep. So you will want to wear proper shoes. It is known to be kid and dog friendly, but your dog will need to stay on a leash. Also, make sure to watch out for any loose gravel!

There are also bridges along this trail that will offer you some splendid views of the Creekside. Wildflowers will typically be in full bloom around June, making it a wonderful time to explore. Although, it is beautiful to see anytime from June through October.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 1.7 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 456 feet

14. Ute Trail – Tombstone Ridge

Credit: Dough4872

While the start of this trail will be fun and easy, once you make your return trip it will get harder. As this trail starts at a high elevation and then slowly goes to the lowest point of the hike.

When you make your trip back, you will be climbing uphill for a majority of it. Those who are not intimidated by the uphill hike back may want to continue past the turnaround point to make the trail longer.

You will get many incredible views along the way. With beautiful plants and surrounding mountains, this trail will be worth exploring. Elk and marmots have been reported on this trail.

There are many loose rocks on this trail, so you will want to be careful of those. This trail is located at Rocky Mountain National Park, where they charge a fee to enter.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5.6 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,912 feet

15. Lani White and Hunter Valley Loop Trail

Credit: Ken Lund / Flickr

The Lani White and Hunter Valley Loop Trail is perfect for those visiting from May through October. It is a popular trail for mountain biking, hiking, and trail running, so you will want to watch out for any bikers!

The Lani White Trail will act as an alternative route to The Hunter Creek Trail from the Centennial and Smuggler area. You will be following the Salvation Ditch until you reach Hunter Creek Trail.

Once you reach the Hunter Creek Trail you can make a loop through it as well. Dogs are allowed on this trail and it is possible for kids, though it is mildly challenging at sections.

This trail is partially paved, but most of it has dirt and gravel. Those looking at visiting this trail will want to make sure you have parking arrangements. Only residents can park at the trailhead with their permit.

Another important warning about parking is that the spaces will fill up quickly. You will want to consider exploring at quieter times of the day.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5.2 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,161 feet

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