Four Aspen Hikes Perfect for the Beginning of Summer

BY Parker Fiske | June 8, 2017 | Feature Features

Hiking season in the Roaring Fork Valley is officially here. With plenty of trails still closed in Independence Pass (but great for skiing!), here are four nearby hikes that will allow you to break in your new pair of hiking boots and start building up your cardio.
The Snowmass Rim Trail offers breathtaking panoramic views.

Smuggler Mountain Trail (Easy)
Any list of early summer hikes needs to begin with Smuggler Mountain Trail. Open year-round, this trail offers hikers a chance to swap out ski boots for hiking boots, while some of Aspen’s other famed trails are still too muddy to ascend. Unlike the daunting switchbacks of the Ute Trail (see below) the Smuggler Mountain Trail offers a gradual 1.4-mile climb up a wide dirt road. Allow yourself 45 minutes to an hour to reach the first lookout point and enjoy an amazing view of town.

Cathedral Lake (Intermediate)
While Maroon Bells might receive all the fame for its picturesque scenery, Cathedral Lake is equally as beautiful and often times less crowded in the early summer months. The 5.5-mile hike requires grit and determination, but the Instagram-worthy photos from the top will make your friends jealous of your summer adventures. When you finish, stop by the trailhead’s neighboring Pine Creek Cookhouse and order the Butcher and Cheese plate, packed with the protein necessary to recover from your hike.

The Rim Trail (Intermediate/Hard)
Located in Snowmass Village, the Rim Trail offers unique access to sprawling meadows and panoramic views. The terrain is suitable for hiking, running and biking. Renowned for the panoramic views of Snowmass, this hike offers steep switchback sections that are guaranteed to leave you winded. In warmer weather the sun beats down hard, so be sure to pack sunscreen for this 7.8-mile hike. Or cut it short and turnaround at Spiral Point, making it a 3-mile journey that still packs in the views.

Ute Trail (Hard)
In close proximity to town, this cardio-intensive trail begins near Ute Avenue. After 1,000 vertical feet of hard work, tired hikers can sit and catch their breath on a natural rock formation that provides unparalleled views of town. For those who dread the incessant knee pounding of downhill hiking, keep moving uphill until you reach the top of Ajax Mountain and earn a rewarding gondola ride down to Aspen (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends only; daily, starting June 17). Allow yourself 1-2 hours to complete the first part of the trail, and make sure the hot tub is on for when you get back!

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