13 Stunning Hikes in Aspen

Last Updated on December 31, 2023 by foxintheforest

Known for it’s upscale dining and shopping, there’s so much more to Aspen than just a bougie boutique. In fact, there are plenty of incredibly scenic hikes in Aspen you’ll want to put on your bucket list.

The Maroon Bells Wilderness beckons with beautiful mountain views, and epically challenging objectives for beginners and avid hikers alike.

This list of the best hikes in Aspen brings you local hiking recommendations that you don’t want to miss.

As a Colorado local for over 13 years and pro hiker, you’ve come to the right place. For local, honest recommendations for Aspen hiking trails, look no further.

About this Guide to the Best Hikes in Aspen

Inside this local guide to the top Aspen hikes you’ll find:

  • Hot info about when to hike in Aspen
  • A map of Aspen hiking trails
  • The top easy hikes in Aspen
  • Moderate hikes to add to your list
  • The most challenging Aspen hikes
  • Quick tips for hiking in Colorado
  • Additional local Colorado travel resources

Is Aspen Good for Hiking?

In short, absolutely! Home to some of the most scenic spots in Colorado, Aspen is loaded with amazing hiking opportunities for all abilities.

From challenging multi-day backpacking routes to a casual stroll to an alpine lake, there’s a trail for every kind of hiker.

When is the Best Time of Year for Hiking?

When it comes to hiking in Aspen, you can certainly hit the trails year-round. However, some seasons are easier to manage than others.

The best time of year for hiking in Aspen is from mid-June through September. Snow still may be present at higher elevations until July, but in general, trails are pretty much snow-free by mid-June.

July marks wildflower season, which offers brilliant color displays against jagged peaks. But afternoon thunderstorms make venturing about the treeline (where the trees stop growing) a dangerous endeavor.

By mid-August, the monsoon storms have typically dissipated, making the weather far more stable.
September marks the changing of the Aspens, and this namesake town is home to some of the best fall hikes in Colorado.

Local Tip: Aspen’s hiking trails are crowded places. Be sure to plan well in advance for any permits or reservations. If you want a shot at beating the crowds, head out before sunrise

Map of the Top Aspen Hikes

Here’s where you’ll find all the amazing hikes in Aspen. Don’t forget to check out the interactive map to save your favorite spots.

Map of the best hikes in Aspen.

The Best Easy Hikes in Aspen

For a sample of stunning mountain scenery, check out the best easy hikes in Aspen. These trails are great for just about everyone, from children to out-of-towners struggling with the altitude.

1. Maroon Bells Scenic Loop

The Maroon Bells Scenic Loop is a must-do that is definitely at the top of the list of best hikes in Aspen.

Located in the Snowmass Wilderness, the Maroon Bells are known as one of the prettiest places in Colorado, and this short loop trail lets you take in the grandeur of these unique mountains.

The Maroon Bells are extra spectacular at sunrise or sunset, as well as when the foliage peaks during fall in Colorado.

How Long of a Hike is the Maroon Bells?

The Maroon Bells Scenic Loop is a 1.9-mile loop trail that takes around 1 hour to complete (add in some more time if you’re planning on taking lots of photos!).

However, you’ll need an advanced reservation to park or ride the shuttle to the trailhead from May through October.

Distance: 1.9-mile loop
Elevation Gain: 160 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Time: 1 hour
Dog Friendly: No

aspen hiking trails

2. The Grottos

For a unique experience that’s one of the best easy hikes in Aspen, explore The Grottos.

A super short (and wheelchair-accessible) trail takes you to the gorgeous waterfalls, and you can also hike through the cool cave formations.

Distance: 0.6-mile loop
Elevation Gain: Negligible
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Time: 15-30 min
Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

3. Rio Grande Trail

The Rio Grande Trail is a long, generally flat trail connecting Aspen to Glenwood Springs, but it makes for an easy jaunt from Aspen because you can turn around whenever you’ve had enough hiking.

You can also take the Roaring Fork Transit Authority Bus back to Aspen from certain stops along the way if you don’t want to hike out and back.

Distance: 42 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,641 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Time: Varies
Dog Friendly: Yes

The Best Moderate Hikes in Aspen

Some of the best hikes in Aspen are these moderate hikes with awesome alpine views of clear lakes and mountain peaks.

4. Crater Lake Trail

Crater Lake is a stunning alpine lake in Colorado with the Maroon Bells in the background, making it extremely popular as one of the best hikes in Aspen. While the views are truly spectacular, don’t expect solitude on this trail.

Crater Lake is a wonderful wildflower hike and a perfect place to catch the fall colors in Colorado.

Local tip: Because this trail gets so crowded, reservations are required to access the trailhead either in a personal vehicle or via shuttle. See Maroon Bells Scenic Loop.

Distance: 3.5 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 688 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated Time: 1.5-2 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

creater lake best hike in aspen

5. Smuggler Mountain Road

While Smuggler Mountain Road is not a secluded backcountry hike, this trail actually offers a cool perspective of the town of Aspen as you hike up the dirt road.

At the top, you’ll find a viewing platform, which is an excellent place to watch a sunset over the Roaring Fork Valley and Sopris Mountain.

The trail does continue past the platform if you want to keep going to Warren Lakes or make a loop on the B.T.S Trail. You can also connect Smuggler Mountain to a whole network of other trails to explore.

Distance: 2.9 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 807 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated Time: 1-2 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes

6. Grizzly Lake Trail

Another one of the best hikes near Aspen is the Grizzly Lake Trail. It’s an ideal moderate trail for a lovely half-day hike, featuring meadows, forests, and rocky crags.

Eventually, you’ll reach one of the many awesome alpine lakes in Colorado. Grizzly Lake is extra special during wildflower season when the meadows are in full bloom.

Distance: 7.1 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 1,961 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated Time: 3.5-4.5 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes

7. Hunter Creek Trail

Winding along Hunter Creek, this wooded trail offers scenic views of the Elk Mountains once you reach the clearing in the valley.

You’ll also encounter old mining cabins, relics of Aspen’s silver mining history, along the way.

Distance: 8.9 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 1,040 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated Time: 4-4.5 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

The Best Challenging Hikes in Aspen

To truly experience the best hikes in Aspen, set out on one of these tough trails, ranging from difficult day hikes to longer backpacking routes.

8. Crested Butte to Aspen

Connect the mountain towns of Crested Butte and Aspen by hiking the iconic trail over West Maroon Pass. The alpine scenery is incredible along the way, featuring wildflowers, mountain vistas, and beautiful lakes.

You can start in either town, but most people do this hike one-way, so you’ll need to arrange a ride back the other direction unless you want to do an epic out & back.

Local tip: If you start your hike from Aspen, a permit is required to access the Maroon Lake trailhead either in a personal vehicle or via shuttle.

Distance: 10.3 miles one-way
Elevation Gain: 2,240 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Estimated Time: 5.5-6 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

hiking trails near aspen

9. Cathedral Lake

Although the trail to Cathedral Lake isn’t too long, it is quite steep. You’ll start in an aspen forest, and eventually, your uphill efforts will be rewarded with a gorgeous view of a beautiful blue alpine lake in the foreground of Cathedral Peak.

Distance: 5.4 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 2,070 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Estimated Time: 3-4 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

10. Ute Trail

If you’re looking for a fitness challenge, head to the top of Ajax Mountain along the Ute Trail. This is one of the best hikes in Aspen for a lung and leg-burning workout with a lot of elevation gain along the switchbacks.

Once you make it to the summit, bask in the panoramic views of Independence Pass and the Collegiate Peaks.

Local tip: You can either hike back down or take a ride on the Silver Queen Gondola back to the base.

Distance: 6.2 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 3,064 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Estimated Time: 4-5 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes

11. Sunnyside Trail

Sunnyside Trail lives up to its name with lots of sun along the hike up Red Mountain to the summit ridge.

The views from the ridgeline span for miles and include an unparalleled perspective of Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Pyramid Peak.

This trail connects to many other trails, so you can choose your own adventure in terms of distance and time you have to hike.

Distance: 10.8 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 2,683 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Estimated Time: 5-6 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

12. Conundrum Hot Springs

Conundrum Hot Springs is not only one of the best hikes in Aspen but also one of the best hikes in Colorado.

While the trail is nice, the true attraction of this hike is the natural hot springs you’ll find in the backcountry. Most people backpack in and spend a night camping at the hot springs, making for a great weekend getaway in Colorado.

Local tip: Camping at Conundrum Hot Springs requires a permit available through recreation.gov, and bear cans are required for camping.

How Long is the Hike to Conundrum Hot Springs?

Unless you’re an expert-level hiker with tons of mountain experience (and you leave super early), you’re going to want to make Conundrum a 2-day hike.

In fact, you won’t really be able to enjoy the hot springs if you just go on a day hike to the springs, since it takes at least 9 hours for the average hiker to hike this trail.

Distance: 18 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 2,791 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Estimated Time: 2 days
Dog Friendly: No

beautiful hikes in aspen

13. Four Pass Loop

One of the most incredible backpacking routes in Colorado is the Four Pass Loop through the Snowmass Wilderness around the Maroon Bells.

This epic loop will take you on a multi-day adventure around the Maroon Bells, crossing the West Maroon, Frigid Air, Trail Rider, and Buckskin passes.

Along the way, you’ll experience alpine lakes, tranquil forests, and wildflower meadows, and the spectacular scenery is necessary to stay motivated through the intense ups and downs from the tops of the passes back to the depths of the valley.

The Four Pass Loop definitely belongs on your Colorado backpacking bucket list.

Local tip: Due to the popularity of the trails around the Maroon Bells, reservations are required to access the trailhead either in a personal vehicle or via shuttle.

Distance: 25.7-mile loop
Elevation Gain: 7,752 feet
Difficulty: Extremely Challenging
Estimated Time: 3-4 days
Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

So What is the Best Hike in Aspen?

It’s tough to choose just one hike. However, the top hikes in Aspen by popularity are Crater Lake, Maroon Bells Scenic Loop, and the Four-Passes Loop.

These hikes are also the most popular, so be prepared to share the trail!

Nearby Attractions

It doesn’t matter if you’re on a Colorado road trip or spending the week in Aspen, there’s a lot to see and do nearby. If you’re looking for other activities to fill your time while in Aspen, be sure to check out these nearby hot spots.

  • The Hanging Lake hike near Glenwood Springs
  • Explore the nearby town of Carbondale (amazing during the summer and fall)
  • Drive the scenic Independence Pass (summer and early fall only)
  • Check out Twin Lakes

What to Pack

What to wear:

  • Sunshirt
  • Noncotton socks
  • Hiking footwear with good traction that you are comfortable wearing all day. 
  • Non-cotton shorts for hiking
  • Or non-cotton, pants for hiking. Convertible pants are great too!
  • Non-cotton shirt for hiking

What to pack:

Additional Local Colorado Hiking Resources

Looking to explore the best hikes in Colorado like a local, not a tourist? Then check out these incredible locally-curated hiking guides.

Picture of Meg Atteberry
Meg Atteberry

Meg is a long-time Colorado local and outdoor industry professional. She's spent the last 15 years hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and canyoneering all over Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in search of the best views. She's written for Outside Magazine, REI, Backpacker Magazine, and appeared on the Weather Channel.

Hi There!

Meg Atteberry standing on a mountain sticking her tongue out

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Toddler mom, queer, and neuro-spicy her favorite things to do are climb in the alpine and camp in the desert. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure.