Distance: About 2 miles round-trip
Elevation gain: 700 feet
Estimated hiking time: 1 to 1 ½ hours
Dogs: Must be under voice and sight control
Trailhead: It’s within walking distance of downtown Aspen. Head east on Ute Ave. for about 0.4 mile. Shortly after you come to a house with a multitude of windows, look for the small wooden trail sign on the right (across from a parking pullout for Ute Park). Or ride over on a WE-cycle bike; there’s a nearby docking station at the Gant condominiums.
Route: Because of its proximity to town and its low mileage, the popular Ute Trail is a super-efficient way to exercise—think of it as a natural Stairmaster. This short trail switchbacks steeply up the lower third of Aspen Mountain; thankfully, much of it is in the shade. (If you have knee issues, we recommend bringing a pair of collapsible hiking poles for the descent). The reward is a bird’s-eye view of town from the rock outcroppings at the end. Don’t forget water—you’ll need it while tackling the lung-busting climb. Hike all the way to the top of Aspen Mountain from the top of the Ute if you want a longer outing (3.1 miles from the trailhead to the summit)—you can ride the Silver Queen gondola down for free (daily through Sept. 4, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.).
Download the Pitkin Outside app for more information and detailed trail maps: aspenrecreation.com
Updated September 26, 2017:
The Aspen Times reports the Ute Trail will remain closed for the foreseeable future. Officials are figuring out how to deal with loose rock at the top of the trail following about a two-and-a-half week closure after a half-dozen large boulders came tumbling down to the bottom during a thunderstorm according to Austin Weiss, the city of Aspen's parks and open space director.