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Classic Aspen Hikes

These are some of the most popular routes, with good reason—just be prepared to share the trail with other enthusiasts.

By Manasseh Franklin Photography by Daniel Bayer July 21, 2020 Published in the Summer/Fall 2020 issue of Aspen Sojourner

Hiking the Lost Man Trail


Begin hiking through thick aspen groves before starting to parallel gurgling Pine Creek; detour to overlook the roiling cascades below. Eventually, you’ll ascend eight short but very steep switchbacks before the final push to the lake, which is ringed by an amphitheater of craggy summits, including 13,943-foot Cathedral Peak, named for its fluted, commanding presence. Picnic by the shoreline, fish for cutthroat trout, or carry on to Electric Pass.

Length: 5.6 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
Trailhead: See Electric Pass
Good to know: Make a lunch reservation at the nearby Pine Creek Cookhouse, one of Aspen’s most beloved restaurants, to refuel on house-smoked trout and the Nepalese dumplings known as momos.

Why use a Stairmaster when you can climb the Ute? The rocky trail not only ascends 700 feet in less than a mile, it also offers a fine view of Aspen. From the trailhead, follow steep, shaded switchbacks to a rocky outcropping. Pause for a snack before heading down, or continue onward for another hard-won 2,300 vertical feet (and 3.1 miles total from the start) up Gentleman’s Ridge to the Sundeck atop Aspen Mountain.

Length: About 2 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Strenuous
Trailhead: Walk east on Ute Avenue for .4 miles from downtown; look for a small wooden trail sign on the right. Or ride the Cross Town Shuttle bus (note that service up Ute Ave is suspended this summer) or a WE-cycle bike, which you can dock at the Gant condos nearby.
Good to know: If you hike to the top of Aspen Mountain, save your knees and take the Silver Queen Gondola down—a free perk daily through September 7, then on weekends through October 4.

The trail to Crater Lake

Framed by the glacial U-shape of West Maroon valley, this picturesque lake seems dwarfed by the geometric sides of 14,014-foot North Maroon Peak rising above it. As you hike from Maroon Lake, you’ll pass through quaking aspen groves that give glimpses of the glittering water below and towering 14,018-foot Pyramid Peak across the valley. A few steep spurts lead to a boulder field accented by white aspen trunks, delicate columbines, and a beckoning view of North Maroon. Reward your efforts with a lakeside picnic, or bring camping gear to sleep under the stars in the dispersed spots on the lake’s west end.

Length: 3.6 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: See East Maroon; go all the way to Maroon Lake.
Good to know: Start hiking early not only to avoid crowds, but also to watch the sun light up North Maroon’s red rock.

Though this hike is often referred to as Lost Man Loop, it’s not a true circular hike, as four miles of Highway 82 separate the two trailheads. From the Upper Lost Man trailhead, gradually climb up an alpine meadow alongside babbling Upper Roaring Fork Creek; the multipeaked ridgeline of Geissler Mountain borders on the left while Twining Peak rises to the right. The reward for your climb? The shimmering waters of Independence Lake. Continue to a gentle, rocky saddle at 12,800 feet that gives way to a view of the lush Lost Man Valley below and the crusty Williams Mountains beyond. Descend into the basin and pause on the shores of Lost Man Lake before enjoying a gradual walk into a marshy valley that’s often carpeted with wildflowers. Soon after you pass Lost Man Reservoir, you’ll arrive at the lower trailhead.

Length: 8.8 miles point to point
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Drive 18.5 miles east from Aspen on Highway 82; park in the area to the left of the big switchback. You can also hike in reverse, starting at the trailhead 14 miles east of Aspen on the left.
Good to know: Drop another car at one of the trailheads to shuttle at the end of the hike, or try your luck at thumbing a ride back to your vehicle.

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