Living in Aspen has been a highlight of my life thus far. I came for the skiing and stayed for the summers. The abundance of accessible hikes in Aspen make it easy to get your daily dose of forest bathing in. In this article, I share with you my top 5 hikes in Aspen. Each hike has its own special differentiator. I’ve included hikes with epic views of Aspen and popular hikes next to rivers. All of the hikes are either walking distance from town or within a short car or bus ride away.

Hiking in Aspen

The first thing you need to know about hiking in Aspen is that there are bears. Not just on the trails, but even in the town. There have been evenings when I walked to get a hot chocolate at Paradise Bakery & Cafe and saw bear cubs in the trees next to the coffee shop. It’s widely known that the Aspen Bears frequent the town. Mostly they keep to themselves, knocking over the dumpsters by restaurants and wandering the alleys. Nevertheless, the first time you see one face to face, it is a shocking experience.

Don’t let the bears keep you from enjoying the great outdoors however. Most are fattening up on berries and are more afraid of you than you are of them. Plus, with the popularity of the hiking in Aspen, there is usually enough activity on the trail to keep bears away.

What to pack when hiking Aspen trails

If you’re planning a hiking trip in Aspen, Colorado, it’s important to pack the right gear and essentials to have an enjoyable and safe experience. From proper clothing to emergency supplies, here’s a comprehensive list of what you should bring on your hike.

Clothing and Footwear

Aspen is located in the Rocky Mountains and has a high elevation, which means the weather can be unpredictable. It’s important to pack clothing that will keep you warm and dry in case of sudden changes in temperature or weather conditions. Here are some essential items to include:

  • A waterproof and breathable jacket
  • Moisture-wicking base layers
  • Comfortable and sturdy hiking boots with good traction
  • Hiking socks (avoid cotton as it can cause blisters)
  • Lightweight and quick-drying pants or shorts
  • A hat to protect your head from the sun
  • Sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays and glare

Gear and Supplies

In addition to clothes, there are several essential gear and supplies that you should bring on a hike in Aspen:

  • A well-fitted backpack to carry all your items
  • A map and compass or a GPS device to navigate the trails
  • Plenty of water (at least 2 liters per person) and snacks to stay hydrated and energized
  • Sunscreen with a high SPF to protect your skin from the high-altitude sun
  • Insect repellent to keep bugs away
  • A first-aid kit with essentials such as bandages, pain relievers, and antiseptic wipes
  • A whistle and a mirror for emergency signaling

Other Important Items to Pack

Apart from clothing and gear, there are some other essential items that you should pack when hiking in Aspen:

  • Identification (ID) and some cash for emergencies or if you plan on stopping at a restaurant or store along the way.
  • A fully charged phone and a portable charger in case of emergencies (note that cell service may be limited in remote areas)
  • Bear spray if you’re planning on hiking in the back country
  • A camera to capture the stunning views and wildlife sightings

Where to buy hiking shoes in Aspen

The best place in Aspen to buy hiking shoes is at Ute Mountaineer. Located in the heart of the town, Ute is the oldest sporting goods store in the area. I would ski with some of the staff from Ute when I lived in Aspen and these guys are gnarly. Somehow Ute attracts the best of the best when it comes to staff. The people that work at Ute truly love the outdoors and their passion comes through when speaking with them.

Best Hikes in Aspen

#1 Hunter Creek Trail

I rank the Hunter Creek Trail as the best hike in Aspen. It’s close proximity to town, variety of distance, and amazing scenery are just a few of the reasons why Hunter Creek is number one. Along with being a great hiking trail, lower Hunter Creek is also one of the best trail running routes in Aspen.

hunter creek trail

#2 Ute Trail

The most challenging hike from downtown Aspen, Ute Trail offers hikers a shorter version that climbs 700′ to a lookout. For those looking to embark on a full 2.5-hour expedition, you will climb another 2,300′ to get to the Sundeck at 11,212′. Once at the top, enjoy lunch at the Sundeck Restaurant and a free Gondola ride back down to town.

Getting to the Ute Trailhead

Located on East End of Aspen, take Ute Ave until you see the Ute Trailhead. It will be just after the Ute Cemetery.

#3 Weller Lake Hike

One of the best hikes in Aspen. Located a half hour from town, you feel as though you are a world away when on the Weller Lake trail. The short 1/2-mile trail takes you to Weller Lake – a popular spot for locals to come swim or paddle board. The views from Weller Lake are incredible. It’s worth packing a lunch and spending some time by this pristine high alpine lake.

Directions to Weller Lake trailhead

From downtown Aspen take Independence Pass towards Twin Lakes. About a half hour in you will see the parking lot for Weller Lake and Scenic Lookout. There is limited cell service so just keep your eyes out for the parking lot turnoff.

#4 Ajax Trail

Ajax is the perfect ‘quick’ hike that is easy to get to from downtown Aspen. The trail zig-zags up from Koch Park and then cuts across the face of Aspen Mountain. You get a great summer time view of the famous double-black diamond run, Norway, when you first get out of the thick brush. From here, you can soak up a panoramic view of the town of Aspen as well as Red Mountain – a.k.a Billionair’s Hill.

Ajax Trailhead

Take Cooper Ave away from town till you reach Koch Park. Along the mountainside of the park you will see the Ajax Trail Head.

#5 Sunnyside Trail Aspen

For a great view of Aspen Mountain and the surrounding Roaring Fork Valley, the Sunnyside hike is the best bet. Located just outside of town, this trail is popular for both mountain biking and hiking. If you are looking for a long hike, you can keep going and connect to the Upper Hunter Creek trail to end back in town. Or, do the 6-mile out-and-back, giving you great views of the valley.

Directions to Sunnyside Hiking Trail

Drive west out of downtown Aspen via Highway 82 for almost a quarter of a mile. Take a right onto Cemetery Lane. Then, cross Slaughterhouse Bridge, and continue onto McLain Flats Road. About .3 miles ( or 1 minute) after you cross Slaughterhouse Bridge, you’ll find the trailhead parking area on the left. Cross the street and the trailhead is right there.

Coffee Shops Near the Sunnyside Trail

French Pastry Cafe
111 Aspen Airport Business Center G, Aspen, CO 81611

Bonus: Easiest Hiking Trail in Aspen