Around The Hoop

Five favorite mountain bike trails in Aspen

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenJuly 28, 2011
With a couple of big-time cycling races set to wheel through Aspen in August, what better time than now to hop on a mountain bike to get in the mood and explore the high country.

There is no shortage of stellar mountain bike trails in the Roaring Fork Valley. Here are five favorites:

1. Smuggler Mountain – This begins as a steep, winding, dirt road in Aspen’s back yard. You’ll have to compete with the many hikers who walk up it but, really, that can be some interesting people watching.

Start at the base of the mountain where there are a couple of different parking options and start climbing upward. You might even see Lance Armstrong zip past you.
Mountain biking around Aspen.
Photo by Jason Dewey

It’s a hardcore climb but when you reach the top, there are a variety of trails to choose. You can ride the scenic loop through the Hunter Creek Valley, head up to Four Corners or check out Warren Lakes. The way down is fun and fast and the complete opposite of how you reach the top.

2. Rim Trail – This is a popular single-track as it begins with a steady but not-too-steep climb, delivers incredible views and it can be completed in a couple of hours. The 9.4-mile ride begins and ends in Snowmass Village and includes an entertaining descent toward the trailhead from where you started. It’s a solid choice for beginners and experts alike.

3. Government Trail East – Depending on the amount of uphill you crave, you can start in Aspen and ride the roads to Buttermilk and begin your ascent, or start at the Buttermilk parking lot. But the preferred route is to start in Snowmass Village where the Government Trail actually begins. The single-track is moderate to advanced in difficulty and winds through groves of aspen and lodgepole pine trees before a fun descent into Aspen. The single-track itself is under 10 miles but longer if you don’t start in Snowmass Village. Since this isn’t a loop, setting up a vehicle shuttle or taking the free bus equipped with bike racks is your best bet. Of course, you could always turn around and ride back to Snowmass, too.

4. Snowmass Ski Area – Take the Elk Camp Gondola midway up the mountain or the chairlift to the summit to tap into 50 miles of terrain that varies from wild to wimpy. It’s all up to you and your ability.

5. Rio Grande Trail – If you really want to take it easy, this is the ride for you. Start at the Rio Grande Trail in downtown Aspen, cruise west along the paved trail until it turns into a soft, natural surface. Before you know it (which is typically about seven miles depending on your starting point) you’ll arrive in Woody Creek where you can follow the signage to the famous Woody Creek Tavern for margaritas and more. The restaurant serves up delicious food, drinks and local history. Take the bus back to Aspen.

Once you’ve learned the lay of the land, should you be so inclined, consider riding in the inaugural Power of Four Mountain Bike Race on Sunday, Aug. 28. This race, organized by the Aspen Skiing Company, will start at the base of Snowmass Ski Area, traverse Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands, and end at the Sundeck at the top of Aspen Mountain. The field will consist of solo racers and relay teams of two or four with an estimated 11,000-foot vertical gain and 9,000-foot vertical drop over 33 miles of single-track and double-track terrain.

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