Pitkin County bike trails: Smuggler, Aspen
April 10, 2018
Getting there: Head to Smuggler Mountain Road to access the trailhead, which is on the city's northeast corner. There's parking up the dirt road and to the right. If it's full, there's an overflow lot nearby on Park Circle.
Trail talk: Smuggler Mountain Road itself also is popular with hikers and dog walkers. The road offers great views and access to a number of trail networks.
Distance: 1.8 miles
The dirt: Hummingbird is a great connector for longer rides or fun on its own. It's Hunter Creek's first machine-built trail.
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HUNTER CREEK TRAIL
Distance: 4 miles
THE DIRT: This trail actually starts on the Rio Grande Trail in Aspen. It eventually becomes a steep hiking trail. The far eastern end of the trail is close to the Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness boundary, which makes for a beautiful out-and-back ride. The far end of the trail is much more technical. Near the upper trailhead, the ride becomes rocky. Most riders avoid this stretch by hitting the Verena Mallory singletrack for a half-mile detour.
Most people access this route from the parking lot at the Upper Hunter Creek Trailhead. From here, it's a fast descent.
SMUGGLER-HUNTER-VANHORN-HOBBIT-SECRET-SUNNYSIDE LOOP RIDE
Distance: 17.7 miles
THE DIRT: From Smuggler Mountain Road, climb the dirt road to the Smuggler Observation Deck. The main route continues to the left of the kiosk on Hunter Creek Cutoff Trail, which leads all the way to Hunter Creek Trail. Make a right on the Hunter Creek Trail and follow it for several hundred yards before crossing the 10th Mountain Bridge. Stay left, which will drop you into a White River National Forest parking area. From the parking area, you'll climb Red Mountain Road.
This difficult ride (3,200 feet of elevation) offers lots of opportunity for climbing and plenty of descending through diverse landscapes. Almost all of the descents are on singletrack. After the climb up Red Mountain Road, go toward Van Horn Park through the grassy meadow to Hunter Creek overlook. The ride continues to Hobbit Trail, where you'll experience a steep and grueling climb until the awesome descent to 4 Corners. While most of the ride is intermediate, the Sunnyside Trail is difficult with steep terrain and lots of rocky, rooted sections. After a technical downhill, you'll grab the Rio Grande Trail and head back toward Aspen.
SMUGGLER-HUNTER CREEK LOOP RIDE
Distance: 9.6 miles
THE DIRT: Smuggler and Hunter Creek Loops are mostly intermediate rides, but there are expert technical challenges along the way. And of course, it all starts with a rigorous ride up Smuggler Mountain Road. Descend Tootsie Roll Trail until you reach the intersection with Lollipop Trail. Lollipop terminates on an old mining route. Turn right and continue downhill on the singletrack, past a Jeep road intersection. You'll reach a second intersection with views of the Hunter Creek Valley floor. Continue left until you hit the Iowa Shaft Trail. At the end of Iowa Shaft, make right and continue to the Hunter Creek Trail connection.
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