The summer has come to a close but that doesn’t mean hiking has ended, at least not yet. With a few weeks left before the snow sets in on the Rocky Mountains we headed up to high country to see the fall foliage in Aspen, Colorado.
It was the first time the kids had been to Aspen and my mother was along for the ride as well. Two young kids, and an older mother who has never hiked and isn’t used to the altitude meant finding some EASY Aspen hiking trails. Hikes, aka walks everyone could do, while also providing the chance to see the stunning gold fall colors Aspen is known for.
With some help from my hiking shoes and a few Aspen locals I rounded up the top six family friendly Aspen hiking trails that are great for leaf peeping. (These are also excellent summer Aspen hiking trails.)
Have any to add to the list? Let me know if the comments.
Six Family Friendly Aspen Hiking Trails
Rio Grande Trail – This is both a hiking and biking trail in Aspen. The trail starts behind the Post Office on Puppy Smith Road. The first two miles of the trail are paved and then becomes a dirt trail after crossing Cemetery Road.
Maroon Lake Scenic Trail – The Maroon Bells are a must-see for any visitor to Aspen. There are various hikes you can take from the Bells, some easy, some hard and some out of this world crazy. We stuck to the easy ones on this trip, albeit I’ll admit the first (and only) hike I ever cried on was on the Bells back when I did the more difficult/crazy hikes.
The Maroon Lake Scenic Trail is a short (1.3 mile) Aspen hiking trail that follows the lake to the far side and meanders along the creek flowing into the lake. This is a great place for pictures and picnics. There are several benches along the way as well for those unaccustomed to the altitude. If you want to continue onward meet up with the Crater Lake trail, this hiking trail is also easy but a bit longer so little (and much older) ones might find it more difficult.
Tip: If you’re planning to do any hiking or sight seeing at the Maroon Bells you will need to take the shuttle into the park. If you want to drive your own car you will have to arrive before 8am or after 5pm.
Ajax Trail – This is a beautiful and scenic Aspen hiking trail for children of every age. Connecting two sides of town, Ajax Trail traverses Aspen Mountain beginning in groves of aspen trees, across the ski area and descending back into the wooded slope in Aspen’s east end. The entire, round trip hike should only take about an hour.
Weller Lake – In the fall and summer taking a drive through Independence Pass offers some of the most stunning views of the Continental Divide. It also gives you the chance to get out and explore some of the local hikes. Weller Lake is the easiest hike off Independence Pass, this according to a Park Ranger I ran into along the trail. It’s about seven miles outside of Aspen. The hike itself is only about .6 miles round trip. Within about .3 miles you will reach a small waterfall, great for a picnic. To access the trail, head towards Independence Pass and watch for the Weller Campgrounds. If you’re coming from Aspen, there is a parking lot at the base of the trail head on the right-hand side of the road, the Weller Campgrounds are about 100 feet past the parking lot on the left side of the road.
The Grottos – This is another kid-friendly Aspen hiking trail. It’s located eight miles east of Aspen off of Independence Pass. It’s a favorite among kids given all the rock formations, ice sculptures along the banks of the Roaring Fork River. The hiking trail is about one-mile round-trip. There are well-marked signs along Independence Pass marking the trail head (aka it’s a popular hike).
Smuggler Trail – This trail head accesses Smuggler Mountain Road, one of the most popular recreation areas in the immediate Aspen vicinity. Any spring, summer or fall afternoon, Smuggler Mountain Road is busy with people hiking, running, mountain biking or walking their dogs. Smuggler Road provides a short (1-1/2 mile) work out with great views of Aspen from the look-out point, which makes it very popular.
See our Colorado Wine Travel Guide for things to do among and beyond the vines.
Elaine N. Schoch
Elaine Schoch (pronounced the German way – Shock) is the editor and founder of Carpe Travel as well as an award-winning travel writer, wine judge, certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 and certified American Wine Expert. She is married to The Husband and has two kids, Princess One and Two – who’s interest and knowledge in wine is quite extensive. Not to mention the stamps in their passports.