The Best Bird Watching in Aspen, Colorado: A Naturalist’s Paradise with ACES

Stephanie Kroll

Thanks to its lush forests and abundant lakes and rivers, Aspen is a haven for bird watchers. From novice birders to seasoned experts, the area offers a plethora of bird-watching opportunities to observe diverse species. Some of the local favorites include MacGillivray's Warbler, Orange-Crowned Warblers, Red Crossbill, Brown Creeper, Red-Naped Sapsucker, and American Dipper. Whether you’re a casual observer or a dedicated birder, Aspen has something for everyone.

Birding Tours and Events

Morning Birding Outings with ACES

Join the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) on Tuesday, May 21st, for their morning birding outing. This tour will take you to various bird habitats, including Hallam Lake, North Star Nature Preserve, and other hotspots around Aspen. Birders of all experience levels are welcome to join and enjoy the natural beauty and diverse bird species.

Summer Birding Tours

Throughout the summer, ACES offers morning birding tours every Tuesday for ages seven and above, guided by local naturalist Rebecca Weiss. These tours provide an excellent opportunity for both beginners and experienced birders to explore Aspen's rich avian life. Binoculars are available for guests who do not have their own.

ACES Bird Club

For a more in-depth bird-watching experience, consider joining the ACES Bird Club. This membership allows participants to engage in bird watching on a new level, learning from expert birders and networking with other avid bird watchers. Members also gain access to information on migration patterns, rare bird sightings, and upcoming birding events.

Bird Watching Trails in Aspen

Aspen offers several trails perfect for bird watching, each providing unique experiences and varying levels of difficulty:

Snowmass, Haystack, and Capitol Peak Loop

According to AllTrails.com, this is the longest bird-watching trail in Aspen, stretching 40.3 miles. It offers bird watchers an extensive route to observe numerous species in their natural habitats.

Richmond Hill and Taylor Pass OHV Route

With an ascent of 11,227 feet, this trail boasts the highest elevation gain among Aspen's bird-watching trails. The challenging climb rewards birders with spectacular views and diverse avian life.

West Maroon Trail

Rated 4.9 stars by 808 reviewers, the West Maroon Trail is the most popular and challenging bird-watching trail in Aspen. Its breathtaking scenery and rich bird life make it a favorite among birders.

Popular Bird Watching Spots

Hallam Lake

ACES’ Birding Basics classes at Hallam Lake offer a great starting point for beginners. These classes, held on June 24 and July 8, begin with a lesson on using binoculars and identifying different bird behaviors. Participants then venture out to observe wading birds and waterfowl in their natural habitats.

North Star Nature Preserve

This preserve is another excellent location for bird watching. The serene environment provides a perfect backdrop for spotting a variety of bird species, making it a must-visit for bird enthusiasts.

Independence Pass

Group outings to Independence Pass take place every Tuesday morning from June 2 through October 6. These outings are a fantastic way to witness seasonal migrations and observe birds in their high-altitude habitats.

Notable Birders and Events

Aspen’s birding scene occasionally features prominent birders. For instance, Dick Filby, the founder of the Rare Bird Alert, has presented at ACES, and Al Levinton, the inspiration for a character in the film “The Big Year,” frequently birds in the valley. ACES also hosts the annual Christmas bird count, a significant event for local and visiting birders.

Unique Birding Experiences

ACES offers private outings with staff naturalists for those looking to spot specific species. For example, during a late winter tour, ACES helped a visitor see all three species of rosy-finch, a notable achievement for any birder.

Bird watching in Aspen is more than a hobby; it's a gateway to experiencing the natural world in a profound way. Whether you’re watching a kingfisher dive at Hallam Lake or identifying rare species with expert birders, the joy and connection to nature are undeniable. Aspen’s birding community welcomes you to join them in this elegant obsession. Happy birding!

For more information on birding tours, events, and memberships, visit Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES).


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