The Best Trail Running Routes in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley

Stephanie Kroll

Aspen, a top hiking destination in Colorado, has also become a haven for trail runners. The region's stunning singletrack trails attract runners from around the globe, offering a range of routes from challenging ultra-length adventures to more achievable, scenic runs. Here are some of the best trail running routes in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley.

1. Hunter Creek Valley

With two main access points from the town of Aspen, Hunter Creek Valley offers an extensive trail system suitable for all skill levels. Runners can choose to ascend the Hunter Creek Trail to the west of the valley or take the dirt fire road up Smuggler Mountain. Once in the valley, various routes are available, each offering great views of the Elk Mountains and historic mining cabins. In the fall, the golden-colored aspen groves make this area particularly breathtaking.

2. Sunnyside Trail

Starting at Cemetery Lane, the Sunnyside Trail climbs more than 2,000 feet, rewarding runners with views of all four ski mountains and the Maroon Bells. This 6.3-mile one-way trail offers the option to traverse Red Mountain and connect with trails in the Hunter Creek Valley. Runners can also take the Rio Grande Trail back to their starting point for a complete loop.

3. Government Trail

Popular among mountain bikers, the Government Trail from Snowmass to Buttermilk is a favorite for trail runners who often run it in the opposite direction. This 6.6-mile singletrack trail offers a mix of gradual ascents and quick up-and-down terrain, passing through wildflower fields and shaded aspen groves. If you’re too tired to run back, you can catch a bus from Snowmass Base Village back to Buttermilk Mountain.

4. Crater Lake/East Snowmass Creek Trail

For a moderate 10-mile out-and-back run, the East Snowmass Creek Trail is a great choice. This route offers gentle slopes and views of Pyramid Peak. Summer brings beautiful wildflowers, while fall provides stunning vistas of golden aspen trees. Ambitious runners can extend their journey to East Maroon Pass, Copper Basin, and eventually Crested Butte.

5. Conundrum Creek Trail

The Conundrum Creek Trail rewards runners with natural hot springs after a 2,500-foot climb over 9 miles. In summer, meadows of wildflowers and aspen groves line the trail, while fall highlights the golden aspen trees. The trail culminates at Conundrum Hot Springs, offering panoramic views of the valley.

6. East of Aspen Trail

The East of Aspen Trail heads east toward the North Star Nature Preserve. Paved for the first half and transitioning to crushed gravel, it provides a flat, scenic run through aspen groves. This trail is perfect for a relaxing run in a beautiful setting.

7. ABC Trail

The Airport Business Center Trail (ABC Trail) connects Cemetery Lane to the Aspen Airport. This paved trail runs parallel to Highway 82 and offers numerous connections, allowing runners to vary their route. From the Airport Business Center, you can hop on the Stein Trail to return to town via the Rio Grande Trail.

8. Rio Grande Trail

Following the old Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad route, the Rio Grande Trail stretches from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. This flat trail runs alongside the Roaring Fork River, providing both paved and soft shoulder options. It’s an excellent choice for long, scenic runs.

9. Ajax Trail

The Ajax Trail offers a challenging run across Aspen Mountain (Ajax). Runners can extend their route using the Midland Trail and Ute Avenue Trail, which provide a mix of paved, gravel, and trail terrain.

10. Four Pass Loop

While hikers typically take 2-4 days to complete the iconic Four Pass Loop, experienced trail runners can tackle this marathon-length route in a single day. The loop covers four mountain passes and offers unparalleled views of the Maroon Bells and surrounding wilderness.

11. Grand Traverse Mountain Run

For those seeking an extreme challenge, the 40-mile Grand Traverse Mountain Run crosses the Elk Range from Crested Butte to Aspen. This grueling route tests even the most seasoned trail runners.

Seasonal Highlights

The fall season is particularly stunning for trail running in Aspen, with golden aspen trees creating picture-perfect panoramas. However, each season offers unique beauty, from the wildflower blooms of summer to the snow-covered trails of winter.

Aspen’s diverse trail system offers something for every trail runner, from beginner to expert. So lace up your running shoes and explore the breathtaking trails of Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley!

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