Strenuous Hikes

The best way to experience the mountains around Aspen is to explore with an ACES Naturalist. Our guides not only know the area, but also have countless stories and information to share about the wildlife and history of the area. These Hire a Guide options are available for all ages and are perfect for individuals, families, or groups of any size. We can customize your tour to focus on birding, wildflowers, local wildlife, and many more interesting topics. Give us a call and we will help you figure out which hike is best for your group. ACES is a permitted outfitter guide through the US Forest Service White River National Forest.

  • Guide: all hikes include one experienced ACES Naturalist 
  • Basic fee: $60 per hour per Naturalist (9 person limit per Naturalist)
  • To make a reservation, please fill out our simple form. If you have questions, call Grayson Bauer at 970-925-5756.

Additional Options:

  • Food: ACES can arrange lunch for an additional $20 per person
  • Transportation: ACES can arrange transportation at an additional cost depending on the location.

Hunter-Smuggler Loop

Just minutes from downtown Aspen, ascend along the rushing waters of Hunter Creek through cottonwood and aspen groves, scrambling over river rocks in this dynamic lower river valley. In the upper valley, nestled between Red Mountain & Smuggler Mountain, traverse meadows with vibrant wildflowers that delicately color the meadow landscape. At the summit, you're rewarded with great views of downtown Aspen and the area's four ski mountains. Descend on the historic mining road down Smuggler Mountain and back into the north side of town.

  • 4.8 miles round trip (3 - 4 hours)
  • Trailhead elevation 7,850ft • High point ~8,950ft
Maroon Creek Trail

Explore the  Maroon Creek Valley on a spectacular hike to Maroon Lake. The trail traverses meadows, aspen forests, and major avalanche paths where evidence of the destructive force of winter slides can be seen. Experience the breathtaking display of wildflowers along the rushing waters of Maroon Creek. A downhill option starting from Maroon Lake (easy to moderate hiking) is also available with shuttle/bus transportation.

  • 3.2 Miles (2-3 hrs.)
  • Trailhead elevation 8,700ft  • High point 9,580ft

American Lake  
This classic hike winds up from the Castle Creek valley though an aspen forest with a beautiful wildflower-rich understory. Next, hikers pop into the primordial spruce/fir forest and out across wide open meadows. The final approach crosses some rock glaciers and ends at the picture perfect American Lake. This half-day hike gets the blood flowing and then rewards with comfortable and scenic picnic spots at the top. Don't miss this exhilarating excursion!

  • 6.4 miles round trip (5 - 7 hours)
  • Trailhead Elevation 9,400ft • American Lake 11,370ft

Cathedral Lake      
This favorite Aspen area trail features a steady climb through a dense aspen forest, crosses open avalanche paths thick with floral diversity and amazing views, traverses through spruce and fir forests, and winds through alpine meadows with wildflowers. A final steep approach with switchbacks and, after ten more minutes through sage brush, the stunning Cathedral Lake comes into view. You might catch a glimpse of mountain goats if you bring your binoculars! You'll be sure to hear pika as they scamper around the boulders at the lake's edge.

  • 6.4 miles round trip (5 – 7 hours)
  • Trailhead Elevation 9,880ft • American Lake 11,870ft

Lost Man Loop  
This alpine loop hike is unrivaled in plant diversity, time spent above 11,000 feet, and sheer beauty. After two miles climbing through alpine tundra we come upon Independence Lake then crest the saddle of a high pass before descending to Lost Man Lake. The rest of the hike follows downhill trails through breathtaking valleys filled with stunning wildflowers and spectacular peaks. This trail is not to be missed!

  • 8.8 miles round trip (6 – 8 hours)
  • Trailhead Elevation 11,500ft • High Point 12,800ft • End Elevation 10,500ft