| Week of August 29-September 4, 1996
Roughing it (sort of) on St. John
Aspen action, minus the snow
Outside the Beltway, into Virginia
Camping in Hoosier National Forest
Head to Mexico for a quickie
Aspen action, minus the snow
Question: Can you please tell me the best mountain biking trails in the area and any suggestions for other activities in Aspen, Colorado? What about whitewater rafting, horseback riding, or biking down Aspen Mountain? Is there any snow on higher-elevation mountains, and is there summer skiing?
Adventure Adviser: There must be a bizillion (well, almost) outdoor activities to choose from in Aspen when the snow melts. The trouble is squeezing them all in.
For fat-tire touring, try the roughly eight-mile Smuggler Mountain/Hunter Creek loop that climbs out of town on the hard-packed, occasionally washboarded Smuggler Mountain Road before dropping into the wildflower-laden Hunter Creek Valley. Pick up the Hunter Creek singletrack trail back towards Aspen, which will deposit you onto paved roads off Red Mountain for a steep and fast descent back into town.
White-knuckle riders will want to brave the Government Trail, a challenging 20-mile loop ride through open meadows and aspen forests that starts and ends in Aspen. If you opt for this ride, steel yourself for 11 miles of epic singletrack with all the usual features: hairpin switchbacks, gnarly descents, plenty of water crossings, and a healthy dose of hike-a-biking. Start by pedaling the airport recreational trail and bike path to the top of Owl Creek Road Divide and drop down a quarter-mile from the gap to a left-hand turn onto unmarked singletrack. The bad news? It only gets steeper. From here, you'll head left onto the Government Trail, negotiate a handful of rocky stream beds, pedal out onto the West Buttermilk's ski slopes, cross Tiehack Ski Area, and then empty out onto Maroon Creek Road, which will hook you back onto the bike path into town.
For some pure downhill indulgence, head over to the gondola at Aspen Mountain. Ski trails there (sadly, snow-free in the summer) make for ideal fat-tire descents. Leave the PowerBars at home; there's little caloric reward here. For detailed trail info, check out The Mountain Biker's Guide to Colorado, by Linda Gong and Gregg Bromka (Falcon Press), talk to the experts at Aspen Velo Bike Shop (970-925-1495), or call the Aspen Skiing Company at 970-925-4444.
Ditch the bike for a day and try an 11-mile round-trip hike on the West Snowmass Trail. Prepare for some steep climbing: You'll gain a whopping 3,500 feet in just 5.5 miles before reaching the saddle between Mount Daly and Haystack Mountain. But keep going, because your reward is a jaw-dropping view of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. To find the trailhead, take Colorado 82 about 14 miles northwest of Aspen to a southbound turn onto the Old Snowmass forest service road. Follow signs to the Snowmass Campground, about 12 miles away and park about a half-mile past the campground at the Maroon-Snowmass trailhead. Start hiking here. You'll intersect the West Snowmass Trail after about a mile. Call the Aspen ranger district of the White River National Forest at 970-925-3445 for more info.
A whole slew of outfitters offer full-day and multiday horseback rides into the Aspen backcountry: T-Lazy-7 Ranch (970-925-7040), Brush Creek Stables (907-923-4252), and Snowmass Stables (907-923-3075). And for rafting on the nearby Roaring Fork, Arkansas, and Colorado rivers, check in with Aspen Whitewater (800-873-8008) or Colorado Rift-Raft (970-925-5405). Any additional area info can be had by calling the Aspen Resort Chamber at 970-925-1940.