Length: 3.5 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Moderate
Why we love it: The great views on the way up distract you from the climb, and you can easily extend your outing via the mountain’s extensive trail network.
When to go: Spring through fall; early morning and evening are both great times for snapping photos of the surrounding scenery.
Pre-hike buzz: One block south of Main Street, Peach’s Corner Café serves excellent java, dirty chai, and a diverse breakfast and lunch menu.
Restrooms: None
Dogs: Sight and voice control required

Located on the edge of Aspen, this trail is a favorite outing for locals and visitors alike. Its steep gradient is perfect for a challenging early-morning workout or a pleasant evening hike. Regardless of when you head up, you’ll be treated to amazing views of the town nestled beneath the steep slopes of Aspen Mountain.

The hike begins from a small parking area at the bottom of the 4WD Smuggler Road, which is easy to follow and whose generous width easily accommodates both hikers and bikers. At the first couple of switchbacks, you’ll have a good view of the old structures marking the Smuggler Mine, for which this 236-acre open space parcel is named. Discovered in 1879, it’s one of Aspen’s oldest, and the site where the world’s largest nugget of silver was found in 1894—a behemoth rock that weighed 1,840 pounds.

Once you pass the mine, the route simply continues up the road. The higher you climb, the better the views become. After 1.4 miles, you reach a group of signs and branching trails. To reach the viewing platform, follow the narrow path to your right through a stand of aspen to a bench and large, wooden deck where you can gaze down upon the beautiful Roaring Fork Valley, with the town of Aspen far below.

After you’ve enjoyed the views, make your outing into a loop by turning left up the B.T.S. Trail, which winds through a beautiful grove of aspen. Near the end of this trail, there are signs directing you to two more historic mine sites, the Park Regent and the Bushwacker. Although there’s little to see, both sites have interpretive signs. From here, continue to the end of the B.T.S., which rejoins the Smuggler Mountain Road. If you have time, you can continue all the way to the Warren Lakes (6 miles one way from the trailhead), or you can descend to the viewing platform, enjoy the panoramic vista again, and then retrace your steps back to your car.

Getting there: From downtown Aspen, head east on Main Street (Highway 82), then turn left (north) onto Mill Street. After 0.25 mile, turn right onto Gibson Avenue. In 0.2 mile, continue straight onto South Avenue, which turns into Park Circle at the next right-hand bend. In 0.2 mile, turn left onto Smuggler Mountain Road. There is limited parking at the trailhead, plus a few additional spots near the junction with Park Circle.

Terri Cook
Terri Cook
Terri Cook is an award-winning freelance writer based in Boulder. More of her work can be found at down2earthscience.com.