American Lake Trail Hiking

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Summary

This athletic 3.2-mile one-way, 2,000-vertical-foot climb leads adventurous hikers through forests and wildflower-dotted meadows to a gorgeous alpine lake. Starting from Aspen’s famous ghost town, Ashchroft, American Lake trail climbs steeply up switchbacks along a wooded gulch in the Devaney Creek valley for about 1.5 miles before reaching a spruce forest. The steady, steep uphill grade continues through the spruce grove until it reaches an old mining site where the trail opens up to an open meadow.

Written by

Leah Fielding

Distance

6.4 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

11.6 miles

Difficulty

4 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

3 hours

Seasonality

Summer and Fall

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits

No

Review

Intro

This athletic 3.2-mile one-way, 2,000-plus-vertical-foot climb leads adventurous, and physically fit, hikers through forests and wildflower-dotted meadows to a gorgeous alpine lake, American Lake, located in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

What Makes It Great

Starting from Aspen’s famous ghost town, Ashchroft, the hike to American Lake climbs abruptly up switchbacks along a wooded gulch in the Devaney Creek valley for about 1.5 miles before reaching a spruce forest. The steady, uphill grade continues through the spruce grove until it reaches an old mining site which opens up to an open meadow of rocks and wildflowers (if you’re there mid-July to mid-August). 

Views are mostly limited to forested ridges, but there are some sections that reveal smaller peaks within the Castle Creek valley. Soon after the open field the trail re-enters a forest before crossing another large meadow which leads to a waterfall followed by pristine American Lake.

The lake is pristine, clear and refreshing and provides a welcomed cool-down for mid-summer hikers, but it’s the journey through gorgeous meadows littered with purple fleabane and mariposa lilies that’s truly unforgettable. American Lake is one of Aspens more physical intense hikes, so you're in for a quality workout in a serene mountain setting.

Wildflowers are also prevalent along the route making for a breathtaking alpine jaunt if you’re hiking in the summer months. If you’re making the 6.4-mile roundtrip during the fall months, the scattered aspen groves will be ablaze in bright yellow.

With a permit overnight camping trips are allowed, so you can experience this peaceful parcel of Wilderness even longer if you plan for a backpacking trip.

Who is Going to Love It

This hike doesn’t afford Aspen’s most epic of vistas as it’s namely in forests and high-alpine meadows sheltered by ridge lines and peaks, but it an incredible hike for the outdoorsman or -woman who loves experiencing alpine flora and climate. The trail winds through a variety of forests, groves and meadows, each with different species to observe. 

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Drive .5 miles west of Aspen on Highway 82 to the Roundabout. Go around the Roundabout and turn right on Castle Creek Road. Drive 10 miles to the Elk Mountain Lodge and turn right into the American Lake parking lot. The trail begins here. 

Each party overnighting in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is required to self-register at the Trailhead and to carry a copy of the registration with them during their visit. There is no fee charged and no limit to the number of permits issued. Camping is prohibited within 100 feet of the lake and on the small peninsula on the shore of American Lake. 

Location

American Lake Trail Hiking

Aspen, CO, 81611
39.057605, -106.82986

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