Government Trail Hiking

Made possible by

Photos

About

Summary

Aspen’s renowned 6.5-mile mountain biking trail, Government, also makes for an exceptional hike, especially in mid-September. Government runs from eastern flanks of Snowmass ski resort to the eastern, or Tiehack, side of Buttermilk ski resort

Written by

Leah Fielding

Distance

6.5 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

12.4 miles

Difficulty

3 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

3 hours

Seasonality

Summer and Fall

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits

No

Review

Intro

Aspen’s renowned 6.5-mile mountain biking trail, Government, also makes for an exceptional hike, especially in mid-September. Government runs from eastern flanks of Snowmass ski resort to the eastern, or Tiehack, side of Buttermilk ski resort. Most hike from Snowmass to Buttermilk, but it’s possible to hike from Buttermilk to Snowmass, which is called Reverse Government and features a bit more climbing.

What Makes It Great

For a quicker, more fitness-oriented hike, many locals will hike up a cat-track road from the Tiehack chairlift all the way to The Cliffhouse Lodge. From here you can enjoy one of the best views of Aspen’s 14,000-plus-foot Pyramid Peak. It’s possible to hop on to Bandit trail from the summit, but hikers should be aware of descending bikers. Bandit trail meets up with Government about 1/3 of the way down. 

No matter which route you choose gorgeous aspen groves, lush meadows, scenic overlooks, stream crossings, and rocky portions of Government Trail demand your full attention and effort. 

The route from Snowmass to Buttermilk is the most classic way to enjoy Government on both foot or two wheels so this profile will focus on that. Most riders start from Powerline trail, which is accessed from Elk Camp Work Road., but others choose to hike up Tom Blake Trail from Owl Creek Road to the steep Anaerobic Nightmare trail. If you’d really like to make it easy you can simply hike up from the Snowmass Base Village. Snowmass resort staffers can assist you if you have any questions.

Whichever starting point you opt for, get ready for a couple stream crossings early in the hike once you’ve connected up with Government. The trail is mostly flat or rolling, with at least one notable climb mid-way through. There are several, pervasive rock gardens sections before entering the Buttermilk portion of the ride.

Once you’ve reached Buttermilk, you’re in for a visual treat. If you’re hiking in late-June to mid- July, you’ll be treated beautiful fields of purple lupine wildflowers. The trail winds down through a couple sets of tight turns and eventually into lush aspen forests. Government Trail ends at the bottom of the Tiehack chairlift. From here, you can walk across the Maroon Creek Bridge to the Aspen Recreation Center and hop on a bus back to Rubey Park in downtown Aspen.

It’s a nicely balanced trail for a hiker who wants it all: a workout and nature’s beauty. The purple lupines on Tiehack in early- to mid-July are absolutely mind-blowing as are the fiercely yellow aspen trees in late-September.

Who is Going to Love It

Government’s 6.5 miles might be considered long for beginner to intermediate hikers and children, but more experienced hikers or those who are in good physical condition will enjoy the challenge of both the trail’s length, rocky sections and uphill climbs.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

If you’re starting from the Snowmass Base Village, which accesses Tom Blake, Powerline or Elk Camp Work Road to get to Government, parking is free in the parking structure during the summer months. Riders often park off Owl Creek Road or in the Rodeo Lot to access all of the mentioned trails. The portion of this trail that is west of the Buttermilk ski area boundary is closed May 15 - June 20 for elk calving season.

Location

Government Trail Hiking

Snowmass, CO, 81615
39.208188, -106.94894

Get Directions