This three-mile round-trip route is not your typical mountain hike, rather it's a dirt road, featuring several switchbacks that wind up the side of Smuggler Mountain, formally a successful silver mine which borders the City of Aspen to the northeast. Despite being a dirt road, Smuggler Mountain is a popular year-round hike, and typically enjoys a good amount of hiker, dog walker, mountain biker, dirt biker and even car traffic.
What Makes It Great
The views of downtown Aspen, the ski resorts and surrounding peaks only continue to get better as you climb up the road, but the vista from the platform is truly breathtaking, especially if you happen to be there close to sunset. Not only can you take in the view of bustling downtown Aspen below, but all four Aspen Snowmass ski resorts, glimpses of iconic peaks that loom behind the resorts, and the Roaring Fork Valley’s most treasured gem: Sopris Mountain, the large peak which sits 25 miles northwest of Aspen and dominates just about every view in the valley.Most hikers turn around after the 1.5-mile ascent after taking in the vista from the viewing platform. Hiking to the platform provides about 800 feet of vertical gain, but up to an additional 1,000 feet is possible for those looking to continue on to Warren Lakes. To continue to Warren Lakes, go straight (the trail on the left goes to Hunter Creek.) Keep going straight past the next left, here the road becomes rugged and continues to ascend steeply. Smuggler Mountain also provides access to several other multi-access trails including BTS, Lollipop, Tootsie Roll, Hunter Creek Valley, Iowa Shaft, Four Corners, Sunny Side, as well as Midway, which is a 25-mile, multi-day hike to Independence Pass. An important consideration before hiking Smuggler Mountain is the time of day. The road offers little shade and the heat can be quite intense midday, especially during summer months. Hiking up prior to 11 a.m. or after 5 p.m. is recommended if you’re looking to avoid the heat. Additionally, hikers should be aware that this road is highly frequented by mountain bikers, as the road provides access to a good chunk of Aspen’s best and most convenient biking trails. Dog owners should be aware of bikers in relation to their pooches, and do their best to keep dogs out of they way. It’s also very important that dog owners clean up after their pets. The Forest Service provides complimentary poo bags as well as trash cans.
Who is Going to Love It
First and foremost, Smuggler Mountain’s close proximity to downtown Aspen makes it the perfect route for someone who only has a short window of time to hike. Secondly, it’s a great hike for someone looking to understand the lay of the land in Aspen. The view from the platform is not just breathtaking, but it’s also quite informational and provides visitors with a great visual layout of downtown Aspen and the ski resorts in relation to one another, as well as the valleys that separate each resort.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The trailhead is on the northeast corner of Aspen. Smuggler Mountain can be accessed via Mill Street or Cooper Avenue, both streets provide access to Park Circle, take a right on the Smuggler Mountain Road (initially paved). Then take your first right onto the dirt road. Parking is just up on your right. If this is full you can park in the overflow lot on Park Circle, which is located across from the turn of the Smuggler Mountain Road. The Smuggler Road is a fairly well maintained County 4WD road. Motorized vehicles are not allowed within adjacent Wilderness Areas.