Four Corners Mountain Biking

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Summary

If you’re looking for a full-day of mountain biking (or hiking), Smuggler to Four Corners is Aspen’s best option. This profile will explore the route from a mountain biking perspective, but it’s also a great hike for the adventurous-minded. Mountain bikers can choose to stick with the standard 12-mile route or make it as long as 19 miles with several challenging add-ons.

Written by

Leah Fielding

Distance

24.0 miles

Ranges from 12-19 miles one way, depending on how challenging you want it to be.

Destination Distance From Downtown

3.1 miles

Difficulty

4 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

4 hours

4-5 hours

Seasonality

Summer and Fall

Dog Friendly

Yes

Fees Permits

No

Review

Intro

If you’re looking for a full-day of mountain biking (or hiking), Smuggler to Four Corners is Aspen’s best option. This profile will explore the route from a mountain biking perspective, but it’s also a great hike for the adventurous-minded. Mountain bikers can choose to stick with the standard 12-mile route or make it as long as 19 miles with several challenging add-ons. The standard 12-mile ride features 2,500-plus feet of climbing and descending, and the add-on routes can increase the ride’s gain by 500 to 1,500 feet. 

What Makes It Great

The coolest aspect of the Smuggler/Four Corners loop is all of the different terrain and unique views the route covers. Riders will get to experience bird’s eye views of downtown Aspen atop Smuggler Mountain, lush aspen groves, wide-open alpine meadows, the sound of rushing Hunter Creek and a magical spruce forest.

The route starts with a challenging and rocky 20- to 30-minute ascent up Smuggler Mountain Road, which is very accessible from downtown Aspen. From the trail sign adjacent to the Smuggler Mountain Overlook platform, riders looking to make the route even longer can venture up BTS, Lollipop and Tootsie Roll. Less uphill-inclined mountain bikers will want to take the main Hunter Creek thoroughfare or Iowa Shaft for a playful challenge. The Iowa Shaft route is recommended if you’d like to capitalize on the valley’s best views.

When Iowa Shaft ends at the bottom of the hill, take a right and pedal to the 10th Mountain Bridge and cross over Hunter Creek. You’ll then ride on an old mining road through open meadows dotted with historic mining cabins. This trail offers some of the most breathtaking vistas, capturing snow-capped views of the Maroon Bells and surrounding Elk Mountains. After about one mile the trail will spit you out at the Hunter Creek Valley upper access parking lot, which is where you’ll begin your ascent up Red Mountain Road. This jeep road offers little protection from the shade and ascends well over 1,000 feet, so be sure you have plenty of water for this leg of the journey. You’ll pass by Upper Plunge on the left and Lower Plunge on the right, which are great options for advanced riders the return descent.

You’ll soon come to a fork. Left takes you to Four Corners and right takes you to Van Horn park. You can go either way, as it’s all connected, but most Aspen mountain bikers ride up Van Horn Park to Hobbit Trail. If you’ve decided to turn right, a brief climb provides access to Overlook trail, a single trail that follows a somewhat exposed area on the side of a mountain. There is one hairy section that features a technical rock step-down, and many bikers just choose to walk it. Soon the single track will open up into the Van Horn Park meadow. This area is particularly breathtaking during leaf-peeping season. 

After a few hundred yards of gentle climbing, you’ll reach an intersection, this is the center of Van Horn Park. Here you’ll take a right onto Hobbit and begin the last (and what feels like most brutal) climb of the ride. Once you’ve reached the top of hill, you’re in for the best, and most unforgettable part of the ride.  A playful, flowy trail through a Tolkien-like spruce forest awaits. Once you’ve exited the trail to the jeep road, you’ve reached Four Corners. From here, you have options: 1.) go back the way you came (recommended), 2.) descend down the technical Sunnyside trail (recommended for advanced to expert bikers) or 3.) ride the jeep road back down to the Hunter Creek Valley upper access parking lot.

To get back to downtown Aspen you’ll need to continue down Hunter Creek Trail and over the bridge and stay right where the trail forks, in a hundred yards you’ll be spit onto the paved portion Red Mountain Road which you can take all the way back to town.

Who is Going to Love It

Due to its length and elevation this ride appeases fitness-minded, challenge-seekers and those on the hunt for a variety of beautiful mountain views.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

You’ll want to park at one of the Smuggler parking lots. Whether you make you final descent down Red Mountain Road or Sunnyside, getting back to your car if its parked at the base of Smuggler is a cinch.

Dogs are allowed as the trails are namely located in White River National Forest land, but a 12-plus mile ride is a tad long for even the most fit pups.

Location

Four Corners Mountain Biking

Aspen, CO, 81611
39.191443, -106.77247

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