Smuggler to Hunter Creek Mountain Biking

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Summary

If you were to ask a local Aspen mountain biker where to go mountain biking, they would tell you to head up “Smuggs” or Smuggler Mountain to Hunter Creek Valley trails. The Smuggler to Hunter Creek Valley is a well-traveled Aspen mountain biking route that provides opportunities for one-hour to five-hour rides, like Four Corners.

Written by

Leah Fielding

Distance

6.0 miles

6 miles to Warren Lakes, but can riders can make it shorter or longer.

Destination Distance From Downtown

4.9 miles

Difficulty

3 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

1 hours

1-5 hour rides.

Seasonality

Summer and Fall

Dog Friendly

Yes

Fees Permits

No

Review

Intro

If you were to ask a local Aspen mountain biker where to go mountain biking, they would tell you to head up “Smuggs” or Smuggler Mountain to Hunter Creek Valley trails. The Smuggler to Hunter Creek Valley is a well-traveled Aspen mountain biking route that provides opportunities for one-hour to five-hour rides, like Four Corners.

What Makes It Great

Smuggler has another nickname: Struggler. This steep, rocky, often loose, highly traveled jeep road takes about 20-35 minutes to ascend and has few shady areas. So bring plenty of water, sunscreen and get ready to pedal. Fom the base of Smuggler Mountain, you will climb 800 feet to the main stopping point, the Observation Deck/Trail Map sign, but up to an additional 500 feet is possible if you choose to add on BTS, Lollipop and Tootsie Roll.

If you’d like to keep it on the more conservative side on your first Smuggler/Hunter Creek ride, we recommend taking a left onto Hunter Creek Trail at the Trail Map sign. Mid-way down the trail you can dip off on the right to Iowa Shaft, which takes riders along a relatively flat, but enjoyable trail that traverses northeast along a mountainside. Enjoy a playful downhill, which will drop you off in Hunter Creek Valley. Take a right at the bottom of the hill and pedal to the 10th Mountain Bridge. Cross over and ride through glorious alpine meadows dotted with mining cabins.

This gorgeous alpine valley features a babbling tributary, Hunter Creek, which provides a peaceful setting and opportunities for swimming if Fido is along for the trek. The valley is namely a wide-open, treeless meadow book-ended by two parallel ridges riddled with aspen groves. A hike through this valley in at peak leaf season, late September or early October, is an absolute treat for the eyes. The view looking west towards Aspen is breathtaking, glimpses of Mt. Daly and other iconic peaks are possible, as well as the ski resorts. 

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 Rd., which you can take all the way back to town.

Important considerations: Smuggler Mountain is very exposed and should be avoided mid-day during the summer. Mornings and late afternoon/early evening is best. Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen.

Hunter Creek Valley not only provides incredible views of the surrounding Elk Mountains, but also a glimpse into Aspen’s past. There’s a lot of history in Aspen, especially mining-centric history. These days most of Aspen’s historical structures are off the beaten path and a bit more difficult to get to. Several historic mining cabins sit along the North Hunter Creek Trail, and one is hidden behind the 10th Mountain Division Bridge. See if you can find it! The adventurous can even go inside these old cabins for a better perspective of how silver-boom miners once lived.

Who is Going to Love It

Adventurous beginners - moderate mountain bikers.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Park at the base of Smuggler Mountain Road. There is an upper and lower parking lot and additional parking at the park adjacent to the upper parking lot. Right from your car you’ll begin the climb. You can ride back to car via Red Mountain Rd. 

Location

Smuggler to Hunter Creek Mountain Biking

Aspen, CO, 81611
39.191795, -106.80809

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