Aspen corner is a spot famous for fall photography, but it’s also the starting point of some great mountain biking routes that fly through aspen trees, cut across alpine meadows, and skirt the base of looming peaks--all at high elevation that will keep the lungs pumping. A large and free parking lot on Snowbowl Road makes access easy. These trails are also perfect for hikers and runners. There are multiple route options of various length and difficulty, but the most popular for mountain bikes is an out-and-back single track of up to 14 miles round trip.
What Makes It Great
Zero in on the narrow dirt track zooming toward you, within a blur of gold and green and flashes of sunlight, ferns flicking your legs as you dip, pedal, coast, and turn. Suddenly, the forest parts and grassy meadow opens up. Below lies a vista of pine-covered hills and highlands, above towers rugged snowy peaks, and on the horizon sits the Grand Canyon.
This is a taste of riding the Arizona Trail from Aspen Corner in the Fall. Wildflowers bloom in Summer, but golden aspen leaves are unique to September and October. This section has ups and downs, but not much steepness. It passes West and slightly downhill from Arizona Snowbowl Resort, East and uphill from Hart Prairie. After a mostly downhill 7 miles the trail crosses FR 418, which makes a good turnaround point for the uphill ride back to the car. Along the way, you will get views of Humphreys Peak, Agassiz Peak, Sitgreaves Mountain, Kendrick Peak, and part of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim.
Another option is to take one of a few short connector trails up through the meadow to Arizona Snowbowl. Connect with Snowbowl Road from here for a fast and thrilling loop. Another spur trail is near the end of the route, which leads to Bismark Lake. You can also add mileage on FR 418, Hart Prairie Road, or more of the Arizona Trail.
Who is Going to Love It
Prepare to be blown away by the scenery on this trail. It’s doable for riders of any ability. The steepest and most technical part is a brief descent to connect with the Arizona Trail from Aspen Corner parking lot. Less experienced riders should use caution here.
Aside from mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners frequent this section of the Arizona Trail for amazing scenery and altitude training. Aspen Corner is at 9,000 feet, so don’t be surprised if you feel out of breath.
Because of its high elevation and west-facing aspect, this trail can stay snowy in winter. Fat bikes, cross country skis, and snowshoes are great during this time of year.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The parking area is along Snowbowl Road, which is the same that leads to the ski resort. It is paved and open year round. Get here by taking US-180/Fort Valley Rd out of town for about 7 miles. Turn right on Snowbowl Road and go 5.5 miles to the signed parking area for Aspen Corner. Take the obvious trail from here and continue straight to access the Arizona Trail.
Parking is free, the trail is open to all non-motorized use, and dogs are allowed.