Aspen boosters claim that the area has more than 110 trails, and one of the most-loved local trails is the Hunter Creek Trail. Part of a complex of trails that stretch from the eastern edge of town all the way into the Hunter Fryingpan Wilderness, Hunter Creek has so much to offer all levels of hiker. The lower trail starts a few blocks from downtown Aspen and follows Hunter Creek through dense aspen and conifer forest. The upper trail climbs up past the National Forest boundary and into high meadows with views of the Elk Mountains to the west and the Sawatch Mountains to the east.
This adventure picks up the Hunter Creek Trail at the upper trailhead off of Red Mountain Road just a few minutes from town. This avoids some of the climbing from the creek in town and offers great views of the town, ski mountain, and the entire Roaring Fork Valley. After climbing up and over a ridge the trail passes by a few homes and joins the lower Hunter Creek Trail at the Benedict Bridge. From here it is a fairly steep section through dense woods along the creek until the national forest boundary. There is a proliferation of trails through this area, and most are marked with signs. Just past the forest kiosk a right turn will loop south around to Smuggler Mountain and back to town, a very nice alternate loop. Hunter Creek Trail continues straight and shortly branches left to cross Tenth Mountain Bridge. The trail then bears right to roughly follow the creek and passes through the remnants of an old homestead with very picturesque buildings (including an outhouse) and great mountain views. From here the trail is literally a walk in the park as it meanders past several trail junctions (popular with mountain bikers) and an old dam that once contained a reservoir but is now a huge, brushy meadow surrounded by aspen groves.
This adventure turns around at the top of the reservoir meadow for just over a 6-mile hike, but the route could easily continue to the wilderness boundary a few miles east and beyond. It is easy to see why this hike is popular given its moderate climbs, fantastic views, many alternate routes, and proximity to Aspen.