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Family-Friendly Hikes in Aspen

21 Jun 2021
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Outdoor Activities

When you’re a parent, it can be difficult to find outdoor activities that every family member enjoys. When children vary in age, hiking can be challenging. Luckily, the Aspen valley contains enough short(er), flat(er), sometimes stroller-friendly trails to win over most children and their parents. When you’re bringing the family to Aspen and want some quiet time to explore nature, try one of these family-friendly options.

Hiking the Ajax Trail with Kids

The Ajax Trail is an easy 1-hour (1.5 miles point-to-point) hike in downtown Aspen which is readily accessible. The trail stretches across Aspen Mountain and wanders through aspen groves, across the grassy ski slopes, and back through the woods into Aspen’s East End. 

Hiking Aspen Mountain with Kids

Aspen Mountain can be considered either the easiest or one of the hardest hikes in Aspen. Families can choose the easy way (riding the Silver Queen Gondola to the summit and hiking at the top), and you can even bring your stroller along, if it fits into the Gondola car. At the summit, you’ll find a children’s play area which includes a giant chess set, bocce balls, human-sized nests for climbing, and a sand pit stocked with toy diggers and excavators for the budding engineers in your family.

Hiking the Roaring Fork River Trail with Kids

Another short, easy hiking trail just outside of Aspen, is near the Weller Lake Trailhead off of Independence Pass. The trail follows the Roaring Fork River upstream for about half a mile. From the trailhead, you’ll walk across a bridge and continue left at the fork. You’ll encounter an old stagecoach road, which in the old days required changing horses three times in order for the stagecoach to make it over Independence Pass. There are a number of small side trails for kids to explore along the river. Turn around once the canyon starts to narrow. 

Hiking to Weller Lake with Kids

Weller Lake is a short (1.2 miles roundtrip), mostly shaded hike up to this stunning and quiet sub-alpine lake. Starting from the Weller Lake Trailhead (as with the Roaring Fork River Trail above), you and your family will head right at the fork instead of turning left. In just over a quarter of a mile, you’ll reach a small waterfall, which tends to delight youngsters and parents alike. Keep hiking uphill on the trail until you reach the lake.

Hiking to the Grottos with Kids

The Grottos is another one-mile, family-friendly hike along Independence Pass. It’s definitely a family favorite due to the striking rock formations, and waterfalls along the river. Halfway along the trail you’ll find ice caves to explore, although by late summer the ice may have finally melted. Spend some time strolling, then enjoy a family picnic in the forest when you’re done.

Hiking the Maroon Lake Scenic Trail with Kids

Taking the family to the iconic Maroon Bells is sure to delight everyone in the family — there’s water, wildlife, wildflowers, and more. Be sure to arrive as early as possible for the best lighting (and, therefore, the best photos — which we know is important to parents!). From the Maroon Bells parking lot, the family can follow the 1.3-mile Scenic Trail to the far side of Maroon Lake and along the creek. The path is mostly flat, and there are plenty of benches, perfect for relaxing and enjoying your surroundings while the little ones either rest or explore. Note that getting to the Maroon Bells does require some advance planning: you’ll need to make reservations on the Aspen Chamber Resort Association website - https://aspenchamber.org/plan-trip/trip-highlights/maroon-bells/reservations in order to board the bus from Rubey Park to Aspen Highlands. The buses to the Bells depart from Aspen Highlands every 15 minutes starting at 8 am. Your other option is to drive early/late enough to avoid the daily road closure. Either way, the Maroon Bells are an adventure your whole family will enjoy. 

Hiking to Crater Lake with Kids

Once you’re at the Maroon Bells, you can assess your family’s mood. Since the Maroon Lake Scenic Trail is the perfect “taster length” for a hike, it’ll help you decide whether or not to continue on to Crater Lake, which means another 4 miles of hiking (2 miles each way) without the benches, and with sections of more rugged terrain. While there aren’t many steep grades, the length of the hike alone will require extra motivation for shorter legs. We’d recommend your children be at least 6 or 7 years old before you try the Crater Lake hike, as it’s a longer way back to the car than the Maroon Lake Scenic Trail. If you make it to Crater Lake, there’s a small beach where many children enjoy playing, and you’ll have a much closer, even more stunning view of the Bells themselves.

Planning Your Family Hike

Is planning a family hike an overwhelming idea? If so, we invite our Aspen Square guests to contact our Concierge for assistance in planning your Aspen area hiking adventure. We’re happy to help you choose the perfect day trip for the family, as well as help you to arrange transportation. Contact us at 970-925-1000 x3515 or concierge@aspensquarehotel.com.