Smuggler Road to Hunter Creek Loop – Aspen, CO

Every time I ask my friend Max, resident extraordinaire of Aspen, CO, where I should go for a run he manages to guide me toward something which usually begins with a mile long death march up a mountain. It never matters how I describe to him the run I want to go on. Saying something like “I want something with a bit of gradual climbing, but nothing too intense” is somehow translated in Max’s head to “I want to run straight uphill, with an incredible amount of altitude gain, and perhaps the possibility of being mauled by a mountain lion.” Hence, I now have experienced Smuggler Road, sans mauling.

Smugglers Mountain Road is on the northern part of the valley that houses Aspen, near the Hunter Creek condos, about 1 mile from downtown Aspen (map here). The road is dirt, and relatively steep, winding up about 800 feet before the cutoff for the Hunter Creek Loop. It is frequently used by hikers, runners and mountain bikers, but is wide enough to accommodate everybody. When I did it there were not too many people, but reports from some of the men folk in town indicate that the road is usually filled with attractive women denizens of Aspen.

After climbing up the road, there is a cut-off for the Hunter Creek Loop, take that until it winds down to a T in the trail, from there go right and then take a left at a bridge that crosses a creek (do not cross the bridge). You will follow the creek for a while, which should be on your right. Eventually the trail will dump you into a wider section which angles downhill and is a bit more rocky. You will come to another bridge. Cross it and take an immediate left (I missed it the first time, it is somewhat hard to see). Follow this trial down. Be careful, as you are basically running down a boulder field. When I did it I was right behind a guy that managed to trip and sandwich himself between two boulders. This trail will dump you off into the Hunter Creek Apartments area, which is about a half a mile to the west from the start of the run (map here). The entire run took me about 1.5 hours.


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