The Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen offers some of Colorado’s finest multi-day backpacking trails. This short trail is an exception, a short but strenuous trail to a pretty mountain lake. The six-mile round-trip trail starts on Castle Creek Road, 10 miles south of Aspen. It begins steep as you switchback through aspen groves, then levels out as the trail passes through a series of alpine meadows. After nearly 2,000 feet of climbing the trail ascends a final scree slope to the lake. When you hear the waterfall, you’re almost there. Enjoy lunch or a snack at the lake and return the way you came.
- Due to its short length, this is a busy trail, so beat the summer crowds by starting early or hiking on a weekday.
- Ambitious hikers can continue above the lake on a faint trail to the summit of 13,561-foot Hayden Peak, which affords stellar views of the surrounding Elk Mountains and the Collegiate Peaks to the east.
- The trail passes through several meadows teeming with wildflowers in early to mid-summer, which makes that an ideal time for a hike up to American Lake.
Recommended season(s): Summer – fall.
–R. Scott Rappold