The entrance to Smuggler Mine, Established in 1987!

The weather today brought out the best in Aspen.  It was quite obvious that the days of winter were dwindling down to nothing as the warm and welcoming sun allowed people to go out and play. Riding the bikes, hitting the hiking trails and planning our summer vacations like everyone else in the midwest, my buddy Gonzo & I decided to try out the hike to the top of Smuggler Mountain Mine.

Here you see one of the Mining Areas!

Stepping into the tracks of our 1980’s friends who established the Smuggler Mine, we began to hike the 1.4 mile trek to the top of the Observation Deck where we could overlook all of Aspen Village.  Although we were high on life, I’m quite positive that we were on a slightly different level compared to the well known highs of the 1980’s.  I couldn’t imagine how this rugged yet serene landscape would have looked if we were on mushrooms or any other intoxicant.  But of course I would never have anything to do with that…

So only 1.4 Miles to go for the Observation Deck…Uphill that is!

As we continued hiking up the rapid incline in high hopes to reach our destination and return before night fall, I was surprised at how beautiful and pristine the landscape was in this area.  There seemed to be no litter bugs nor vandalism within sight.

Hmmm…So is this clean enough for you?

Hell, the place was so clean that even the owners picked up their furry little friends “home grown chocolate patties”.  Ha!  Enough said.

One of the Many Switchbacks Going Up the Mountain.

Hiking pass the switchbacks and on up the snowless rocky slopes, Gonzo and I decided to take a small break and enjoy the scenery that we’ve seen thus far.  The small amounts of snow that were left at the top of the mountain transformed into a soothing stream following the length of the trail down the mountain.  With a combination of trickling water, the warm sun and a very…very slight breeze, this afternoon was one to revive for weeks to come.

Hey look it’s Snow…or what little there is left of it!

After catching our breath, we continued on up the trail where small patches of snow began to immerse out of thin air.  This made some of the hike a little muddy…what am I kidding?  It was extremely muddy and every step we put in front of each other just continued to turn mud into slush until (in some areas) it was up to our ankles.  Carefully trekking through the mucky slush, we finally reached a point high enough where we were walking in just that of which we were missing; snow.

Take a Look at this Gnarly Landslide!  Can You Say Avalanche?

Where the snow had melted revealed an entire landslide in some areas.  We were careful to stay away from these edges as they looked extremely unsteady and was just waiting to collapse into an uncontrollable being hungry to engulf every life form in its path.

One of the many Restoration Area’s on Smuggler Mountain.

Reaching more steady ground, we realized there were many more restoration areas atop the mountain than we had originally thought.  No wonder why the wilderness in this area was so rich with life.  For once, an American society…an entire town decided that it was more important to conserve the natural environment of which it lived in instead of building, building and building!  What a relief.

The Trail Map & Information Center for Smuggler Mountain.

Just around the corner from our final destination, we stole a quick glance at the Trail Map to get an idea of exactly how big this area was.  Surprisingly, the trail kept going for miles and miles!  From what I understand, this area is a hot spot during the summer and home to backpackers, campers, mountain bikers and even mountain lions!  How exciting!

We Finally Reached the Smuggler Mountain Observation Deck!

Reaching what’s officially known as a “Smuggler Mountain Open Space” aka the Observation Deck, Gonzo and I were taken aback at how great the view was.  To our right we could see clearly all the way to Buttermilk Mountain, Highlands and many other great spots.

Gonzo Enjoying the View of Aspen Mountain and the Aspen Village.

To our left spanned the fantastic Aspen (aka Ajax) Mountain with the Highlands Bowl peaking just over its left shoulder (top right of the picture).  What a beautiful day and an even more beautiful hike!  This 1,000 foot ascent was somewhat of a struggle in some areas but I can assure you the view is totally worth it!  

Where was the best scenic view you’ve ever witnessed?