Ute Trail - The Toughest Hike in Aspen... With Kids?
3.1 miles from the trailhead to the Sundeck. 3 to 4 hours with kids. Rated difficult.
A day off with no rain? It's time to hike the Ute. This is my family's favorite hike in Aspen for a surprising reason - the strawberries! The slopes of Ajax are covered in tiny, wild strawberries!
There is free two-hour parking at the trailhead. Since it will take at least 3 hours with kids, I would suggest taking the Cross Town Shuttle that passes the trailhead every 15 minutes or use the Downtowner app.
The earliest my kids hiked this trail 100% without being carried was 5 years old. My 4 year old needs to be carried about 1/3 of the way. The first half of the hike is the hardest as it is very rocky and the switchbacks never seem to end. At least this part is shady. Pace yourself and don't burn out! About an hour in, you will finally make it to Ute Rock - an outcropping with an amazing view of Aspen. Be careful if you decide to climb the rock to get the best view - it's a long way down! There is also a wooden swing from the #AspenSwingProject, placed there by an anonymous local who likes to install swings on random trails around town.
After Ute Rock, it gets very steep for about a quarter mile, and then turns to a more tolerable incline. The trail opens up and this is where you will find the strawberries and sunshine! Continue on the designated trail, take the road, or go straight up the ski slope. They all lead to the sundeck!
The Silver Queen Gondola is open 10 to 4:30. You want to reach the top before 4:30 so that you can enjoy the view and grab a bite to eat, and ride the gondola down. While you have to pay to ride the gondola up Ajax, it's FREE TO RIDE DOWN! Check the gondola schedule here before starting out.
The beginning of our journey to the top!
Ute Rock - 1.6 miles up. Check out the view! It took us about 50 minutes. A quick break before heading to the top of Ajax. There is a neat little swing from the "Aspen Swing Project" if you fancy a ride.
We made it past the switchbacks! The second half of the hike is much easier than the first. There are many different routes you can take to the top. Following the road is the least steep and easiest for the kids.
Be on the lookout for strawberries! They are ready late July and into August. We were early but found their white flowers!
Celebration at the Sundeck!