OverviewSmuggler Mountain provides a spectacular viewpoint right on the edge of the Hunter Frying Pan Wilderness. The Benedict 10th Mountain Division Hut System, Fritz’s and Fabi’s Cabins both sit right on one of the summits of the multi-summitted Smuggler Mountain. Smuggler Mountain is above Aspen, one of the most famous ski resorts in the United States.
One claim to fame of Smuggler Mountain is that the outhouse on top of one of the summits is claimed to have the best views of any outhouse in Colorado. Needless to say, the outhouse is made of glass in order to enjoy the view.
One thing unique about Smuggler Mountain is that the area is closed in summer due to elk habitat so you must climb it in the season of late November through April. This is of little consequence however as the winter views of the Elk Range and Holy Cross Wilderness are superb. Those who aren’t into winter camping can also stay in the hut right on one of the summits, so a lugging a huge pack in winter is not necessary.
Getting ThereGetting to the trailhead can be confusing because it is just outside the huge resort town of Aspen. From the intersection of Main Street and Mill Street in Aspen, drive north on Mill Street and across the bridge over the river. Turn left onto Red Mountain Road and follow it for about a mile. Turn right on Hunter Creek Road. Just after 0.2 miles, turn left and to a parking lot marked for the 10th Mountain Division Parking Area.
Routes OverviewThe West Slopes Route is the best and shortest route up the peak, assuming this peak is the only one you wanted to climb on the trip. This would be a very long ski or snowshoe (12-14 miles round trip depending on which summit you want with 2800 feet elevation gain), so most people stay overnight in one of the Benedict Huts. Camping may be possible, but very few people seem to do it.
Some people take the arduous route over from Smuggler Mountain and the Benedict Hut to McNarma Hut and Bald Knob, but this is a tough route and usually involves miles of wilderness trail breaking through the forest and is a three day loop.
Red TapeThe area around the peak is closed outside the winter season (late-November through April). Make sure to avoid private land near the trailhead.
CampingCamping around Aspen in winter is problematic at best. I assume you would be safe to sleep in the vehicle at the trailhead since most everyone parks there overnight anyway, but there usually isn’t any room to put a tent up, which would be frowned upon anyway.
The Aspen/Basalt Campground is open year round. The address and phone number is as follows:
20640 Hwy 82
Basalt, CO 81621
Phone : 970-927-3405
Fax : 970-927-1059
email : [email protected]
If you want to book the Benedict Huts (Fritz’s and Fabi’s Cabins), see the website below, but make sure to do so well in advance, especially on a weekend:
10th Mountain Division Huts
When to ClimbAs mentioned, the only time that you can legally climb this mountain is from Thanksgiving through April 30.
Mountain ConditionsClick Here For Area Weather Forecast
Weather and climate data for Independence Pass 5 SW Station at 10,510 feet elevation is below. *National Weather Service Data 1948-1980.
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