Hiking is a must-do in Aspen during spring, summer and fall. But don’t pull a Gilligan—make sure your hike stays catastrophe-free by following some simple wilderness wisdom. Follow these backpacking essentials for your Aspen day hikes.

Know Where You’re Going

Some trails are easier to follow than others, but smart hikers bring a map, GPS or guidebook. A map app may work but gets less reliable the farther from town you get. Get tips from our knowledgeable staff, find maps and guidebooks at Ute Mountaineer, or hire a guide from ACES (Aspen Center for Environmental Studies) to lead the way.


Bring water—more than you would at home. The Mayo Clinic recommends you start drinking 2 to 3 liters of water a day before arriving at high elevations like Aspen’s to prevent altitude sickness. You’ll need even more when hiking. A hydration system you can wear, such as a CamelBak, is easiest.

Block the Sun

The UV rays are harsher up high. Apply a high-SPF sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB rays. For best protection, reapply every two hours. Wearing a hat and sunglasses is also a good idea in Aspen.

Watch the Weather

Wear layers—including a synthetic, midweight insulating top—and bring rain gear no matter how sunny the skies appear. Mountain weather changes fast. The typical pattern is clear mornings and afternoon thunderstorms, but be prepared for anything, any time. Take shelter if thunder and lightning are 30 seconds apart or less and check out this lightning safety rundown if you have more questions.

Be Wildlife Aware

Spotting elk, moose, bear or other animals can be exciting, but any wild animal can be unpredictable and dangerous. Wildlife is most active in early morning or dusk hours. If you encounter any creature on the trail, stay calm, do not run and don’t feed it. Here are some good guides on dealing with bears, mountain lions and coyotes.

Be Prepared

Other helpful items to pack include a first aid kit, warm hat, light gloves, whistle, space blanket, matches, pocketknife/multi-tool and a headlamp. Just in case.

Leave No Trace

If you pack it in, pack it out. Do your part to care for Aspen’s trails and wilderness.

What’s your best hiking tip? Got an item you never hit the trail without? Tell us about it.

Image via Chris Ford, Flickr

About Laurel Miller

Laurel is a Basalt-based food and travel writer, cheese consultant and the editor of Edible Aspen magazine. When not sitting in front of her computer in her pj's, Laurel can be found enjoying the outdoors, or backpacking around the world eating street food and acquiring new and exciting tropical diseases.