Sunnyside - Shadyside Loop, Sunnyside Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado
Sunnyside - Shadyside Loop - 11.2 miles
|Round-Trip Length:||11.2 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||7,845' - 10,061' (max elevation on loop)|
|Elevation Change:||+2,216' net elevation gain (+3,135' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Sunnyside - Shadyside Loop - 11.2 Miles Round-Trip
The Sunnyside Trail joins the Shadyside Trail to form an 11.2 mile lollipop loop up and around the summit of Red Mountain in Aspen. The Sunnyside Trail climbs 1900' in 3 miles up the SW flank to reach the loop, which runs 5.2 miles through long intervals of aspen and mixed conifers just below the summit.
This busy trail system features stunning views across the Roaring Fork Valley from Mount Sopris to Ajax Mountain, with several iconic peaks in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness in the backdrop. Smooth, neatly cut singletrack offers mountain bikes and runners ideal conditions on this ecologically varied route.
Distance Note: There's a connector trail that cuts a 'chord' across the Loop that can shorten distance and difficulty. This connector trail is also called 'Sunnyside'. Distance discrepancies between sources can in part be attributed to custom routing.
The following description travels counter-clockwise on the loop, taking each trail segment in full:
The trail rises from Cemetery Lane to a cairn leading right (.35 miles) - don't miss this important split. It continues on long-leg switchbacks in a scrub oak ecosystem with views that extend across the Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands and Ajax Mountain ski areas.
The trail crosses a road (left) and quickly departs right at 1.33 miles (8,530'). It climbs methodically through diminutive brush until passing a radio tower (2.4 miles) and leveling across an aspen-ringed glade (2.55 miles : 9,405').
It rises back into a cluttered forest that opens upon reaching the Shadyside Trail split and beginning of the loop (3.0 miles : 9,752'). Keep right on the Sunnyside Trail for counter-clockwise travel.
The Sunnyside Trail heads SE on level contours below the summit across aspen-studded slopes to the Sunnyside connector trail (3.5 miles : 9,740'), which you can take to shorten the loop. Long stretches of aspen mix with spruce and fir along mild grades for the better part of the next two miles.
The trail gradually bends NE to a small clearing at the Shadyside - Repeater Road Trail junction (5.52 miles : 10,010'). Signs point left onto the 4WD Road for Shadyside, which quickly departs (right) back onto singletrack. Follow signs for the Shadyside Trail closely.
The Shadyside Trail drops in a thick forest to a boggy pond and Sunnyside Trail split (6.55 miles : 9,770'), which as before can be taken to shorten the loop. The Shadyside Trail continues descending through nondescript conifers that conceal large openings in the forest. Take a few steps off trail to explore these interesting spaces.
It gradually curls S-SW with partial views to a marked fork (7.4 miles : 9,445') - anticipate this sudden split which leads up and to the left.
The trail undulates on a S-SW heading back to the first Sunnyside - Shadyside split to complete the loop (8.2 miles : 9,752'). Retrace your steps on the Sunnyside Trail to the trailhead on Cemetery Lane (11.2 miles : 7,845').
- N39 12.937 W106 50.530 — 0.0 miles : Sunnyside Trailhead
- N39 13.024 W106 50.460 — .35 miles : Trail forks up and to the right by cairn
- N39 13.162 W106 50.574 — .55 miles : Begin long, sweeping switchback
- N39 13.376 W106 50.729 — .8 miles : Heading SE on switchback
- N39 13.254 W106 50.361 — 1.33 miles : Trail crosses dirt road (left) and picks up (right)
- N39 13.250 W106 50.286 — 1.55 miles : Trail bends back
- N39 13.433 W106 50.408 — 1.8 miles : Steady climb with expanding views over valley
- N39 13.424 W106 50.216 — 2.05 miles : Trail bends back
- N39 13.529 W106 50.237 — 2.3 miles : Grade moderates to phone tower @ 2.4 miles
- N39 13.585 W106 50.027 — 2.55 miles : Level through grassy glade
- N39 13.693 W106 49.791 — 2.8 miles : Rise back into mixed forest
- N39 13.711 W106 49.678 — 3.02 miles : Shadyside Trail split #1 | Start-Finish Loop
- N39 13.573 W106 49.247 — 3.52 miles : Shadyside Trail split #2
- N39 13.352 W106 49.189 — 3.8 miles : Travel moderates across aspen hillside
- N39 13.120 W106 48.743 — 4.3 miles : Trail follows contour lines below summit
- N39 12.906 W106 48.374 — 4.8 miles : Trail follows contour lines below summit
- N39 13.263 W106 48.113 — 5.3 miles : Slight dip on approach to Repeater Road split
- N39 13.429 W106 48.146 — 5.52 miles : Shadyside - Sunnyside Trail - Repeater Road split
- N39 13.601 W106 48.675 — 6.05 miles : Fast descent in nondescript forest
- N39 13.611 W106 49.214 — 6.55 miles : Shadyside - Sunnyside split @ pond
- N39 13.814 W106 49.294 — 7.05 miles : Fast travel - look for meadows thru trees
- N39 14.021 W106 49.514 — 7.4 miles : Shadyside Trail split - keep left
- N39 13.993 W106 49.590 — 7.55 miles : Rolling travel through pine-aspen intervals
- N39 13.883 W106 49.724 — 8.0 miles : Vague trail near completion of loop
- N39 13.711 W106 49.678 — 8.2 miles : Complete Loop | Sunnyside - Shadyside split
- The Shadyside Trail is true to its name - it mostly runs under a coniferous canopy and generally faces N-NE. Accordingly it can hold snow longer into spring than the Sunnyside Trail. Call ahead for trail conditions during shoulder seasons.
- There are some aging and beetle-infested trees along this route - expect deadfall across the trail and watch for falling trees.
- Arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds, especially heavy mountain bike traffic on weekends.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Camping and campfires are not permitted along the Sunnyside - Shadyside Loop. Camping is permitted in the Hunter - Frying Pan Wilderness to the east, accessible by various routes stemming from the Sunnyside Trail.
Rules and Regulations
- Parking restrictions are strictly enforced on Cemetery Lane. Park in designated spaces only.
- This is a non-wilderness trail. Camping and campfires are not permitted.
Directions to Trailhead
The Sunnyside Trailhead is located on Cemetery Lane, 1.4 miles off Highway 82 in Aspen CO.
From Highway 82 (just south of the roundabout), turn right (east) on Cemetery Lane and follow it to the parking area on the left. The trail begins across the street from the lot.
Signs mark the parking area and trailhead but are fairly small - anticipate the turnoff. Spaces are limited and fill quickly, however there's additional roadside parking above and below the main trailhead along Cemetery Lane.
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