The Grottos Trail Outside Aspen, Colorado

I wasn’t sure that I would ever find a hike in the United States as family friendly as the Gnome Hike in Switzerland. So when a friend told us about the Grottos Trail outside of Aspen we knew we had to check it out. While this hike doesn’t have manmade play things scattered along the hike, it does have pebbled riverbeds, boulders, a roaring waterfall and ice caves. All perfect for exploration by children.

The downside is that the trail is well known and the parking lot is quite small. It is best to arrive early. We were coming from the Aspen area, having spent the previous night in Basalt, CO, so it was easy to arrive before the crowds. (Even with a stop in Aspen to grab some baked good from the Aspen Baking Company.)

Once you are parked the trail begins in front of a large bridge that crosses the river. If you turn left before the bridge you take a short path to the base of the waterfall. This is a great place to enjoy a bit of wet fun and rock hopping. We did end up with some wet socks, so you may want to save this for the end of your visit. The path dead-ends at the waterfall so you will have to turn around and hike back to the bridge. We tried to go a bit further but it is not really a path.

Once you are back at the bridge head on over to explore the rest of the area. Our first stop was directly under the bridge to throw small stones in the river. This would also be a good place to wade in the river if it was warm.

From here you can head to the ice caves following the well marked path. The walk is easy and goes through the woods. There are a few boulder areas where you get to scramble over some rocks. The ice caves are down between some of the large boulders. Jeff was able to scramble down there and help the kids explore. Just make sure you can get yourself back up before you go down.

There are a few places along the path that you can peer into the ice caves and see the water running out and some of the ice. So if you don’t get a good view from the boulders don’t worry.

When you are done at the ice caves the trail will take you to the waterfall. You are now on the other side of the waterfall from where the path before the bridge took you. When we were there we were able to walk on the rocks till we were standing next to some of the highest cascades. This all felt very safe and the kids loved being so close to the water.

The path is a bit steep coming back from the waterfall to the bridge. The kids loved it and the adults didn’t find it terribly challenging but if you are hiking with a baby in a carrier you may need some assistance or want a hiking pole on a few of the scrambles. We popped Michaela’s little one out a few times to make it easier. Plus she (the little one) liked scrambling down the rocks.

We ended our visit down on the pebble beach throwing a few more rocks. You’ll find bathrooms in the parking lot and it is good to stop before getting back in your car because unless you are heading back to Aspen there are not bathrooms for a long while.


Elizabeth is a Type A, Attorney turned Stay-at-Home Mom, who moved her family across the Atlantic for an adventure. She can often be found out and about finding fun things for her littles to do. Elizabeth loves to read, craft and chat with friends. She will try just about anything and loves to share her experiences.

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