Connects: Little Annie Road (CR 15G), Dick Cabins, Dick Picnic Area, Quien Sabe Mine, Storm King Cabin
Aspen, CO – Hard – Hike, Run, Dog Friendly – Dirt
Stirling Wilderness Trail, also called Stirling Cooper Trail, is a difficult trail you can hike and run that is dog friendly. The trail consists of a steep climb to get to a loop that passes by old mines dumps and cabin ruins. Stirling “Buzz” Cooper built the trail as a tribute to his son, Stirling Cooper Jr., who died in a hiking accident in a canyon in Utah on Aug. 28, 1999. This is a dirt trail on the Stirling Cooper Open Space in Aspen, CO.
To get to the trailhead from the Aspen roundabout, travel 6.75 miles on Castle Creek Road to Little Annie Road and turn left. The trail starts just 500 feet up the road at the first parking area on the right.
News about the Stirling Wilderness Trail can be found at:
The Aspen Times (September 17, 2016) – A dad’s wish granted to honor his son with park on back of Aspen Mountain
The Aspen Times (August 31, 2011) – Aspen-area trail a father’s labor of love
This is a public trail. You are WELCOME! Much of the land traversed by the trail was purchased in 2010 through the Open Space program of Pitkin County. Much of the other land used for the trail involves unpatented mining land which is jointly held by Buzz Cooper and the federal government (BLM and USFS).
Basically, the trail exists for those person who enjoy nature and the out-of-doors – who welcome the peace and quiet of an area where very few have not had more than a dozen or so visitors during the past 100 years. THERE ARE AREAS WHICH ARE THAT REMOTE!
Also, these are areas with an interesting MINING history. For those persons who want to know more about Aspen’s silver mining days, there are remnants of cabins and tunnels from the late 1800s. If you know where to look, there are silver, lead, zinc and copper ores. (No gold!)
If you want to see wildlife, or feel its presence, there are a few elk, deer, and grouse who also use the trail. Rarely, there is evidence of a bear traveling through, one looking for ants in dead stumps. A bear should pose no threat.
Again, the key word is REMOTE. In less than a half an hour from your car (to the Dick picnic area) you can finish a lunch with the probability of not seeing another person or group. If you are brave enough to climb up to the Quien Sabe, you may not see another person for a week. Take your tent?
The BASIC, easier tour can begin by traveling (by ordinary car) 400 ft. up the Little Annie road and parking in the public lot. (You will be about 6.5 miles from the roundabout in west Aspen.) There is a small sign up on an aspen tree at the start of the trail. It is an easy start, but after a fire hundred feet you will join an old mining “road,” and it goes UP – 20% grade or more in places!
(A note about parts of the Stirling trails: several sections are NOT for “city-slickers” who have trouble walking beyond the end of their cars; some parts have been little more than renovations of game trails or grades for mining mules!)
The first choice you have to make is at about the half-mile point: go left and head town the Storm King cabin. A sign will direct you. Go to the cabin and leave that area going east. Going this loop, past the Dick picnic site, a return to your car should take about 2-3 hours (without lengthy stops). Take water, snacks.
The ADVANCED tour has the same start, but you take the right branch at the high-mile point and head toward the Dick picnic site, Continue up and follow the signs directing you to the Quien Sabe. After visiting the mine entrance, go back to the first switchback and travel east a few hundred feet to the end of the trail. Great views of the Ashcroft area. If you want a full challenge, return to your car by going past the Storm King cabin.
Contact Buzz Cooper at Box 201, Aspen 81612 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
A welcome surprise – I loved this trail. Lots of cool things to check out along the way and not a soul in sight.