Ashcroft Snowshoe Tour up Castle Creek Valley
February 20, 2013
Aspen Center for Environmental Studies ski and snowshoe tours offer the best of the Aspen area. The endless, spectacular views from Aspen Mountain’s Richmond Ridge are some of the best I’ve ever encountered in my short 25 years on this earth. The snowshoe tour on Snowmass Ski Area’s peaceful Rabbit Run Trail allows visitors to escape the crowds and experience their own private winter wonderland. Joining a naturalist to ski down Elk Camp provides a whole new perspective to what one can discover on the slopes, beyond the usual rush of adrenaline and the cold wind kissing your face. As amazing as these other tours are, a day spent exploring Castle Creek Valley is special in it’s own right.
Aspen Center for Environmental Studies naturalist guided Ashcroft Snowshoe Tour includes a stop in the famed Ashcroft Ghost Town, as well as a gourmet lunch at Pine Creek Cookhouse. Anyone who decides to partake in an Ashcroft Snowshoe Tour is in for an absolute treat, from start to finish!
The experience begins the second your car turns off the round about and heads up the valley. This 11-mile drive is breathtaking; creeping up a winding mountain road, traveling alongside a partially frozen Castle Creek, you are surrounded on all sides by snow-covered peaks dusted with aspen, spruce and fir forests.
The magical fun of Castle Creek continues upon arrival as guests are outfitted in the cozy King Yurt before heading out on the official tour. Once strapped into snowshoes, the group begins what is sure to be an unforgettable, self-propelled, hunger-inducing adventure! While each tour is unique, depending on factors such as the tour guide, the group’s interest, weather, etc., a few things are guaranteed: a pit stop in the historical ghost town of Ashcroft, winter animal track identification, knowledge of the natural landscape, and absolutely priceless views. As I always tell my groups, the view becomes increasingly more beautiful with every step we take, ultimately leading us to our halfway point: lunch!
The delicious Pine Creek Cookhouse, a rustic restaurant accessible only by snowshoes, skis, sleighs, or walking, beckons our gaggle of snowshoe folk who are not only hungry and thirsty, but also riding on an endorphin high. Needless to say, these factors make for a fabulous dining experience! Appetites are raging, spirits are high, the cookhouse is downright cozy, and the menu is nothing short of impressive: sherpa stew, elk bratwurst, spinach & mushroom crepes, and so on.
After enjoying lunch conversation we embark on the crux of the day: getting back into our snowshoes and on our merry way before the guaranteed post-lunch food coma sets in. Luckily, the way back to the Yurt is downhill! The return hike is a perfect time for guests to relax and soak in the unmistakable spirit of Castle Creek Valley. Anyone who has spent time in the shadow of Ashcroft Mountain, listening to the creek dancing down the valley or staring at the old Ashcroft cabins, contemplating those who have walked before us, can attest to the soul and spirit of the valley. I’ve always felt that some places are so special that simply being in them are cause for celebration; they encourage us to stop, breath, and recognize how wonderful the gift of life is. Castle Creek Valley is, without a doubt, one of these extraordinary places and a destination worth experiencing-slowly, deliberately, and blissfully. Join us soon on an Ashcroft snowshoe tour for an experience of a lifetime!
~ Julia Violet Johannesen, ACES Naturalist