This short trail climbs steeply through aspen groves, forests and meadows to a high mountain lake just below the timberline, offering hikers a good workout and a great way to acclimate for some of the Aspen area’s more challenging trails.
The American Lake trail ascends steep switchbacks through aspen groves along the north side of a gulch for 1.5 miles before reaching spruce-fir forests where it turns south. From this point the trail alternates between level sections and periodic climbs on easy to moderate grades through forest and wildflower-filled meadows with limited views of the surrounding peaks.
A little over two miles from the start the trail crosses a small ridge and heads west. Approximately 0.5 miles before the lake the trail emerges into a wildflower oasis, surrounded by scree. It then briefly reenters the forest before crossing another large scree field with sounds of a waterfall just ahead and to the left. American Lake, a small emerald green expanse set amid trees with a granite ridge rising above the north shore, is just beyond.
Driving Directions from Aspen: Drive 0.5 miles west of Aspen on Highway 82 to the Roundabout. Go around the roundabout and turn right on Castle Creek Road. Drive 10 miles to the Elk Mountain Lodge and turn right into the American lake parking lot, located across from the lodge on the west side of the road.