High country hiking at its finest. Ice and snow does not leave the higher elevations until July. Know where you are at all times and be aware of changing mountain conditions. That said, get ready for some killer views and a cardio-enhancer like no other.

The Maroon Bells (970-925-3445) is one of the most popular hikes. The area is known for its twin 14,000-foot peaks, reportedly the most photographed scene in Colorado. Cathedral and American Lakes are classic hikes in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area, which was one of five areas in Colorado designated wilderness by the original Wilderness Act of 1964. Both are only 13 miles from Aspen in the beautiful Ashcroft valley. Shuttle buses are available for a fee from the Aspen Highlands base area, or catch a city bus from the Ruby Park Bus Station in town and take it up to Highlands.

Other hikes include Lost Man Loop, 18 miles east of Aspen on Highway 82, on Independence Pass. It has spectacular views of the Continental Divide. Hunter Creek is conveniently located in town. It's a moderate hike with views of the Elk Mountain Range and town of Aspen.

Guides offer half-day, three-quarter- to full-day hikes, based on ability. They'll lead the way plus fill you in on the history of the area and provide information on the vegetation, wildlife, and wildflowers. Overnight trips to Crested Butte via East Maroon trail also are available.

For more information on hiking, call: Blazing Adventures (800-282-7238 or 970-923-4544); Aspen Alpine Guides (800-643-8621 or 970-925-6618); White River National Forest (970-925-3445).