Shoulder season, mud season—whatever you call it, it can be a drag living in a resort town after the lifts stop running. It's a waiting game for the snow to melt so you can get back into the mountains again. Lucky for you we found 5 great hikes near popular resorts that are usually good to go early in the spring. When looking for hikes, your best bet is lower elevations and a south facing aspect for maximum sun saturation.
↑ Cheakamus Lake hike at Whistler, B.C., Canada
Cheakamus Lake is a popular early season hike among Whistler locals. Located in Garibaldi Provincial Park, this low angle (read: virtually no elevation gain) hike is both accessible and easy enough for almost every level of hiker. The hike takes around 2–4 hours round trip with the route varying from 8–14 kilometers depending on how far you choose to travel once arriving at the lake. The lush trail embarks above the Cheakamus river and wanders through old growth trees before arriving at the turquoise lake. Since it is in a national park dogs are not allowed.
↑ Sherwin Lakes hike at Mammoth Lakes, California
The Sherwin Lakes trailhead is found off of Sherwin Creek Road to the east of the town of Mammoth Lakes. While lower in elevation than the peaks overhead, you can still expect to feel the 8,269-foot altitude on the way up. The trail climbs steeply for about three miles to Sherwin Lakes through a series of switchbacks to two small, sub-alpine lakes set beneath the Sherwin Range. Along the way on this well-marked dirt trail are great views of the Long Valley Caldera and the town of Mammoth Lakes looking back toward Mammoth Mountain.
↑ Smuggler Mountain Trail At Aspen, Colorado
Smuggler Mountain trail is actually a wide dirt road and is one of the most popular recreation areas in Aspen. The 1.5-mile trail is accessible right from downtown Aspen, and offers a great short workout with manageable elevation gain (1,050 feet) and amazing views over the valley. It's possible to continue past the observation point at the top and link up with trails heading out toward Warren Lakes for a more ambitious hike.
↑ Tunnel Creek at Incline Village, Nevada
The Tunnel Creek trail on the quieter east shore of Lake Tahoe offers unparalleled views of Crystal Bay and the coastline. The trailhead is just south of Incline Village on Highway 28 at Tunnel Creek Station. The picturesque trail ascends for 2.5 miles with 1,500-feet of elevation gain, eventually intersecting with the (optional) turnaround at the Flume trailhead. Tahoe locals actually prefer early spring hiking for the seclusion offered before the upper mountain bike trails open with the later thaw.
↑ Smith Rock State Park at Bend, Oregon
The high desert of Bend, Oregon is blessed with abundant hiking and mountain biking trails surrounding and throughout the town, but Smith Rock State Park, just 30 minutes north of town offers world class scenery that's worth a visit. The dramatic setting of red volcanic rocks and cliff faces in a winding river canyon makes even a short 2.5 mile stroll to Monkey Face exciting. More ambitious hikers can opt for the new 8-mile Summit loop trail established in 2013 which consists of a new 2 mile connector trail that links the River Wolf Tree and Burma Road trails .
· Smith Rock: Climber's heaven also offers inspiring hikes [Seattle Times]
· Cheakamus Lake Hike: Free of Snow and Good to Go [Tourism Whistler]
· Aspen's backyard: Up, up, up Smuggler [Aspen Times]
· Four Secret Mountain Towns Perfect for a Budget Getaway [Curbed Ski]
· Dirt Bags, PBRs, and Shot Skis: The Best Ski Town Dive Bars [Curbed Ski]
· The 38 Essential Ski Town Hotels, November '14 [Curbed Ski]