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Aspen Center for Environmental Studies Connects People With Nature

Remember the excited anticipation of a school field trip? So do the naturalists at the Aspen Center for Environment Studies. In fact, they’re replicating the wonder and excitement of an educational outing with guided hikes and walks, where knowledgeable stewards teach youth and adult participants alike about the wildlife, forest, water and land that make the Roaring Fork Valley unique.

On a typical birding outing with ACES, you might see a red-tailed hawk perched on a snag, an osprey in flight or a kingfisher awaiting its next meal opportunity. In the fall, a guided visit to North Star Preserve and its Evening of the Elk series often rewards participants with the sounds, and sometimes the sights, of bull elk bugling in the cool autumn air.

For more than a half-century, as a science education nonprofit, ACES has worked to inspire a lifelong commitment to the earth by providing immersive year-round programming for all ages. Their programs focus on ecological literacy, regenerative agriculture, forest and ecosystem health, land restoration and environmental leadership.

Hallam Lake is ACES’ flagship site, a 25-acre nature preserve behind the post office in Aspen. Rock Bottom Ranch, between Carbondale and Basalt, serves as its mid-valley hub for environmental education, wildlands preservation and sustainable agriculture. It’s the site of the organization’s annual Harvest Party, an event that showcases regenerative agriculture practices and celebrates the harvest season with the community. The Catto Center at Toklat in the Castle Creek Valley is undergoing renovations and will reopen in spring 2023.

“Alpine Bank’s support makes our work possible. Specifically, the bank helps with our Children’s Education Fund and ACES Ed programs. That brings environmental science education into the schools full time in Aspen Elementary, Basalt Elementary, Crystal River Elementary and Kathryn Senor Elementary in New Castle,” said Emily Taylor, ACES marketing director. “The support also makes it possible for us to lead field programs with over 40 partner organizations every year.” 

In addition to the school programming, ACES offers free guided hikes with naturalists at the top of Aspen Mountain, Snowmass Mountain and the Maroon Bells. During these tours, guests learn about the local ecology and history of the area. In the winter, ACES hosts snowshoe and ski tours at the top of Aspen Mountain, Snowmass Mountain and Ashcroft. They also offer private custom guided hikes all over the Aspen area.

To learn more about ACES programming or to support their stewardship and sustainability efforts, visit

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