I’ve been to many stunning mountain towns around the world and Aspen, Colorado, is one that always stands out to me as one of the best, no matter the season. With four mountain resorts surrounding it and an apres ski culture like no other, Aspen is one of the best places to be in the winter time.
When the snow melts, more adventure awaits! Spend your days in Colorado hiking the iconic Maroon Bells, soaking in natural hot springs, fly fishing in the Roaring Fork River, or visiting world-class restaurants downtown. Sleep under the stars or stay in a luxury mountain resort and head out for a brand new adventure each day.
Whether you’re spending time in the mountains or downtown, you’re sure to have an incredible time. Here are 18 things to do in Aspen that we know you and your crew will love.
SNOW MUCH RESORT FUN IN WINTER
Everyone knows that skiing is one of the best things to do in Aspen! Aspen and Snowmass Village really come alive in the winter time, thanks to its four mountain resorts and apres-ski culture like no other. The terrain is suitable for beginners and experts alike, whether you’re competing in the X-Games, the Audi Power of Four, or learning how to ski or snowboard for the very first time.
Aside from skiing and snowboarding, there are also plenty of other winter activities to enjoy, such as snowshoeing, tubing, cross-country skiing, and snowcat dinners.
Local Tip: If you live in the area, admission to Aspen/Snowmass is included with the Ikon Pass or you can purchase a season pass that gives access to all four mountain resorts. If you’re visiting, you can purchase a day or multi-day pass for your visit.
Ready to hit the slopes, but don’t have the equipment? We’ve made snowboarding a lifestyle, but before we owned our equipment, Ski Butlers was our ski (and boarding) rental service of choice. These guys deliver to your hotel or condo – and pick up- for only a few dollars more than the jam-packed shops just down the road. And the equipment? Best in the business! Check out Ski Butlers on your next vacation!
Buttermilk Resort is Aspen’s smallest mountain and it’s excellent for kids and beginners. They have an outstanding ski school and a lot of green trails for those who have never skied before or have little experience.
They also have areas with more challenging and expert terrain, which is a popular host of the ESPN Winter X Games. Stop by to learn how to ski for the first time, enjoy some family friendly fun, or ski like your favorite pros!
When you dream of an Aspen ski trip, a bluebird day at Aspen Snowmass is exactly what you’re picturing in your head. Aspen/Snowmass is the largest and most popular ski resort in Aspen!
It features a vast array of terrain for everyone from beginner to expert to enjoy, has many activities other than shredding to enjoy, and has a fun apres-ski culture, so you can have just as much fun in between runs as you do on them.
Aspen Mountain (locally known as Ajax) has many complex runs, so it is the best resort for intermediate and advanced skiers. You can access the mountain via the Silver Queen Gondola, which goes from downtown to the resort.
Stop by if you’re looking for a challenge with incredible views!
If you’re looking to ski some of Aspen’s legendary bowls, you’ll find them at the Aspen Highlands resort! Ski some of Colorado’s steepest mountain faces in the Highland Bowl, Olympic Bowl, and Steeplechase while admiring views of the famous Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peaks.
When you’re done skiing, be sure to stop by Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro for some fondue and raclette before heading into town for the evening.
BUT DON’T SKIP THE RESORTS IN SUMMER
While Aspen’s ski resorts are surely a draw in the winter time, don’t sleep on Aspen in the summer time either! With so many world-class hiking trails in the area and fun events going on year round, Aspen is the place to be no matter the season.
The downtown area has a big open field with yoga classes and sports tournaments, and the resorts have live music and festivals going on all year long. Snowmass has free concerts going on during the summer and Aspen Mountain (Ajax) does sometimes as well.
If you’re looking for thrill and views, the gondola still runs in the summertime, so you can admire the views of Aspen and Snowmass on your way up and either hike or bike back down. You can also visit the Lost Forest in Aspen to ride the mountain coaster, ropes courses, rock climbing, zip lines, an alpine slide, and more!
No matter what season you visit the Aspen resorts, you’re sure to have an incredible and adventurous time!
No matter what season you’re visiting Aspen or how seasoned of a hiker you are, hiking Maroon Bells is a bucket list adventure that you absolutely cannot miss! Maroon Bells is possibly the most iconic site in America, and there are a number of different hiking trails to choose from in the Maroon Bells Scenic Area, varying from easy scenic loops to two 14ers.
Some of the best easy hiking trails in the area are: Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail, The Grottos Trail, and Spiral Point via Rim Trail South
Best moderate hiking trails: Crater Lake, Crystal City Road, Thomas Lakes Trail
Best difficult hikes: Conundrum Creek Trail (leads to Conundrum Creek Hot Springs), Cathedral Lake Trail, Capitol Peak, Pyramid Peak Trail
14ers: Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak
Local Tip: Reservations are required in order to visit the Maroon Bells Scenic Area, which can be made on their website. You will need to reserve both a parking spot and a seat on the shuttle for the day that you are visiting.
If you are planning on camping, you will want to make that reservation as soon as possible! Also note that bear canisters are required when camping in the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness and White River National Forest.
CONUNDRUM HOT SPRINGS
For or the best of summer in Colorado summed up in one area, you have to head over to Conundrum Hot Springs, found in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness! You can visit for free during the day, or snag an overnight permit if you wish to camp. It is a decent hike to get there and the elevation is pretty high (11,200), so it’s best to break the hike up into a couple of days, especially if your lungs aren’t used to the elevation.
However, if you are up for a bit of a challenge and have the day free, you can definitely hike up to the hot springs, soak for a bit, and be back down by nightfall if you get an early start.
The Conundrum Creek Trailhead is located at the end of Conundrum Road at about 8,000 feet above sea level. It takes approximately 5-6 hours to hike to the hot springs on average, and 3-4 hours to hike back down. The views are absolutely breathtaking, and it’s worth the adventure!
Independence Pass (also known as CO-82) is the road you take to get to Aspen from I-70, so if you’re headed from Denver or Glenwood Springs, this gorgeous mountain pass will already be on your way. Passing over the Continental Divide from Leadville to Aspen, Independence Pass is one of the highest scenic roads in America. It features some of the most majestic mountain scenery on the planet, as well as the Roaring Fork River, and famous aspen groves.
You can drive Independence Pass or bike it, and stop at many different hiking trails and viewpoints along the way. You should check out the Grottos Trail, which is an easy trail to hike and features Devils Punch Bowl Waterfall, and it’s a great place for a picnic. Lost Man Trail features views of alpine meadows, lakes, and the Continental Divide.
Some of my favorite campsites in the U.S. are also located along Independence Pass. Weller Campground, Lincoln Gulch, and Lost Man Campground are all great fee-based campsites. If you are looking for free dispersed camping, you can head down Lincoln Creek Road and camp anywhere along the Grizzly Reservoir. I really love the area around Portal Campground, as it features a small lake and is very quiet, since 4WD and high clearance is required in order to reach it.
Local Tip: Independence Pass is generally only open in the summer months from about the end of May to early fall, so be sure to plan your trip accordingly.
ROARING FORK RIVER
The Roaring Fork River is a 70 mile long river located exclusively in the west-central region of Colorado and is known for its crystal clear “roaring” currents. The Roaring Fork River essentially runs from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, and is most popular for fly-fishing and whitewater rafting.
There are also areas where you can go paddleboarding on the east side. Visit one of the many outfitters in downtown Aspen to rent any equipment you need and join a guided tour!
If you’re looking for free activities, there are a few natural swimming holes where you can swim and have a picnic, such as the John Denver Sanctuary and Devil’s Punchbowl. You can’t miss spending a day on the Roaring Fork River when visiting Aspen in the summer.
WHEELER OPERA HOUSE
Since 1889, Wheeler Opera House has been a favorite venue for a variety of performances including concerts, films, festivals, events and educational programs.
Named after Jerome Wheeler, one of the most important figures in the history of Aspen, the Opera House has experienced many ups and downs and has been home to many different types of businesses. The most elegant of all is the impressive theater, which has hosted everything from community events to popular concerts, local artists and well known performers.
The Wheeler Opera House is an important historical building; always updated and a shining star for years to come. Check out the schedule when you are in the area. If something is happening, you won’t want to miss it.
DINING, DINING, DINING
There’s a reason why the rich and famous always flock to Aspen for dining. There are dozens of world class restaurants here featuring a mix of local cuisine and international flavors that will fuel you perfectly for a full day on the slopes.
Start your day with divine french toast and a view of the mountains at Aspen Over Easy Breakfast Club or a massive burrito from Poppycock’s. For lunch, head over to Meat & Cheese or Ajax Tavern for snacks in between runs, or head over to White House Tavern for the best burger in Aspen. When you’re ready for fine dining and your apres ski cocktail, head over to Element 47, French Alpine Bistro, or SteakHouse No. 316.
There are so many great restaurants in Aspen but no matter what you choose to eat, I can guarantee it will be delicious!
ASPEN ART MUSEUM
The building itself is a work of art and you won’t want to miss it! The Aspen Art Museum is proud to present the most innovative, international contemporary art in unique ways through educational programs, immersive experiences and thought provoking culture and arts to engage, educate and entertain visitors.
Here you can share lunch, attend a workshop and enjoy a unique variety of art mediums; paintings, sculptures, collections and more. Always engaging and amazing, you won’t be disappointed when you visit the Aspen Art Museum.
JOHN DENVER SANCTUARY
A special park located near Rio Grande Park and the Roaring Fork River, John Denver Sanctuary is a memorial dedicated to its beloved namesake. This is a public park, open from dawn to dusk and tickets are not required.
The Sanctuary is a great place for the whole family to enjoy a picnic, hike on the trails or meditate in the scenic beauty. Here you will find a walking path enhanced by large boulders inscribed with John Denver lyrics and you can also enjoy a performance at Theater Aspen.
ASHCROFT GHOST TOWN
Located 11 miles up Castle Creek Road, Ashcroft features the quaint remains of a formerly booming town. Here you can see restored buildings including a saloon, post office and hotel.
Guided tours are available in the summer. In the spring, winter and fall, you can take a self-guided tour; admission per the honor system.
RIO GRANDE TRAIL
If you’re looking for a fun way to explore the Glenwood Springs/Aspen area, check out the Rio Grande Trail. This 42 mile long trail links Aspen to Glenwood Springs and is closed to motorized traffic.
One of my favorite ways to spend a day is by biking the trail, though you could also go horseback riding or walk a section of the trail. No matter what you choose to do, it’s a great way to get from point A to point B in a scenic and active way!
ASPEN CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES
Founded by Elizabeth Paepcke, The Aspen Center For Environmental Studies (ACES) is an environmental center and nature preserve. Elizabeth was motivated by “the Aspen idea” of the harmony between mind, body and spirit. She envisioned a place that could be a sanctuary for nature and wildlife in the middle of an urban area.
Including three locations at Hallam Lake, Rock Bottom Ranch and Catto Center at Toklat; programs focus on ecology, environment, regenerative agriculture, forest and ecosystem health and land restoration. ACES teaches about environmental responsibility through programs, classes, camps, hikes and public lectures.
ASPEN REC CENTER
The Aspen Rec Center (ARC) provides a fun day for the kids and the whole family. There are a variety of activities here, including a state of the art fitness center, aquatic center, skating rink, hockey, swimming, classes and more.
Some of the highlights include an aquatic center with a lazy river and water slide, climbing wall and climbing tower.
There is no shortage of fun, active recreation at the Aspen Recreation Center! A variety of passes, punch cards and memberships are available to meet all of your family fun needs.
DAY TRIP TO GLENWOOD SPRINGS
If you’re headed to or from Denver or just have an extra day during your trip to Aspen, head over to Glenwood Springs! Glenwood Springs is located along I-70 and it’s where you’ll hop onto Independence Pass to head towards Aspen.
Glenwood Springs is one of my favorite areas in Colorado and I find it to be so underrated. It has a lot of similarities to Aspen: red mountain scenery interlaced with lush green aspens and the roaring Colorado River. It also has an adorable downtown area full of excellent restaurants and the largest hot springs pool in the world.
Spend the day hiking to the famous Hanging Lake, whitewater rafting in the Colorado River, or soaking in the Glenwood Springs Hot Springs Pool.
Be sure to stop by Glenwood Springs Brewpub for an excellent burger, and Sweet Coloradough for the best doughnuts you’ll ever have!
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO COLORADO
- YOUR COLORADO VACATION
- ASPEN CHRISTMAS: 16 Fantastic Aspen Colorado Christmas Adventures
- BOULDER: 24 Outstanding Things To Do In Boulder, Colorado
- SALIDA: 26+ Things To Do In This Breathtaking Mountain Town
- HOT SPRINGS: 17 Best Hot Springs In Colorado You Must Visit
- COLORADO SPRINGS: 31 Delightful Things To Do In Colorado Springs
- RESORTS: 21 Amazing Colorado Resorts Perfect For Any Type Of Traveler
WHERE TO STAY IN ASPEN
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