About 200 miles West of Denver, Aspen is a top vacation destination all year round, especially in the winter, (even if you’re not a skier). This mining-town-turned-ski-resort is nestled in the Roaring Fork Valley of the Rocky Mountains, offering incredible views that please even the most picky traveler.
This picturesque mountain town is a real winter wonderland for mountain enthusiasts, and a top hotspot for skiers and celebrities. But Aspen offers a lot more than just exquisite beauty: from incredible lodgings, (including numerous hotels, cabins and chalets, depending on your budget), to top-notch dining, shopping and so much more.
Here are our favorite things to do in Aspen, (and please note that not all of them involve skiing):
1.Hit The Slopes
With four ski resorts, (Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass), of course we have to start our list with Aspen’s top activity, skiing. At 8,000 feet in elevation, skiing and snowboarding in Aspen is a completely different experience, so waste no time when you get there and hit the slopes. Even if you don’t know how to ski just go with the flow. Jump on the bunny slopes, get an instructor, and experience the full Aspen thing.
2. Try Snowshoeing
With so much terrain available and plenty of snow, snowshoeing is another very popular winter pastime in Aspen for locals as well as for visitors. It’s perfect for the outdoor enthusiasts who are looking for other ways to get a workout while enjoying the beautiful outdoors, other than skiing.
Ashcroft, a so-called ghost town just outside Aspen, has 21 miles of groomed trails just perfect for snowshoeing. Ashcroft is privately owned wilderness, but rentals and guides are available. Another great spot for snowshoeing in the area is Richmond Ridge, accessible via the Silver Queen Gondola, (tickets go for $33-$55). This is perfect for beginner and intermediate snowshoers.
The Maroon Creek Trail is closed in winter, but you can snowshoe up via Castle Creek Road to the Maroon Creek Trailhead and head to Maroon Lake, overlooking the Maroon Bells. Pack a lunch, and bring plenty of water (as there’s no services at the lake during off-season), and enjoy the breathtaking views.
3. Relax in Glenwood Springs
Hot springs in a mountain town are bliss, especially in the winter, and you can experience them in Glenwood Springs, just 40 miles from Aspen. Must be a reason why the Hot Springs Pool has been used by Native American tribes for centuries. Nothing is more soothing than easing into a steaming pool after strenuous activities like hiking or skiing, especially when it’s snowing. Book a night at the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, which claims to be the world’s largest hot springs pool, and enjoy the 1,071,000 gallons of naturally heated mineral water bubbles.
4. Take a Ride With the Silver Queen Gondola
The Silver Queen Gondola takes you on a 2.5 miles ride up into the Rockys to the 11,000-foot-high summit of Aspen Mountain. Once you reach the top, there are plenty of opportunities to hike, dine and even take in some live music. Once at the top of the mountain you can enjoy the sundeck, grab a bite, a drink, and take in the breathtaking scenery. This is your perfect photo opp. For more information, check out the gondola website.
5. Independence Pass
Prefer road trips over everything? The 20-mile drive between Aspen and Leadville is abundant with breathtaking views around the Roaring Fork River and the Sawatch Mountains.
This road is one of the highest in the US, (12,000 feet altitude), after the Continental Divide. Be warned though, this scenic road trip is not for the faint of heart. This winding road is narrow and rugged, with only few guardrails, therefore proceed with caution!
6. Maroon Bells
You recognize this image, right? Most likely you’ve seen this in a movie, on a postcard, in a commercial, on a documentary, or probably on all of the above, because these 14,000 feet tall twin peaks are some of the most photographed in the United States. A hotspot for nature lovers, wildlife-watchers, hikers, Maroon Bells offer scenic views, numerous trails and campsites. For more information, visit the official website and plan a visit ASAP!
7. Visit the John Denver Sanctuary
A must see if you are in the area is the John Denver Sanctuary. The famous singer-songwriter John Denver called Aspen home for most of his life, expressing his love for it through his music. He included the town’s charm in some of his songs, including “Aspenglow.” After Denver passed away, the City of Aspen decided to pay tribute to its favorite artist, building a sanctuary after him. The memorial is composed of several stone slabs, displaying the musician’s name and some lyrics. The place spans over 4.5 acres and houses several native trees, wildflowers, wetlands, streams and waterfalls.