Aspen is a small mountain town with a big reputation. This dream destination for outdoor lovers attracts thrill seekers year-round. Once the snow falls, Aspen is a winter wonderland with world class skiing and scenic views, while in the summer, its natural beauty shines through with clear blue skies and dense forests.
Aspen is known for its big mountain skiing and abundant winter activities, but when the snow melts, you can choose from horseback riding, rock climbing, biking, and hiking trails. Aspen also sits in the middle of White River National Forest, so you are never far from the great outdoors. One thing is for sure: there are plenty of things to do in Aspen.
Best Things to Do in Aspen, Colorado
Book your private round-trip airport transfer from Denver Airport to Aspen or Snowmass Village. Take the stress out of finding transportation
This guide will cover the very best things to do in Aspen. From skiing in the winter season to hiking and mountain biking in the summer, Aspen is a year-round destination. From scenic gondola rides to art museums, these attractions will keep you entertained and content.
1. Hit the Slopes
You can’t visit one of the best skiing destinations in the United States without skiing. Aspen Mountain’s four main ski areas are Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk Mountain. There are 5,300 acres of skiable terrain between them.
Aspen Mountain (formerly Ajax Mountain) is for skiers with experience. The runs are moderate to difficult, so expect challenging slopes. Aspen Mountain is situated in the heart of Aspen, which is excellent for those wanting a central location.
Aspen Highlands is another mountain for experienced skiers. Aspen Highlands ski area is known for the Highland Bowl, which summits at 12,392 feet above sea level and has some of the steepest descents in the area. If you want adrenaline, the Highlands is where you’ll find it. And even better? You only have to walk a few miles along Maroon Creek Road to reach Aspen town center from the Highlands Ski Resort.
Buttermilk Mountain ski area is famed for the Winter X Games, making you think it is for experienced skiers only. Nuy he mountain actually caters to all levels, and even beginners can enjoy steadily zipping through Aspen trees on gentle ski slopes.
2. Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort
Snowmass Village is a destination unto itself with various slopes and cross country skiing plus outdoor activities and a lively village.
In the winter months, its world-class ski resort boasts a diverse range of trails for skiing and snowboarding lovers of all levels. Snowmass Mountain is the largest of the four mountains , with 17 different ski lifts and the most vertical ski area in Aspen.
The village is a hub of dining, shopping, and entertainment options, with events and festivals frequently adding to the excitement. Accommodations in Aspen Snowmass range from luxurious resorts to cozy lodges, catering to every preference and ensuring a comfortable stay.
During the warmer months, Snowmass is great for hiking, mountain biking, and taking scenic gondola rides.
3. Maroon Bells
The Maroon Bells are the most photographed mountains in Aspen. Photographers flock to this location to photograph the two mountains of Maroon Bells reflecting in the lake, forming the ultimate alpine postcard image. The two peaks, Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak are only split by 0.5 km. The Maroon Bells are a popular day trip from Aspen in a glacial valley in the Elk Mountains.
Wondering how you reach Maroon Bells? The good news is that multiple hiking trails lead out to Maroon Bells. You can hike the Maroon Lake Scenic Trail, which is only a mile long, or tackle the Maroon Creek Trail for a mixture of lakeside views and alpine meadows. The Maroon Creek Trail is a little longer, measuring 3.2 miles one way.
4. Hike the Crater Lake Trail
The Crater lake Trail is a 3.5-mile trail that is one of the best hikes in Colorado and probably the best in Aspen. Located in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness Area, Crater Lake was formed from geological processes thousands of years ago w hen glaciers started floating away and left what we know as Crater Lake.It is worth noting that swimming is prohibited at Crater Lake.
Hiking on unfamiliar trails alone can be daunting, and transportation can be an issue if you don’t rent a car. If you want to take a guided tour, Blazing Adventures offers guided hikes around the Maroon Bells.
5. Independence Pass
Visiting Independence Pass allows you to combine multiple attractions in Aspen into one experience. Take a scenic drive to visit this landmass on the Continental Divide of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. You can tick off standing on the Continental Divide, visiting the Rocky Mountains, and exploring one of the most scenic places in Aspen – all in a few hours.
Don’t be fooled though; Independence Pass is also one heck of a drive. The road zig-zags up the mountain, with hairpin turns and sections so narro, that only a single car can squeeze through. IThis part of Colorado State Highway 82 is restricted to camper trailers and recreational vehicles over 35ft in length.
Combine your drive to Independence Pass with a visit to Twin Lake or a climb up Mt Elbert. You could leave Independence Pass for the drive back to Denver if you fly into Denver International Airport and hire a car.
6. Go Mountain Biking
Aspen’s diverse terrain caters to all levels of mountain biking from beginners to advanced. The Rio Grande Trail, with its gentle incline is perfect for families and casual riders. For those seeking a more challenging ride, the Government Trail provides a thrilling combination of technical descents and natural beauty.
Meanwhile, the Smuggler Trail is a local favorite, offering panoramic views of Aspen and beyond. Each trail in Aspen promises not only an adventurous ride but also an opportunity to immerse oneself in the natural beauty of Colorado’s mountains. o
7. Hike the Grottos Trail
The Grottos Trail can’t be beaten for an exciting hike near Aspen. While only 1 km long, the trail has a lot to see along the way, and it is one of the prettiest trails in the region.
Situated just off Independence Pass, the Grottos ice cave is a marvel of geological formations, and waterfalls attracting visitors with its spectacular ice structures and cool, ethereal ambiance.
A section of the track resembles a dark grey version of Antelope Canyon. You’ll scramble through ribbon-like canyons and crevices to complete the hike.
Ideal for those seeking a blend of hiking and exploration, the trail to the caves is an easy, scenic walk, suitable for all ages and skill levels. Inside the caves, the play of light through the ice creates a magical atmosphere, perfect for unforgettable photo opportunities. We also recommend getting there early in the day, before 9 am, as this trail is popular, and parking spots are limited.
8. Visit the John Denver Sanctuary
John Denver Sanctuary is a beautiful nature reserve and wildlife sanctuary just north of Aspen town center. It was set up in memory of the late singer John Denver, hoping visitors could find peace, meditation, and solace in nature. Nestled along the Roaring Fork River, this tranquil haven is a must-visit for both John Denver fans and nature lovers.
The sanctuary, features beautifully manicured gardens and an array of his song lyrics etched into native stones, creating a pathway of inspiration and reflection. Visitors are often captivated by the “Song Garden,” where Denver’s music softly plays, enhancing the peaceful atmosphere.
Lyrics and quotes aren’t the only artistic thing in John Denver Sanctuary. The Aspen Theatre group has a tent set up in the middle of the John Denver Sanctuary offering a beautiful place to enjoy performing arts. It is located near Rio Grande Park, making it a perfect spot for a stroll or a quiet moment of contemplation.
9. Aspen Art Museum
Aspen Art Museum is a mecca for contemporary art in the region, hosting exhibitions and displays of international and local artists featuring sculptures, paintings, sketches, and even multimedia displays.
It is free to enter and has a rooftop terrace with glorious views over Aspen and the surrounding mountains. Located in downtown Aspen, the Aspen Art Museum can easily be added to any Aspen itinerary. During the winter months or on a cold and drizzly day, visitors can relish the warmth of an indoor attraction. The museum is just a five-minute walk from the base of Aspen Mountain Ski Resort, so it is a perfect place to dash for a taste of the art on a cold day. You’ll easily spot it. In true contemporary style, the building has a massive copper lattice façade.
10. Go paragliding
Adrenaline junkies will love paragliding over Aspen’s beautiful vistas. There is no better way to take in the breathtaking scenery of aspen. Paragliding is one of the most adventurous things to do in Aspen.
Aspen Paragliding is the most popular company to go paragliding within the area, and you’ll take to the skies with a certified pilot. The whole experience lasts around two hours – so wrap up and prepare for the weather conditions. You’ll gently glide past some of the most stunning scenes in Colorado. In the winter season, you might even be able to spot the skiers on the slopes below.
Check out the activities that Blazing Adventures has on offer here. Blazing Adventures specializes in outdoor adventures that get your adrenaline pumping. You could even continue your ‘flight theme’ with a hot air balloon ride.
11. Ashcroft Ghost Town
Visiting ghost towns is probably not the first thing you expect to do in Aspen. However, Ashcroft Ghost Town is easily one of the most entertaining attractions in the Aspen Area. Once a silver mining town, Ashcroft Ghost Town is now completely uninhabited. The Aspen Historical Society opened the town up to visitors annually between June and October.
You can explore old historical buildings, including the old post office, Blue Mirror Saloon, and a former hotel building. Ashcroft Ghost Town is a unique opportunity to step back and immerse yourself in Old Western history. Walking between the log cabins and wooden public buildings is kind of creepy and fun.
The town is located on Castle Creek Road, about eleven miles south of Aspen. It takes about 25 minutes to drive to Ashcroft Ghost Town.
Check out one of these tours to ghost towns to make the most of your time in Aspen. Aspen’s Dark Side Ghost Tour,, Aspen’s Off the Beaten Path Tour, Aspen’s Past to Present Historic Tour
12. Cross Country Ski in Aspen
Aspen boasts some of the most picturesque cross-country skiing trails in North America. The Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System, a vast network encompassing over 60 miles of free, impeccably groomed trails, connects Aspen to Snowmass and Basalt.
This network of trails offersa variety of terrain for all skill levels. Beginners can glide along the gentle slopes of the Aspen Golf Course, while more experienced skiers can challenge themselves on the rolling hills of the Owl Creek Trail.
The Rio Grande Trail, with its stunning river views, provides a more leisurely experience, ideal for soaking in Aspen’s natural beauty. These trails not only offer excellent cross-country skiing but also serve as perfect paths for snowshoeing, making them a versatile choice for winter outdoor activities.
13. Walk the Rio Grande Trail
The Rio Grande Trail is no easy feat. The trail runs for an impressive 42 miles and is typically tackled over two to four days. Anyone determined enough to take on the challenge can enjoy unrivaled views along the trail. You’ll mainly follow Roaring Fork River, but you’ll have snow-capped mountain views and wildlife galore – so keep your eyes peeled. Pack your bathing suit because you can go swiming along the Roaring Fork River.
The trail itself cuts through Roaring Fork Valley. Expect to share the track with horseback riders, dog walkers, and cyclists, and note that horses have the right of way.
The Rio Grande trailhead begins in this little ski town stretching from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, where the Roaring Fork River merges into the Colorado River. If you love multi-day hikes, add a few days to your Aspen holiday to complete the trail.
14. Cycle the Rio Grande Trail
If you are looking for a leisurely ride when cycling, take in the beauty of Aspen along the Rio Grande. Much faster and easier than walking the Rio Grande Trail, is the perfect adventure from Aspen proper. As you cycling along the trail, you’re treated to stunning views of the Rocky Mountains, lush meadows, and the gently flowing Roaring Fork River.
The trail is mostly paved and with a gentle grade making itideal for all ages and skill levels and a family-friendly adventure. Along the route, riders can enjoy various amenities, including rest stops, picnic areas, and access to charming towns for a delightful break or a meal. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely ride or an all-day excursion, the Rio Grande Trail provides a perfect blend of natural beauty, exercise, and relaxation.
15. Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro has one of the best views of Maroon Bells. The small European-style cabin is perched on top of a mountain in the Aspen Highlands Ski Resort.
Cloud Nine’s atmosphere is fine dining meets après ski. The restaurant has the menu to attract those looking for a posh, refined experience, yet the character to host some of the most boisterous parties. It is said that Cloud Nine brings the European alpine scene to Aspen.
16. Aspen Brewing Company
You really can find breweries in the most unassuming of places. Aspen Brewing Company is tucked away on Galena Street in Downtown Aspen. Part pizzeria and part pub, the venue serves fifteen craft beers brewed in-house. Just imagine tucking into a sourdough pizza and a tasting flight of craft beer after a full day of skiing – bliss, right?
Aspen Brewing Company was founded in 2008 with the motto ‘make world-class beer, downstream from nobody’. Many awards later, Aspen Brewing Company has become a big name. Technically, the company is split between two locations: the taproom and pizzeria in Downtown Aspen and then the brewery near Aspen Airport. The craft beers are all brewed at the second site, with some being transported to the first for visitors to enjoy.
17. Ride the Silver Queen Gondola
Skiers get access to some of the most impressive summits in Aspen, as do hikers in warm months. But what if you don’t ski and don’t feel comfortable hiking long distances? The Silver Queen Gondola is the answer.
The Silver Queen Gondola is fantastic, making Aspen Mountain accessible for everyone. Whether traveling with children or just don’t trust your fitness levels, the Silver Queen Gondola is a great way to zip up to Aspen Mountain summit – experiencing a thrill and all the best views simultaneously. The ride to the top takes around fifteen minutes. There is plenty of time to snap photos and appreciate the novelty of racing up a mountainside.
At the top, we recommend grabbing a table on the sundeck and treating yourself to food and a hot drink from the restaurant. Dining overlooking the slopes is an experience you’ll remember. And, if you aren’t a skier, you should make the most of being in ski territory.
You can book tickets for online or turn up on the day. The gondola service runs from 10 am until 4 pm every day (weather allowing), so it is easy to slot into a busy itinerary. Plus, the gondola station sits just on the outskirts of Downtown Aspen. You could easily pop by for a spontaneous experience.
18. Aspen Golf & Tennis Club
Aspen Golf & Tennis Club is one of the best sporting venues and Aspen golf course in the town. Visitors can enjoy an 18-hole championship golf course backed by Aspen’s stunning mountain ranges. You’ll get a taste of golfing in alpine surroundings, which is undoubtedly a memorable experience. There are also seven sets of tees catering to different levels, meaning all golfers can come along to enjoy.
The tennis courts are equally impressive. There are six clay courts, again with stunning mountain views. You can easily book a tennis court online or ring to reserve a slot. If not, it is worth dropping in to see if a court is free without reserving. If you have to wait, just be prepared to treat yourself to a meal at the club’s restaurant, Red Mountain Grill.
19. Wheeler Opera House
If you love live music, watching movies, or attending festivals, visiting the Wheeler Opera House is one of the best things to do in Aspen. The 1889-built theater is a prized local attraction and is considered the home of performing arts in Aspen. A blend of Romanesque and Italianate architecture, Wheeler Opera House is a stunning venue and special place to enjoy the arts. Check the Opera House’s schedule to see what live music events and performances coincide with your trip. Catching a show is a fantastic way to unwind in the evening after a busy day outdoors.
Interested in the history of the Opera House? Aspen Historical Society runs tours of the venue, so you can always indulge in an informative exploration of the Opera House, not just a performance. And, as an extra tip for live music lovers, Aspen Music Festival runs between mid June and August. Summer is full of concerts and performances, so check that schedule as well if you’re visiting Aspen during this period.
20. Glenwood Springs
Just a scenic drive away from Aspen, Glenwood Springs offers a delightful excursion, blending natural wonders and relaxing experiences. This mountain town is famous for its world-renowned hot springs, including the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, the world’s largest mineral hot springs pool. The hot springs offer a rejuvenating retreat with its therapeutic waters.
Adventure seekers will love the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, boasting cave tours and thrilling rides with breathtaking mountain views. The town’s historic downtown area invites visitors to explore unique shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions, such as the Glenwood Springs Historical Society and Frontier Museum.
The nearby Hanging Lake is a crystal-clear lake perched atop a cliff, and provides a picturesque hiking destination. Glenwood Springs’ combination of relaxation, adventure, and cultural experiences makes it an essential addition to any Aspen itinerary, offering visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the heart of Colorado’s natural beauty and hospitality.
Now that we’ve covered the best things to do in Aspen let’s take a look at some quick FAQs. These are the most important things to know before you visit Aspen.
How to get to Aspen
The best way to get to Aspen is to fly to Aspen-Pitkin County Airport or Denver International Airport. Flying into Denver is the most popular option, as it is cheaper, has more frequent flights, and is best for international travelers. Traveling from Denver is straightforward too, and you just catch a shuttle service or rent a car to drive the four hours to Aspen.
Those flying internationally should consider adding an overnight stay in Denver since there are plenty of things to do in the city.
Getting around Aspen
As a small mountain town, Aspen is hardly difficult to get around. Most places are accessible on foot, especially in Downtown Aspen. A reliable bus service also operates around the town and the wider Aspen area. Don’t worry about renting a car unless you want to take day trips to remote trails and attractions.
You can get around by road biking and the roads around Snomass Village and Aspen attracts cyclists from around the country to conquer its mountains. If you are up for it, cycling is a great way to get around.
When the snow disappears, many people cycle around Aspen. It may be worth seeing if your accommodation rents out bikes or visiting a bike rental store in the town center.
Best time to visit Aspen
Colorado is one of the US’s best winter getaways. If you like winter sports, we recommend visiting Aspen while there’s snowfall. The ski season runs from November to April. However, we recommend visiting Aspen in March for the best skiing experience. The back end of the season is a little cheaper and quieter, and you have more daylight hours for skiing.
Of course, Aspen is a perfect all-year-round destination for an active holiday – full of hiking trails, horseback riding, and rock climbing while the snow melts. If winter sports aren’t your thing, explore Aspen during the spring shoulder season. May is the quietest month, and you should have many of the hiking trails to yourself. Plus, Aspen is cheaper during this time.
Where to stay in Aspen
It’s no secret that accommodation can make or break a trip. Here are our top recommendations on the best places to stay in Aspen.
Budget: St. Moritz Lodge
St. Moritz Lodge may be a self-described ‘simple lodge’, but its high volume of positive reviews speaks volumes. Visitors can enjoy dormitory rooms, private rooms, and condos. For flexible and budget-friendly accommodation, St. Mortiz Lodge is easily the best in Aspen.
You can dip in the heated outdoor pool, relax in the hot tub, and start every morning properly with a complimentary breakfast. St. Moritz Lodge is both comfortable and convenient.
Mid-range: Aspen Square Condominium Hotel
Aspen Square Condominium Hotel is an excellent mid-range accommodation option in Aspen. The property offers condos, which range from studios to three-bedroom units. The condo-only layout means you’ll always have homely amenities like a kitchen and a comfy seating area. You also get access to a gym and business center. However, the winning factor of the Aspen Square Condominium Hotel is its outdoor facilities.
Enjoy the heated outdoor pool all year round, swimming lengths with snow-capped mountain views. Alternatively, take it easy and soak in one of the two outdoor hot tubs while enjoying the views.
Luxury: The Little Nell
The Little Nell is luxury accommodation at its finest. The chic resort offers ski-in/ski-out facilities – perfect for skiing enthusiasts wanting to maximize time on the slopes. The Little Nell sits right next to the Silver Queen Gondola base station and is a convenient five-star base for a luxury ski holiday.
You can bathe in an outdoor spa tub or swim in the heated outdoor pool. All rooms feature marble bathrooms and balconies with city or mountain views. And certain suites include private jacuzzis and steam showers, so you can splash out on extra luxury if you want.
Looking for a VRBO property instead of a classic hotel experience? You may wish to read our guide on the best cabins in Colorado.
There are so many incredible things to do in Aspen. Its location is dreamy for anyone who loves outdoor adventures. You can relax surrounded by the Colorado Rocky Mountains, Roaring Fork River, and White River National Forest. Pick a hiking trail or ski slope and let the fresh air do the rest. We know that you’ll have a fantastic time in Aspen.
Aspen mountain, cross country ski, elk mountains, winter season, aspen institute