Aspen, Colorado in 3 days - sans crowds!
Without a doubt, the Maroon Bells are some of the most photographed (and clearly most photogenic!) mountains in the USA. Get those most out of your vacation to Aspen, Colorado during a mid-week trip, and with the following itinerary based on insider experiences.
Whether you arrive by car or airplane, make time for the drive up to Independence Pass, the highest paved pass in North America. The views from the pass are unmatched, and there are several pullouts and hiking trails along the way. Above all, we recommend stops at the Grotto Ice Caves, Independence Ghost Town, and the North Star Nature Preserve. All stops offer completely unique experiences and are definitely worthy of a visit.
Settle into your accommodation in Aspen, and stretch your legs along the (45 mile!) Rio Grande Trail, or around the downtown shopping mall. The historic Rio Grande Trail actually follows the old railroad all the way to Glenwood Springs! Dining al fresco in Aspen is practically a must--cocktails and fresh flavors pair quite well with the mountain air.
Take a shuttle to the iconic Maroon Bells. Catching the shuttle is easy and eliminates the guesswork of parking. Moreover, it really allows you to soak in the views as your approach the ruby, bell-shaped peaks. Snap the quintessential photo at the edge of the lake, then find your own slice of paradise. Either stroll around the Maroon Lake Scenic Trail, or strut up to Crater Lake (3.5 miles out and back). Don't forget to keep your eyes peeled for (and keep your distance from) moose in the area!
When you return to downtown, grab a bite at one of the many eateries, and perhaps a ticket to a show at the Benedict Music Tent. Enjoy world music inside the venue or just outside on the lawn for free (picnic anyone?). With spare time before the concert, mosey around the exhibits at the Aspen Art Museum and enjoy a glass of wine or espresso from the rooftop cafe.
Zip up the Aspen Mountain Gondola to where you will be greeted with 360 views of Aspen and the surrounding mountains. The Sundeck is the perfect spot to enjoy lunch and soak in the Colorado sun. At the summit, consider a hike on one of the nearby trails or play a few rounds of disc golf. There are also plenty of kid-friendly activities at the top of the gondola, making this a fantastic family jaunt! If you wish to challenge yourself, make the strenuous climb (3.1 miles uphill) to the summit of Aspen Mountain instead of riding the gondola, then relax on the ride back down.
By evening, explore the wide array of other nightly entertainment in Aspen:
- Intimate jazz concerts at the JAS Cafe
- Musicals, plays and comedies performed by world-class artists at Theatre Aspen
- Live music featuring major music acts at Belly Up Aspen
Additionally, Aspen's historic and beloved Wheeler Opera House hosts events year-round. From music and film festivals to theater and comedy shows.
This article was created in partnership with Visit USA Parks.