15 Best Things to Do in Aspen (CO)

Once a haven exclusively for the rich and famous, Aspen, Colorado, has transformed into one of the premier ski and outdoor leisure destinations in the United States. Nestled in the breathtaking Rocky Mountains of Pitkin...

Once a haven exclusively for the rich and famous, Aspen, Colorado, has transformed into one of the premier ski and outdoor leisure destinations in the United States. Nestled in the breathtaking Rocky Mountains of Pitkin County, Aspen's natural beauty and pristine wilderness make it an ideal vacation spot for every season.

With a population of only 7,000 people, Aspen offers a less crowded and more spacious experience compared to other popular destinations. While it is renowned for its world-class ski resorts and glamorous après-ski gatherings, there's a wealth of activities to enjoy even if you don't ski.

The vibrant downtown area features over 100 exclusive restaurants, cozy cafes, upscale boutiques, and a buzzing nightlife scene. In the summer, you can indulge in horseback riding, fishing, rafting, hiking, biking, golfing, paragliding, and rock-climbing. If downhill skiing isn't your cup of tea, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular winter pursuits.

Throughout the year, Aspen hosts numerous festivals, such as the Aspen X Games in winter and the Aspen Music Festival during the summer. These events add to the town's cultural vibrancy and provide additional entertainment options for visitors.

To help you make the most of your time in Aspen, we've curated a list of the top 15 things to see and do in this enchanting destination:

1. Drive the Independence Pass

Independence Pass Independence Pass

Take a scenic drive along the Independence Pass during the summer months. This 20-mile route between Leadville and Aspen offers breathtaking views of the Sawatch Mountains and the Roaring Fork River. As you ascend to a height of 12,000 feet above sea level, you'll encounter sharp turns, high cliffs, and lush forests. Don't forget to stop by the scenic viewpoints and picnic areas along the way.

2. Aspen Brewing Company

Aspen Brewing Company Aspen Brewing Company

Embrace Aspen's passion for outdoor living and craft beer at the Aspen Brewing Company. Since 2008, this brewery has been serving up delicious and high-quality craft beers to locals and tourists alike. Enjoy a wide variety of options, including their popular Silver Queen and Barrel-Aged Temerity, in their relaxing taproom. Don't miss the live music on weekends and daily happy hour specials.

3. Silver Queen Gondola

Silver Queen Gondola, Aspen Silver Queen Gondola

Take a ride on the Silver Queen Gondola for more than just a typical gondola experience. This 14-minute ascent to the summit of Ajax Mountain, 11,000 feet above Aspen, boasts panoramic views of snow-capped mountains and the town below. Enjoy the scenery from the sundeck, and indulge in some impromptu yoga or live music. The summit also offers hiking and biking trails, a climbing wall, and a trampoline.

4. When in Aspen, Go Skiing

Snowmass, Aspen Snowmass, Aspen

No visit to Aspen is complete without experiencing its world-class ski resorts. Snowmass, the largest and most popular ski resort in the area, features over 3,000 acres of ski terrain with 150 miles of intermediate and expert trails. Aspen Mountain, also known as Ajax, offers stunning views as you descend 64 miles of skiable terrain over 675 acres. Aspen Highlands is a favorite among expert skiers, offering challenging slopes and fewer crowds. Buttermilk Mountain is perfect for beginners with its variety of runs suitable for all skill levels.

5. Enjoy Fine Dining at Element 47

Element 47, Aspen Element 47

Indulge in award-winning fine dining at Element 47, located in The Little Nell Hotel. This upscale restaurant offers a relaxed and casual environment where you can savor a variety of local and contemporary dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With options catering to food allergies and dietary restrictions, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

6. Wander Around a Real-life Ghost Town

Ashcroft, Colorado Ashcroft

Embark on a short drive from Aspen to Ashcroft, a real-life ghost town that was once a thriving community. Preserved by the Aspen Historical Society and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Ashcroft offers a glimpse into the Wild West past. Explore the deserted streets, including the Blue Mirror Saloon, The View Hotel, and the post office. Guided tours are available at certain times of the year, or you can explore at your own pace.

7. Maroon Bells

Maroon Bells, Aspen Maroon Bells

Visit the iconic Maroon Bells, one of the most photographed mountain areas in the world. These twin peaks of Elk Mountain tower over 14,000 feet and provide a stunning backdrop to Maroon Lake. While adventurous souls can hike to the summit, you can still appreciate the breathtaking views from the trail that winds around the lake.

8. Spend a Cozy Evening in a Log Cabin

Blazing Adventures Sunset Dinner Blazing Adventures Sunset Dinner

Experience a memorable evening at Blazing Adventures on their Burlingame Sunset Dinner Tour. This tour takes you to a remote and peaceful location, complete with a cozy log cabin. After enjoying outdoor activities, head inside the cabin for a delicious dinner and live music around a campfire. Take in the breathtaking views of the town below as you make lasting memories.

9. Soak in Some Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Hot Springs Pool Glenwood Hot Springs Pool

Located in the nearby town of Glenwood Springs, the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool is a natural hot spring open to the public. Used by Native American tribes for centuries, this relaxing mineral spring is the perfect way to unwind after a long day of skiing. Soak in the rejuvenating waters at your own pace, and feel your worries melt away.

10. The John Denver Sanctuary

John Denver Sanctuary John Denver Sanctuary

Pay homage to the late singer John Denver at the John Denver Sanctuary, situated along the Roaring Fork River. This peaceful park features large boulders engraved with some of Denver's lyrics, providing a serene space for reflection. Take a seat on the benches, admire the natural surroundings, and during the summer months, enjoy live performances on the stage.

11. Soar High in a Hot Air Balloon

Hot Air Balloon Over Colorado Rocky Mountains Hot Air Balloon Over Colorado Rocky Mountains

Above All Balloon Company offers exhilarating Hot Air Balloon Tours that allow you to soar above the majestic Colorado Rocky Mountains. Departing at sunrise, these tours offer stunning aerial views of the mountainous landscape. After the tour, indulge in a lavish Champagne brunch featuring delicious treats.

12. Aspen Golf and Tennis Club

Aspen Golf And Tennis Club Aspen Golf And Tennis Club

If golf is your passion, don't miss the opportunity to play at the award-winning Aspen Golf and Tennis Club. This 18-hole course offers a picturesque setting in the Rocky Mountains, providing a challenging and enjoyable experience for golfers of all skill levels. For tennis enthusiasts, there are eight courts available. After your game, unwind at the popular Red Mountain Grill and savor a hot meal while taking in the scenic views from the patio.

13. Go Whitewater Rafting

Whitewater Rafting, Roaring Fork River Whitewater Rafting, Roaring Fork River

Experience the thrill of whitewater rafting with the Aspen Whitewater Rafting Company. They offer a variety of excursions suitable for all ages and preferences. Whether you seek a wild ride down rapids and waterfalls or a more relaxed trip on the Roaring Fork River, their well-trained guides have the perfect adventure for you. State-of-the-art equipment ensures safety, and each trip includes a gourmet meal.

14. Grottos Trail

Grottos Trail, Aspen Grottos Trail

Explore the family-friendly Grottos Trail, which offers an easy hike along the Roaring Fork River. Marvel at the unique rock formations and explore the grottos along the way. The trail also features a picnic area and several shorter trails to explore in the vicinity.

15. Aspen Art Museum

Aspen Art Museum Aspen Art Museum

Immerse yourself in the contemporary arts scene at the Aspen Art Museum. Housed in the former Hunter Creek Power Plant, the museum offers free exhibitions throughout the year, bringing together artists and the community. Explore the thought-provoking displays and experience the dynamic world of modern art.

While skiing is undoubtedly a highlight in Aspen, this charming town offers so much more. From scenic drives and relaxing hot springs to fine dining and cultural experiences, Aspen has something for everyone. So pack your bags and get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.