Trying to find great activities and attractions in “America’s Canary Town”? Our guide to the best things to do in Aspen, Colorado is all you need to plan the perfect trip!
One of the best places in Colorado to soak in the Rocky Mountain scenery is Aspen. This beautiful, upscale mountain town is home to 4 world-class ski resorts as well as pristine wilderness.
There are so many incredible things to do in Aspen, Colorado, even if you’re not into skiing or snowboarding! There are scenic drives, such as Castle Creek Road and Maroon Creek Road, and other ways to view the mountains such as the Silver Queen Gondola.
Other fun things to do include hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, rock climbing, museum-hopping, and sightseeing in the charming mountain towns.
Soak in the panoramic views along the Crater Lake Trail as you hike around Maroon Bells, one of the USA’s most photographed locations.
Explore Aspen and visit attractions like the Aspen Art Museum, the Wheeler Opera House, or Aspen Brewing Company.
Or just spend your whole vacation on the slopes, as this is one of the USA’s top ski destinations. Whatever you choose to do, Aspen is full of wonders!
Find more amazing things to do in the beautiful state of Colorado!
Table of Contents
- 21 Best Things To Do In Aspen, Colorado
- 1. Drive along Independence Pass
- 2. Hike or bike the Rio Grande Trail
- 3. Tour the Aspen Art Museum
- 4. Ski or snowboard at Aspen Mountain Ski Resort
- 5. Try water sports on the Roaring Fork River
- 6. Explore Downtown Aspen
- 7. Go Paragliding
- 8. Ride the Silver Queen Gondola
- 9. Grab a brew at Aspen Brewing Company
- 10. Explore White River National Forest
- 11. Find your zen at John Denver Sanctuary
- 12. Take a day trip to Glenwood Springs
- 13. Spend the day at Aspen Highlands Ski Resort
- 14. Mingle with the locals at Woody Creek Tavern
- 15. Step back in time at Ashcroft Ghost Town
- 16. Visit the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies
- 17. Hike along Grottos Trail and see magnificent ice caves
- 18. Learn to ski or snowboard at Buttermilk Ski Resort
- 19. Capture stunning views at Maroon Bells
- 20. Catch a live performance at the Wheeler Opera House
- 21. Hit the trails at Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort
- Where To Stay in Aspen, Colorado
21 Best Things To Do In Aspen, Colorado
From riding the Silver Queen Gondola up the mountains to driving along the Continental Divide on Independence Pass, to stepping back in time at Ashcroft Ghost Town, here are some of the top things to do while visiting Aspen!
1. Drive along Independence Pass
Independence Pass is one of the highest paved mountain passes in North America, reaching an elevation of 12,095 feet (3,687 meters). Driving along Independence Pass offers stunning panoramic views of alpine meadows, snow-capped peaks, and dense forests.
Independence Pass is one of the most scenic drives in Colorado, which is really saying something! Part of State Highway 82, Independence Pass offers an awe-inspiring driving experience, especially during the warmer months when the road is open, providing access to a high-altitude wonderland.
The seasonal opening of Independence Pass typically occurs during late spring, and its closure in the winter adds an extra layer of exclusivity to this picturesque route.
Independence Pass stands as a symbolic and literal crossing point atop the Continental Divide, inviting exploration and contemplation in the heart of the Colorado Rockies.
2. Hike or bike the Rio Grande Trail
The Rio Grande Trail is a breathtaking recreational pathway that winds its way through some of the most stunning landscapes in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Stretching approximately 42 miles from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, the trail follows the scenic route of the Rio Grande Railway and offers a diverse range of natural beauty, from lush meadows to dense forests alongside the picturesque Roaring Fork River.
The trail is popular among hikers, bikers, and runners, providing a serene escape into nature for both locals and visitors alike.
One of the highlights of the Rio Grande Trail is its accessibility and inclusivity which caters to various skill levels. The relatively flat terrain makes it suitable for family outings, while the more adventurous can explore offshoot trails leading to hidden gems and panoramic viewpoints.
Throughout the journey, trail-goers can witness the changing seasons, with vibrant wildflowers in the spring, cool shaded paths in the summer, and the vibrant hues of autumn foliage in the fall.
The Rio Grande Trail not only offers a physical and mental escape but also serves as a connecting thread between communities, providing a shared space for people to appreciate the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.
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3. Tour the Aspen Art Museum
The Aspen Art Museum is renowned for its commitment to showcasing innovative and thought-provoking contemporary art from both established and emerging artists.
The museum, designed by architect Shigeru Ban, is a work of art in itself, with its distinctive woven wood facade making a striking statement against the backdrop of the picturesque mountain town.
Visitors to the Aspen Art Museum are treated to a dynamic and ever-changing array of exhibitions that span various mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, and new media.
The institution plays a vital role in fostering artistic dialogue and engaging the local community with a diverse range of cultural programming, including artist talks, workshops, and educational initiatives.
The rooftop terrace of the Aspen Art Museum gives visitors a stunning view of the Colorado Rocky Mountains as well. Admiring this unique intersection of nature, culture, and creativity at the Aspen Art Museum is one of the top activities in the area.
4. Ski or snowboard at Aspen Mountain Ski Resort
Of course, one of the best things to do in Aspen, Colorado is skiing or snowboarding on the majestic mountains! Aspen is home to 4 major ski resorts, with Aspen Mountain Ski Resort being one of them.
Known locally as Ajax Mountain, the iconic Aspen Mountain rises prominently above the town, offering a premier skiing experience for enthusiasts of all skill levels. The Aspen Mountain Ski Resort is celebrated for its diverse terrain, featuring steep and thrilling runs for the more advanced, as well as groomed trails suitable for beginners.
With a vertical rise of over 3,000 feet, skiers and snowboarders are treated to exhilarating descents with stunning panoramic views of the surrounding snow-covered peaks.
Whether navigating the challenging black diamond runs, enjoying the world-class amenities, or taking in the apres-ski ambiance, Aspen Mountain Ski Resort stands as a premier destination for winter sports lovers seeking a perfect blend of adventure and indulgence in the heart of the Colorado Rockies.
5. Try water sports on the Roaring Fork River
Water sports enthusiasts flock to the Roaring Fork River in Aspen for an exhilarating and refreshing experience amidst the stunning mountain landscapes. The river, known for its lively and dynamic bends and rapids, offers a variety of water activities like kayaking and whitewater rafting
For those seeking a more leisurely water experience, stand-up paddleboarding has gained popularity on the Roaring Fork River. Paddlers can peacefully glide along the calmer sections of the river, taking in the breathtaking scenery and enjoying a unique perspective of the surrounding mountains.
The Roaring Fork River not only offers a thrilling playground for water sports enthusiasts but also serves as a serene escape where individuals can connect with nature. It’s a fun alternative to going up in the mountains!
6. Explore Downtown Aspen
No visit to the glorious ski town of Aspen is complete without exploring the town center!
Downtown Aspen is charming, vibrant, and picturesque. Lined with upscale boutiques, art galleries, fine dining restaurants, and lively entertainment venues, there is plenty to do in Downtown Aspen.
The pedestrian-friendly streets exude a unique blend of historic charm and modern elegance, with Victorian-era architecture harmonizing with contemporary design. Visitors can put a unique twist on their exploration of Downtown Aspen with a history walking tour to learn about the area from a local guide.
Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, Downtown Aspen serves as a year-round destination, offering a plethora of outdoor activities in the surrounding nature during the day and a lively social scene in the evenings.
7. Go Paragliding
One of the coolest activities to try when you visit Aspen is paragliding! Local company, Aspen Paragliding, offers highly-rated paragliding experiences for all types of travelers.
Adventurers can launch from elevated points, catching thermal updrafts to soar gracefully above the picturesque landscapes, offering unparalleled views of the valleys, alpine meadows, and snow-capped peaks.
Experienced tandem pilots guide participants through the skies, ensuring a safe and awe-inspiring journey. Aspen Paragliding gives adventure-seekers the chance to see the Rockies from a new perspective. Feel the fresh air and marvel at the views as you soar over gorgeous mountains and valleys.
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8. Ride the Silver Queen Gondola
The Silver Queen Gondola is an iconic attraction in Aspen that provides a scenic ride and a gateway to breathtaking views and outdoor adventures on Aspen Mountain. The gondola, which starts its ascent from the heart of Aspen, takes visitors on a picturesque journey to the summit of Ajax, providing unparalleled panoramic vistas of the surrounding Rocky Mountains.
This 14-minute ride is a year-round attraction, offering a bird’s-eye view of Aspen’s charming town, lush alpine meadows, and snow-capped peaks in the winter or vibrant foliage in the fall.
At the summit, at an elevation of over 11,000 feet, visitors disembark to discover a mountain playground with hiking and biking trails, as well as world-class skiing in the winter months.
The Silver Queen Gondola is not just a means of transportation; it’s an experience that encapsulates the beauty of the Aspen area. If there’s one activity to try in Aspen, it’s riding the Silver Queen Gondola!
9. Grab a brew at Aspen Brewing Company
Aspen Brewing Company is a vibrant and locally beloved establishment nestled in the heart of Aspen, Colorado. Renowned for its craft beers that capture the essence of the Rocky Mountains, this brewery has become a social hub for both locals and visitors seeking a taste of the region’s flavors.
With a commitment to quality and innovation, Aspen Brewing Company offers a diverse selection of beers, from crisp and refreshing ales to robust and flavorful stouts.
The brewery provides a welcoming atmosphere, inviting patrons to savor their meticulously crafted brews in a relaxed setting, often complemented by live music or events.
Whether you’re looking for a long afternoon of mingling and sipping, or you’re just looking for somewhere to grab a quick bite, Aspen Brewing Company is the perfect place.
10. Explore White River National Forest
One of the best things to do in Aspen for nature lovers is exploring the White River National Forest. Encompassing a vast and breathtaking expanse of 2.3 million acres in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, the White River National Forest is one of the crown jewels of the United States Forest Service.
known for its diverse ecosystems, this expansive forest offers a haven for outdoor enthusiasts year-round. Visitors can explore pristine alpine meadows, dense evergreen forests, and rugged mountain landscapes, providing a home to diverse wildlife and a wealth of recreational opportunities.
The forest is laced with an extensive network of hiking trails as well as places for mountain biking and rock climbing.
Within the White River National Forest lies the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, home to the iconic Maroon Bells, two towering 14,000-foot peaks often considered the most photographed mountains in North America.
The forest also hosts a myriad of recreational activities, including camping, fishing, and winter sports like skiing and snowmobiling.
With its spectacular scenery and abundant opportunities for outdoor adventure, the White River National Forest beckons nature lovers and adventurers alike to immerse themselves in the beauty and serenity of the Colorado Rockies.
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11. Find your zen at John Denver Sanctuary
Another highlight of Aspen is the John Denver Sanctuary, which pays tribute to the legendary singer-songwriter and environmental activist, John Denver.
At the John Denver Sanctuary, you can find beautifully landscaped gardens, winding stone paths, and engraved lyrics from some of Denver’s most iconic songs.
The centerpiece of the John Denver Sanctuary is a series of large granite rocks, each etched with the lyrics of Denver’s songs, creating an immersive and lyrical experience that harmonizes with the natural surroundings.
This serene and scenic tribute to John Denver invites both fans and nature enthusiasts to connect with the singer’s enduring legacy while surrounded by the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. The John Denver Sanctuary stands as a fitting homage to a musician whose love for the environment and passion for spreading positive messages through his music left an indelible mark on American culture.
12. Take a day trip to Glenwood Springs
If you’re willing to go on a little day trip, head about an hour out of Aspen to Glenwood Springs, another beautiful town in the Roaring Fork Valley.
The city is home to the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, one of the largest mineral hot springs pools in the world, where visitors can soak in the therapeutic, naturally heated waters while surrounded by the scenic beauty of the surrounding mountains.
The Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park adds an extra layer of excitement, featuring cave tours, thrill rides, and breathtaking views of the Roaring Fork Valley. Or visit Hanging Lake to see one of the most serene and beautiful places in Colorado.
Outdoor enthusiasts can explore nearby hiking and biking trails, including the scenic Glenwood Canyon Trail, which follows the Colorado River. Additionally, Glenwood Springs is famous for the historic Hotel Colorado, a grand hotel built in the late 19th century that has hosted famous guests like Teddy Roosevelt and Al Capone.
Whether seeking relaxation in the hot springs, adventure on mountain trails, or a taste of local history and culture, Glenwood Springs is a fun day trip destination from Aspen.
13. Spend the day at Aspen Highlands Ski Resort
Aspen Highlands Ski Resort is another one of the iconic ski resorts in the area. Renowned as the home of the Highland Bowl, a legendary and steep bowl that requires a hike to access, the resort attracts advanced skiers and snowboarders seeking an adrenaline-fueled experience.
With a vertical rise of over 3,600 feet and an array of expertly groomed trails, Aspen Highlands offers a thrilling playground for winter sports enthusiasts. The resort’s diverse terrain caters to all skill levels, from the exhilarating slopes of the Highland Bowl to the easier runs for beginners.
What sets Aspen Highlands apart is not only its world-class skiing but also its vibrant après-ski culture and the picturesque Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro. Accessible by a chairlift, snowcat, or a dedicated hike, Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro is a mountaintop restaurant with upscale, European-inspired cuisine in a charming, cozy setting.
From skiing and snowboarding to dining like a king, Aspen Highlands Ski Resort is another top destination in the Colorado Rockies.
14. Mingle with the locals at Woody Creek Tavern
Woody Creek Tavern is a legendary Aspen establishment that has become an integral part of the area’s cultural fabric. Renowned for its eclectic charm and rustic ambiance, the tavern has played host to locals, celebrities, and visitors seeking a unique dining experience.
Once a favorite haunt of the late Hunter S. Thompson, the eccentric writer and journalist, Woody Creek Tavern exudes a distinct bohemian spirit. Patrons are drawn not only to its flavorful American cuisine but also to the walls adorned with memorabilia, quirky artwork, and the lingering aura of Thompson’s presence.
The establishment fosters a sense of camaraderie, offering a welcoming atmosphere where patrons can unwind, enjoy a hearty meal, and immerse themselves in the rich history and character of Woody Creek.
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15. Step back in time at Ashcroft Ghost Town
Nestled in the heart of the Elk Mountains near Aspen, Colorado, Ashcroft Ghost Town is a haunting and fascinating reminder of the region’s mining history.
Established in the late 19th century, Ashcroft experienced a brief but bustling period as a silver mining town. Today, the well-preserved Ashcroft Ghost Town offers a glimpse into the past with its rustic wooden structures, including the historic Ashcroft Hotel, saloons, and homes that once housed miners and their families.
Visitors can wander through the deserted streets, guided by interpretive signs that recount the town’s heyday and eventual decline, bringing to life the stories of the pioneers who once sought their fortunes in these remote mountain landscapes.
Hiking trails lead from Ashcroft Ghost Town into the scenic Castle Creek Valley, providing opportunities to explore the breathtaking alpine landscapes that drew settlers to this remote area. When entering or leaving Ashcroft Ghost Town, you’ll also get to soak in the majestic views of Castle Creek Road, another scenic route through the Rockies.
16. Visit the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies
The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies is a prominent organization dedicated to environmental education, research, and conservation in Aspen, Colorado. Established in 1968, the center has played a pivotal role in fostering environmental stewardship and connecting people with the natural world.
The organization manages several nature preserves, including the Hallam Lake Nature Preserve and Rock Bottom Ranch, providing immersive outdoor experiences that showcase the diverse ecosystems of Colorado.
At Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, visitors can engage in a variety of educational programs, workshops, and guided nature walks led by knowledgeable naturalists. These initiatives cover topics such as ecology, sustainable agriculture, and wildlife conservation, catering to audiences of all ages.
Through its multifaceted approach, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies continues to inspire a sense of wonder for nature and a commitment to preserving the ecological richness of the Colorado Rockies.
17. Hike along Grottos Trail and see magnificent ice caves
A captivating hiking route that leads visitors through enchanting rock formations, waterfalls, and lush forests, Grottos Trail is one of the best things to do in Aspen, Colorado.
The trail, which begins near the Roaring Fork River, takes hikers on a relatively short but rewarding journey through the White River National Forest.
Accessible from Highway 82, the Grottos Trail provides an accessible outdoor adventure suitable for all skill levels. One of the highlights of the Grottos Trail is the series of ice caves and grotto-like rock formations that have been sculpted by centuries of water erosion.
During warmer months, you won’t see ice caves but you can still marvel at the crystal-clear waters flowing over smooth rocks and cascading down waterfalls.
18. Learn to ski or snowboard at Buttermilk Ski Resort
Another one of the 4 epic ski resorts in Aspen is Buttermilk Ski Resort. Located in the heart of the Aspen Snowmass ski resort complex, Buttermilk Ski Resort is renowned for its inviting and beginner-friendly slopes, making it an ideal destination for families and those new to skiing or snowboarding.
Boasting a more gentle terrain compared to its neighboring mountains, Buttermilk Mountain has earned a reputation as a premier learning and progression area. The resort features a dedicated learning area with gentle slopes and expert instructors, ensuring a positive and enjoyable experience for novice winter sports enthusiasts.
Buttermilk Mountain also has intermediate and terrain park options, making it a versatile destination for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels.
Buttermilk Ski Resort is also famous for hosting the Winter X Games, one of the most prestigious extreme sports competitions in the world. The resort’s world-class terrain parks and halfpipes attract top athletes and showcase the cutting edge of freestyle skiing and snowboarding.
Looking for more ski destinations in Colorado? Here is our guide to Breckenridge.
19. Capture stunning views at Maroon Bells
Maroon Bells, situated just outside Aspen, Colorado, are among the most iconic and photographed peaks in North America. The twin peaks, Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak, stand against the backdrop of the Elk Mountains, with their distinctive maroon-colored mudstone creating a breathtaking and instantly recognizable panorama.
The reflection of the Maroon Bells in the crystal-clear waters of Maroon Lake is a postcard-perfect image, particularly during the fall when the surrounding aspen groves turn a brilliant golden hue.
Renowned for their scenic beauty, the Maroon Bells are a popular destination for hiking, photography, and simply immersing oneself in the awe-inspiring grandeur of the Colorado Rockies.
Access to Maroon Bells is typically available from late spring to early fall, and visitors can explore a network of trails that lead to alpine meadows, shimmering lakes, and panoramic viewpoints.
The Maroon Bells Scenic Area also offers a range of recreational activities, from leisurely strolls around Maroon Lake to challenging hikes such as the impressive Maroon Lake Scenic Trail and the Crater Lake Trail.
The Maroon Creek Road that leads to the Maroon Bells is a gorgeous phenomenon in itself. From driving along the scenic Maroon Creek Road, to hiking the incredible Maroon Lake Scenic Trail, all of the scenery at Maroon Bells is simply breathtaking.
20. Catch a live performance at the Wheeler Opera House
The Wheeler Opera House is an iconic cultural landmark situated in the heart of Aspen, Colorado, that reflects the town’s rich history and commitment to the arts.
Established in 1889 during the silver mining boom, the opera house has undergone several renovations and expansions, preserving its Victorian-era charm while incorporating modern amenities.
Today, the Wheeler Opera House serves as a dynamic venue for a wide range of performances, including concerts, theatrical productions, film screenings, and lectures. Its intimate setting, with seating for just over 500 patrons, creates an immersive and engaging atmosphere that fosters a deep connection between performers and the audience.
The venue’s historic architecture, adorned with intricate details and a distinctive clock tower, adds to its charm, making it a picturesque backdrop for various cultural happenings.
Whether attending a world-class concert, enjoying a thought-provoking lecture, or witnessing a captivating play, visitors to the Wheeler Opera House experience the convergence of history, art, and entertainment in the heart of Aspen.
21. Hit the trails at Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort
Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort stands as a premier destination in the Colorado Rockies, renowned for its world-class skiing and a wealth of outdoor activities. Snowmass is the largest of the four Aspen resorts, offering extensive terrain, including groomed slopes, challenging glades, and terrain parks.
The Aspen Snowmass area transforms into a year-round playground with hiking and mountain biking trails, vibrant festivals, and cultural events. Snowmass Village offers a mix of luxury accommodations, upscale dining, and boutique shopping.
From shredding the slopes on the mountain, to strolling through the charming Snowmass Village, Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort is one of Colorado’s top destinations.
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Where To Stay in Aspen, Colorado
Here are some excellent accommodation options to consider when visiting Aspen, Colorado. Though many travelers may opt for a room at one of the ski resorts, there are some other excellent resorts for those who prefer to stay outside of the ski areas.
Normally we would offer a budget accommodation option for travelers who want to save money. However, Aspen is more of a luxury town and there are no hotels for less than $300 USD per night. So as long as you plan a decent budget for your trip, you should have a blast treating yourself in Aspen!
Here are some of the top-rated hotels in Aspen, Colorado!
Snowmass Village: The Crestwood Snowmass Village
The Crestwood in the heart of Snowmass Village puts you right next to one of Aspen’s best ski areas. It’s a ski-in, ski-out property with hot tubs, free shuttles, cozy apartments, a gym, and more. It’s a rustic, romantic place to stay that is perfect for couples who want their own private apartment and close proximity to the slopes.
Downtown Aspen: Aspen Square Condominium Hotel
Aspen Square Condominium Hotel offers private apartments with their own outdoor swimming pools, hot tubs, fully-equipped kitchens, and private balconies. Each luxury apartment also has its own fireplace and flatscreen TV. Also located within walking distance of Aspen’s top attractions, it’s a convenient location right in the center of town.
Downtown Aspen: Limelight Hotel
If you’re looking to stay in downtown Aspen in a standard hotel, Limelight Hotel is one of the top-rated places in the area. This centrally-located and humble yet upscale hotel has glorious rooms and incredible service. Make use of the free breakfast, on-site gym, and ski guide service so you can have the best possible stay in Aspen.
Near Maroon Bells: Marble Cabins
For an immersive, secluded stay in nature, head out to Marble Cabins near Maroon Bells. This vacation home consists of a woodsy cabin with a teepee, a fire pit, and stunning mountain views. There is a private entrance and a feeling of isolation in the wilderness. Because this is just a singular vacation rental, make sure you book in advance because it’s in high demand!
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