The Complete Aspen Travel Guide: Your Year-Round Trip Planner
Since the 70’s, ski towns like Aspen have been synonymous with glitz, glamour, skiing and sightseeing. Originating as a mining town, Aspen was once considered the playground for the ski bums and the destination for the rich and famous alike, Aspen is as accessible as ever with something for every visitor these days. From downhill runs come winter to hiking and biking in summer, there is plenty to explore in the great outdoors. Around town, you’ll find a great shop or restaurant around every corner. It’s not unusual to find internationally-renowned chefs create pop-up dining experiences during high season or to discover unique jewelry and art on a walk through the streets.
The area is home to a strong community, where music, food, fashion, art, philanthropy, and an entrepreneurial spirit thrive. In a place where the changing leaves are as colorful as the personalities, it is easy to see why creativity is welcome in Aspen. Not looking to people-watch on the gondola plaza or rub elbows with other Aspen visitors? You can easily get off the grid in this mountain town. Whether you want to bike for the day, camp at the Bells, or hike the trail to Crested Butte, there are endless ways to unplug from the hustle and bustle and plug into the calm and beauty of mother nature. “And there is always a great bar or restaurant waiting on the other side,” the duo notes.
Ready to plan your visit (or staycation)? Here, we share their favorite local finds and activities for getting out on the town and into the mountains of Aspen.
Best Time To Visit Aspen
The biggest hallmark of Aspen’s allure are the seasons, with every one offering something different and lovely in its own right. “Skiing reigns supreme, but it is the summer months that keep us hooked,” the editors share, adding, “Spring is a favorite time to unwind during our quieter off-season, and fall is unquestionably beautiful. It’s Aspen, after all.”
Holidays are always a special time to visit Aspen, whether it’s Christmas and New Year’s, or the 4th of July. Skiing typically peaks in February, although with early season snow, anytime after opening day is a good time to hit the slopes. And if you’re a foodie or wine connoisseur, the annual Food & Wine Classic takes place over Father’s Day weekend in June.
Travelers looking for the quieter experience will appreciate off-season in Aspen. Spring can be beautiful (but sometimes a bit muddy come May!) and the fall shoulder season is a favorite for many reasons: easier parking, less people, beautiful trees, and mild weather perfect for exploring.
Things to Know About Aspen
Aspen is located in Mountain Standard Time zone, which means when it is 5 PM in New York, it is 3 PM here.
Located at almost 8,000 feet (Aspen elevation is 7,908 to be exact), the climate is high-altitude. Drink plenty of water, wear and reapply sunscreen throughout the day, and give yourself at least a day to acclimate by not over-exerting yourself with drinks or activities.
Favorite apps for navigating town include:
Aspen Snowmass for buying tickets, checking mountain conditions, and getting updates on ski lift wait times.
PaybyPhone for purchasing parking and monitoring when your “meter” expires.
Downtowner to catch an easy ride across town with free door-to-door service from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. via electric vehicles with heaters and ski racks.
Pitkin Outside makes it easy to find trails for hiking, biking, running, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, uphilling, and much more around Aspen, Colorado.
Getting To Aspen
Aspen-Pitkin County Airport (ASE) is a quick drive from town and High Mountain Taxi or private car service can easily get you to your destination. Many hotels offer complimentary airport transfer service, so be sure to check at the time of booking your Aspen hotel.
Outside the Roaring Fork Valley, Eagle/Vail is home to the next closest airport, a 90-minute drive from Aspen. And Denver International Airport is approximately 4 hours from Aspen by car. In the summer months, Independence Pass is one of two ways to get to town, although it is best for experienced drivers comfortable with steep, winding, and narrow mountain roads. Glenwood Springs, off I-70, is the other access point to the Roaring Fork Valley, making Aspen accessible via Highway 82 year round.
Once in town, RFTA is the local bus service that can help you get from point A to point B if you do not have a car or car service to transport you.
Weather in Aspen
Layers will be your friend when visiting Aspen, as the weather in Colorado can shift quickly.
Winter often has below-freezing mornings that can turn into high-30s bluebird ski days. Heavy winter snows are common, ideal for powder days, so check ahead for potential travel delays.
The spring has temperatures swinging from the 20s to the 60s, with overnight freezing often occurring. Late spring snowstorms are not uncommon.
Summer often features cool mornings that develop into high 70s and 80s, especially as the season moves towards July and August.
Fall sees first snow dustings, with the famous aspen trees turning shades of gold as the weather turns colder, plummeting as low as the 30s but sometimes showcasing bursts of summer-like days with highs of 60s.
Where to Stay in Aspen
The best hotel or Aspen rental home is the one you are happy to call home during your visit, from rooms in the center of town to a house butted up against a mountain. Whether traveling as a family, celebrating a milestone with a loved one, or getting a group together, there are options for all ages and budget ranges. Here we’ve listed some excellent options for those visiting town or locals looking for a staycation. Some spots are ideal for a day of skiing while others provide easy access to summer activities. Don’t forget to tell them The Scout Guide sent you when you book your stay!
Frias Properties (730 East Durant Avenue). Home to Aspen’s largest selection of vacation rentals, Frias offers more than 200 lodging options that range from budget-friendly hotel rooms to slope side luxury condominiums and expansive private homes. With 48 years of experience, Frias also offer a wide selection of lodging at Aspen’s most coveted luxury resorts including the Ritz-Carlton Club at Aspen Highlands, Hyatt Grand Aspen, The Innsbruck, and the St. Regis Residence Club. Guests of Frias Properties enjoy great amenities like complimentary Aspen Airport transportation, health club passes, a full-service concierge desk, professional housekeeping, luxury bedding, 24/7 support, and more. Instagram
Hotel Jerome (330 East Main Street). The social hub of Aspen since its opening in 1889. From cowboys to miners to 10th Mountain Division soldiers, the only Aspen hotel to keep its doors open even after the silver crash. The coziest living room in all of Aspen to welcome you home for the weekend or week. Instagram
The Little Nell (675 East Durant Avenue). Aspen’s only 5-star, 5-diamond, ski-in and ski-out resort. This resort features luxurious amenities, fine wine and dining, and encaptures the unique Aspen culture in every detail. Instagram
Limelight Aspen (355 South Monarch Street). This recently renovated hotel features a fantastic pool, a festive happy hour, and a roof-top terrace so you can take in all the beauty Aspen has to offer. Instagram
Limelight Snowmass (77 Wood Street). Located in the heart of Snowmass Base Village, the Limelight hotel offers ski-in and ski-out during the winter months and close-to-the-gondola access in the summer. This hotel is perfect for families and includes one of the tallest rock climbing walls in Colorado. Instagram
Aspen Street Lodge (200 South Aspen Street). This intimate, residential style-living property is perfect for families and larger groups. The spaces feature rooftop decks, heated pools, and media rooms which are great for entertaining. Guests can pick from a range of accommodations and coordinate with their team to plan a dream Aspen itinerary. Instagram
Hotel Colorado (526 Pine St. Glenwood Springs). A legendary stay since 1893, located in downtown Glenwood Springs. The area is abundant with outdoor recreation opportunities, with stunning hiking and mountain biking experiences, hitting the slopes at Aspen/Snowmass, rafting in Glenwood Canyon, and world-class fishing on the Roaring Fork River. After a long day, your just steps from the hot springs. Instagram
Where to Drink and Dine in Aspen
Award-winning chefs and inventive cuisine abound in Aspen, Colorado. In this Aspen dining guide, you’ll find a wide range of sure-to-be favorites, from where to pick up your morning latte to the best barbecue in town. Enjoy, and don’t forget to tell them The Scout Guide sent you!
COFFEE & JUICE
Local Coffee House (614 East Cooper Avenue). Stop in Local Coffee for fresh doughnuts, avocado toast, and an oat milk latte. Did we mention there are cronuts
Rooftop Café at Aspen Art Museum (637 E Hyman Avenue). With beautiful views, this hidden gem on the top floor of the museum offers tall floor to ceiling windows that frame the beauty of Aspen while you sip a coffee, tea, or stronger beverage. A selection of brunch and lunch items round out this stop as a great local place to linger a bit longer, especially during colder months.
JÜS (501 East Hyman Avenue). Our go-to for fresh-pressed juices (try our favorites: Charcoal Lemonade or the Ginger Greens), to-go lunch items, or small snacks to take out on the trails.
Spring Café (119 South Spring Street). Offering clean and satisfying fare, this café is a relaxing place for an organic and vegan-friendly lunch.
LUNCH & DINNER
Base Camp Bar & Grill (73 Wood Road, Snowmass Village). Head to Base Camp for a casual, delicious meal or an adult beverage to relax those sore post-slope (from skiing or hiking) muscles.
Slice of Italy (69 Wood Run Road #1210, Snowmass Village). A warm, cozy atmosphere serving up classic Italian dishes and a great pizza pie.
Silverpeak Grill (520 Cooper Street). Chef-owned and operated by Troy Selby with a family-friendly atmosphere. The menu is full of options that make the whole family happy, but you’ll find your forks in the Chipotle Caesar.
Ajax Tavern (685 East Durant Avenue). Located at The Little Nell hotel, this is the perfect place to grab a burger and truffle fries. The restaurant, which has fantastic people-watching, is situated right at the base of Aspen Mountain, so the view is spectacular.
Casa Tua (403 South Galena Street). If you find yourself in Aspen in the summer, Casa Tua offers a lovely outdoor dining experience. Don’t miss the burrata salad with a glass of crisp white wine.
Home Team BBQ (38750 CO-82). Delicious food and a family-friendly atmosphere. Let the kiddos play outside at the base of Buttermilk Mountain while diving into some of the best barbecue around.
The White House Tavern (302 East Hopkins Avenue). A local favorite, the menu is unpretentious but amazing, and the cocktails are legendary.
Paradise Bakery (320 S. Galena Street). No trip to Aspen is complete without a trip to Paradise. Famous for their cookies since 1976. Get a dozen…and thank us later.
Sundae Ice Cream (499 Market Street, Basalt & 60 Carriage Way, Snowmass Village). Small-batch artisan ice cream, served with a smile, every day. You’ll find us with a scoop of Something Minty or Birthday Cake (even when it is not our birthday)!
Bosq (312 South Mill Street). Chef Barclay Dodge delivers flavor-driven, worldy New American cuisine in an intimate, modern setting with a summer-worthy see and be-seen patio.
Betula (525 East Cooper Avenue, #201). When you’re ready for an adult beverage this is the place to go. A cozy-chic dining experience with standout cocktails, we highly suggest the “Drink Me From the Bottom,” or the “Yellow Paloma”.
Cache Cache (205 South Mill Street). In business for three decades, Cache Cache boasts an impressive wine list and exquisite French-American menu.
Woody Creek Distillers (60 Sunset Drive, Basalt). This local distillery producing vodka, gin, and more is a fantastic spot to enjoy a Colorado-crafted cocktail on the patio. Just be sure to call a taxi to take you home.
Where to Shop in Aspen
From jaw-dropping jewels to beautiful western wear—and everything in between—it can all be found right here in Aspen. Thanks to fabulous customer service and stylish retail experts, our local boutiques offer an unmatched shopping experience. Read on for some of our favorite places to shop in town. We hope you’re able to visit them all in person, but if not, most are able to ship anywhere in the country. So get out there and shop small, and don’t forget to tell them The Scout Guide sent you!
CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES
Meridian Jewelers (525 East Cooper Avenue). Stop in to peruse the luxury timepieces and high-end jewelry at this locally owned gem. Whether you’re looking for the perfect gift or to treat yourself, the experienced staff are more than happy to help you pick out that ideal item.
Perch Aspen (535 East Hyman Avenue). This unique and contemporary women’s boutique features colorful dresses, fun prints, and glamorous silhouettes, this is where to go for your new closet staples.
Audemars Piguet (535 East Hyman Avenue). Luxury watch boutique located within The Aspen Core featuring an extensive selection of men’s and women’s timepieces.
Oliver Peoples (535 East Hyman Avenue). The Aspen boutique showcases women and men’s eyewear inside a showroom with a vintage aesthetic, including the exclusive Gregory Peck custom colorways inspired by 70’s Après Ski.
Alice + Olivia (535 East Hyman Avenue). The Aspen location of this favorite Hollywood favorite brand is within The Aspen Core featuring clothing that is whimsical, flirty, sexy, and sophisticated.
Frame (535 East Hyman Avenue). Located within The Aspen Core, this store features closet staples crafted from luxurious materials & designed to withstand time and trends.
Kemo Sabe (217 South Galena Street). From Lucchese boots to Stetson Hats, Kemo Sabe is a can’t miss shopping experience for those on the hunt for luxury western wear.
LIV (605 East Cooper Avenue). A stylish shop offering a wonderful collection of high-end women’s fashion and accessories. Be careful, it’s easy to find yourself spending an entire afternoon here.
P.E. 101 (500 East Cooper Avenue). An upscale urban, contemporary women’s clothing store, owners Joan & Teige have picked pieces that are fashion forward without being too trendy, including their own line of one-of-a-kind sweatshirts.
Pitkin County Dry Goods (520 East Cooper Avenue). A shopping staple in Aspen since 1969, they offer a wide range of denim, cozy cashmere, trendy tennis shoes and more, for men and women.
Souchi (205 South Mill Street). While the awesome selection of designer duds in this women’s boutique are worth the visit alone— the hand loomed knitwear pieces by owner Suzi are surely the showstoppers.
Elliott Yeary Gallery (419 East Hyman Avenue #7). Head to this fine art gallery and jewelry store for exquisite, one-of-a-kind gems, as well as artwork displayed inside their distinctly Aspen space (think old wood floors and brick walls).
The Art of Lounging (online). An online-only marketplace that sells a wonderfully curated selection of mid-century furnishings and decor, that help to create stunning paired-down spaces.
Explore Booksellers (221 East Main Street). Inside a Victorian house on Main Street, the quaint local bookstore experience begins the moment you first lay eyes on it. With a plethora of cozy spots to explore inside, there is more than meets the eye not only inside these walls, but also inside the books stocked aplenty.
What to Do in Aspen
No matter the season or the reason for visiting, there are options for everyone, from active to artsy, and foodie to photography. Explore Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley by seeing and doing a scouted selection of favorite outdoor activities and world-famous famous excursions.
John Denver Sanctuary (470 Rio Grande Place). This stunning public park built in memory of the singer John Denver is enjoyed by visitors of all ages. It’s open from dusk to dawn, always free, and a stunning, off-the-beaten-path location.
Aspen Art Museum (637 E Hyman Avenue). Offering contemporary art in the heart of town, thanks to generous benefactors, admission is free and the rooftop deck is the perfect spot for a spectacular view of town.
Aspen Saturday Market (100 W Hopkins Avenue). If you’re in town on a Saturday in the summer, make sure you allot time to peruse the market, which takes the entire concept of a farmers market to an incredible level.
Snowmass Creek Outfitters (3941 Capitol Creek Road). To get off the grid during the summer season, enlist these outfitters for a horseback riding excursion into the Western wilderness.
Snowmass Rodeo (Brush Creek Road, Snowmass Village ). Every Wednesday night during the summer, the Snowmass Rodeo offers a variety of traditional rodeo events such as bull riding and team roping provide a colorful display of ranch life in the West. Young rodeo fans can sign up to participate in special events just for kids before the rodeo.
Ride Aspen and Rio Grande Trail. If you’re interested in some two-wheeled sightseeing, Amy and Erin recommend picking up a bike rental or an electric bike from Ride Aspen and hitting the trail during the warmer months. Woody Creek Tavern is the perfect one-way trip if lunch with feisty margaritas is how you prefer to end your rides.
Aspen Dancing Fountain (E. Hyman Avenue and S. Mill Street). Need to cool off in the summer months? This is the ideal spot for kids to try and outsmart the fountain’s timing.
North Star Preserve (43151 CO-82). You can float through this wildlife corridor via canoe, tube, kayaks, or paddleboards, starting at the South gate.
Ashcroft (11670 Castle Creek Road). If you’d like to go somewhere remote, take a ride out to this ghost town that’s 11 miles south of Aspen. Visitors can take a docent-led tour of the historically preserved buildings and walk in eerie-quiet surrounded by the mountains.
T-Lazy-7 Ranch (3129 Maroon Creek Road). More of a River Runs Through It fan than City Slickers? Set up a fly-fishing trip through this ranch. In the winter, they offer scenic and memorable snowmobile tours.
Maroon Bells (75 Boomerang Road). A visit to the dreamy, iconic spot in the White River Forest, Colorado’s most photographed setting, is always in order—typically open late May to early October by vehicle. Maroon Bells boasts 14,000-foot peaks reflected in a mirror-like lake, surrounded by fields of wildflowers in summer. There’s a scenic one-mile round-trip hiking trail, plus more advanced hikes for full panoramic splendor. Maroon Bells gets crowded any time of year, Amy and Erin warn, so early morning is the best time to visit if you want to avoid photo-bombers or taking the shuttle bus.
Pine Creek Cookhouse (12500 Castle Creek Road). A premier destination in the winter, take a sleigh ride or hop on some cross-country skis to get to your lunch or dinner at the lodge tucked in near Ashcroft, with stellar mountain views by daytime and starry skies by night.
Aspen Shakti (535 East Hyman Avenue). A locally-owned yoga studio dedicated to helping all beings everywhere increase Shakti in every aspect of their lives. The Body Practice™ is a proprietary method created by the owner and founder of Aspen Shakti.
CycleBar (535 East Hyman Avenue). Whether you are an indoor cycling pro or entirely new to the experience, hop in the saddle for an energizing ride tailored to all fitness levels.
PureBarre (535 East Hyman Avenue). Transform your body and feel the burn with isolated movements, targeting muscles in your arms, legs, hips and thighs. Each workout is crafted carefully with each fitness level in mind.
The Neighborhoods of Aspen
Easy to navigate, Aspen encompasses four square miles and is home to just under 8,000 residents. Neighborhoods abound in Aspen and throughout the Roading Fork Valley, but during your visit you’ll be most likely to visit these favorites.
Central Core. True to its name, Central Core is a community located in the heart of Aspen. Its strategic location makes it an ideal place for both vacationers and families who want to call Aspen home. The entire neighborhood is dotted with both old and modern architectural gems that give the community a small-town yet cosmopolitan vibe.
East Aspen. There is something magical about East Aspen. Its bucolic setting charms families and vacationers who want to live in a more relaxed environment, and the whole area is draped with picturesque mountain views year-round. In this idyllic neighborhood, every day calls for a new adventure.
Snowmass Village. Located 15-minutes from Aspen, its popularity reaches snow sports enthusiasts across the world, as the majestic mountains surrounding the village are perfect for outdoor fun and adventure. The town has luxurious resorts with panoramic views, gourmet dining options, and ultimate shopping galore. Snowmass Village real estate offers a wide variety of choices, from spacious single-family homes to stylish condominiums available throughout the community.
The West End. The West End is a quaint community known for canopied streets, historic houses, and beautiful summer gardens. With all of its nature, it’s difficult to believe that the community sprung from Aspen’s mining days. The neighborhood exudes a quiet and relaxing atmosphere reminiscent of its old glory. The West End real estate offers an eclectic mix of 1800s Victorian homes and modern dwellings. | Read about more neighborhoods
The Mountains of Aspen
With four mountains, there are plenty of options for everyone around here. From family favorites to expert only terrain, your downhill day is covered (and not just in snow).
No easy runs but features plenty of blue runs for the newly minted intermediate skier or advanced skier. Towering over Aspen and steps from town, this legendary mountain is affectionately known as Ajax and is where Aspen’s ski status began.
Where to Après: Ajax Tavern
Best known for: The best seat in town
Don’t miss: Ajax Wagyu Double Cheeseburger, Truffle Fries & Cauliflower Gratin (Erin & Amy’s Favorite!)
A local favorite and for good reason. Home to the classic Highland Bowl and relatively uncrowded, this is where you earn your turns. After a hike to the top of the bowl with the die-hard skiers, or more laps if you’re ambitious, head to Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro (also known as Cloud9) and pop open that well deserved bottle of bubbly.
Where to Après: Cloud9 Alpine Bistro
Best known for: Classic Fondue, Raclette, and Apple Strudel
Don’t miss: Sipping (or spraying) bubbly while enjoying the finest views in Aspen
Boasting more than 3,000 skiable acres and a run that is just over 5 miles long – appropriately named Longshot and worth the mini hike. Family-friendly and with a winter coaster, this mountain recently celebrated 50 years and features the all-new Snowmass Base Village.
Where to Après: Base Camp Bar & Grill
Best known for: 30+ Beers on Tap
Don’t miss: Sunny, outdoor mountainside people watching
Buttermilk is beloved by beginners and home to the Winter X Games, giving this mountain multiple personalities that fit a number of skiers and riders. Easy going and an uphill favorite, it is also home to parks and pipes for freeskiers and snowboarders looking to elevate their experience.
Where to Après: Home Team BBQ
Best known for: Year-round family friendly atmosphere
Don’t miss: Fiery Ron’s Sauces & Frozen Irish Coffee
Local Pro Tips
The Fanny Hill concerts in the summer are one of the best ways to pass a nice evening. And in the winter, we love to cross-country ski on the Aspen/Snowmass Nordic Trail System. The best part? Both of these are no charge.
For those that are eco-minded, our TSG member and local chamber of commerce has the Aspen Pledge—an ethos for how to travel responsibly when visiting Aspen.