City Cheat Sheet: A Travel Guide for Aspen, Colorado

The Little Nell. Photography by Jeremy Swanson.

WHY SHOULD ONE VISIT THE BELOVED MOUNTAIN DESTINATION of Aspen, Colorado? The Scout Guide Aspen editors Amy Groom and Erin Forsey can name a few reasons. 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.” The area is also home to a strong community, where music, food, fashion, art, philanthropy, and an entrepreneurial spirit thrive. Finally, 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, Amy and Erin share their favorite local finds and activities for taking in their city.

*Please note that due to Covid-19 some of these businesses might be closed or have specific guidelines in place. We recommend calling ahead and/or visiting their websites for the latest information on their status, offerings, etc. Also, bear in mind that some businesses temporarily close during certain seasons, so again, checking ahead is advised. Read The Scout Guide Aspen’s Aspen Winter Guide here for season-specific recommendations.

WHEN TO GO // Amy and Erin’s favorite season is undisputedly fall. Fresh off a busy summer, it’s the perfect place to enjoy slightly cooler weather, the changing of the leaves, and the local restaurants and shops before they close up for off-season.

Photography courtesy of The Little Nell.

WHERE TO STAY // The Little Nell (675 E Durant Avenue). This local gem is the only ski-in, ski-out hotel in Aspen. That means during the summer months, you can walk right out of your room on this five-star property and onto the mountainside trails. The resort is known for the list of adventures it can organize for visitors, from romantic stargazing evenings to group fly fishing adventures.

Limelight Aspen (355 South Monarch Street). Guests enjoy a fantastic pool, festive happy hour, and must-try pizzas at this hotel, plus it’s located right next to the site of the Food  & Wine Classic, which means you just might spot celebrity chefs if you’re in town during the festival.

Limelight Snowmass (65 Wood Road, Snowmass Village). Limelight Snowmass is the perfect spot for families, as well as the site of one of the tallest indoor climbing walls in Colorado. As an added bonus, visitors can hike right up Snowmass Mountain just outside the front door of the hotel.

WHAT TO DO // 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.

Photography by Brooke Casillas.

Snowmass Creek Outfitters (3941 Capitol Creek Road). To get off the grid, enlist these outfitters for a horseback riding excursion into the Western wilderness.

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. 

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.

Aspen Mountain (611 E Durant Avenue). Nothing beats a gondola ride to the top of Aspen Mountain. As the locals say, “Life is better at the top!”

Photography by Derek Baumgartner.

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.

WHERE TO EAT // JÜS (501 East Hyman Avenue). Pop by this spot for pressed juices, to-go lunch items, or small snacks to take out on the trails.

Local Coffee (614 East Cooper Avenue). A beautiful space inside and out, hit Local Coffee for fresh doughnuts, avocado toast, and oat milk lattes.

Spring Cafe (119 South Spring Street). Offering clean and satisfying fare, this cafe is a relaxing place for an organic and vegan-friendly lunch.

Ajax Tavern (685 East Durant Avenue). Located at The Little Nell, 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.

The White House Tavern (302 East Hopkins Avenue). The menu is unpretentious but amazing, and the cocktails are legendary. “Hands down, this place is worth whatever the wait,” Amy says. 

Casa Tua (403 South Galena Street). Enjoy a lovely outdoor dining experience while digging into the burrata salad with a glass of crisp white wine.

Photography courtesy of Local Coffee.

Bosq (312 S Mill Street). Bosq dishes up flavor-driven cuisine in the place to see-and-be-seen.

Betula (525 East Cooper Avenue, #201). For special occasions, head to Betula. You have to see their cocktails in person to believe them.

Cache Cache (205 South Mill Street). In business for three decades, Cache Cache boasts an impressive wine list. 

Cloud 9 (top of Cloud Nine lift). Only open during the snowy season, and requires you to ski at Highlands to enjoy, this spot offers unparalleled scenic vistas. Book your table well in advance if you want to be a part of the sparkling (and spraying) Champagne scene. 

Home Team BBQ (38750 CO-82). When going out with the whole family, head to Home Team BBQ for delicious food and a family-friendly atmosphere. “The kids can play outside at the base of Buttermilk while we eat some of the best barbecue this side of the Mississippi,” Erin says.

WHERE TO DRINK // Woody Creek Distillers (60 Sunset Drive, Basalt). This is a fantastic spot to enjoy a Colorado-crafted cocktail on the patio. Just be sure to call a taxi to take you home.

LOCAL PRO TIP //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.”

For additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in Aspen, follow The Scout Guide Aspen on Instagram and visit The Scout Guide Aspen website.