While snow-blanketed winter landscapes might be the first image that comes to mind when someone mentions Aspen, Colorado, according to The Scout Guide Aspen editors Amy Groom and Erin Jones, summer might just be the most perfect time of year to visit their town. “The trees are green, it’s cool in the evenings, and we have many endless bluebird days here all summer long,” says Amy. In fact, with thousands flocking to town every June for the FOOD & WINE Classic, and more and more destination weddings being planned in the heart of the Rockies, Aspen is making mountain people out of many summer vacationers. To help those who might have a trip to the area planned make the most of their time in the Roaring Fork Valley, we asked Amy and Erin to share their favorite ways to experience summertime in their town.
Seize an Aspen Adventure
First stop: up. Upon arrival in Aspen, Erin and Amy love to send their friends on a gondola ride to the top of Aspen Mountain. As the locals say, “Life is better at the top!”
A visit to the dreamy Maroon Bells in the White River Forest, Colorado’s most photographed setting, is also in order. 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. Amy and Erin caution that Maroon Bells gets crowded any time of year, so early morning is the best time to visit if you want to avoid photo-bombers or taking the shuttle bus.
The John Denver Sanctuary (470 Rio Grande Place) is an off-the-beaten path must-see spot in town. If you’re a biker, Amy and Erin recommend the Rio Grande Trail, their favorite way to see the whole valley in the summertime. If you’re ambitious, ride a rented bicycle all the way out to Carbondale to experience the local downvalley restaurant scene, and back again. Or, opt to ride to Woody Creek Distillers (60 Sunset Drive, Basalt) in Basalt for a Colorado crafted cocktail on the patio—and call a taxi to take you home.
If you’d like to go somewhere remote, take a ride out to Ashcroft, a ghost town that’s 11 miles south of Aspen, where visitors can take a docent-led tour of the historically preserved buildings and walk in eerie quiet surrounded by the mountains. If you really want to go off-grid, enlist Snowmass Creek Outfitters for a horseback riding excursion into the Western wilderness. More of a River Runs Through It fan than City Slickers? Set up a fly fishing trip through T-Lazy-7 Ranch or The Little Nell Adventure Center.
If you’re in town on a Saturday, make sure you allot time to peruse the Aspen Saturday Market (100 W Hopkins Avenue), which takes the entire concept of a farmers market to an incredible level, as only Aspen could do. According to Amy and Erin, you’ll want to stop for the famous Aspen Kettle Corn first. They also love to grab some on-tap kombucha at the Dragonfly Jun stall and visit with their friend Caitlin Dunn of Caitlin Dunn Jewelry. If you’re interested in some two-wheeled sightseeing after perusing the market, Amy and Erin recommend picking up a bike rental or an electric bike at Ride Aspen’s Saturday Market trailer.
Drink Like a Local
Whether you’re looking for something healthy to sip or the perfect cocktail to unwind with after a day of adventure, Aspen has you covered.
JÜS (501 East Hyman Avenue) is Erin and Amy’s go-to for fresh-pressed juices (Amy’s favorite bottled drink there is the Charcoal Lemonade, while Erin loves the Ginger Greens), to-go lunch items, or small snacks to take out on the trails.
When you’re ready for an adult beverage, Betula (525 East Cooper Avenue, #201) is the place to go. According to Erin, whose order of choice is the “Drink Me From the Bottom,” and Amy, who prefers the “Yellow Paloma,” you have to see their cocktails in person to believe them.
Fuel Up Like a Foodie
Before starting any Aspen adventure, hit the local coffee house inside Maker + Place (614 East Cooper Avenue), a design store where local artisans have on-premises studio space. Amy and Erin love the fresh doughnuts, avocado toast, and oat milk lattes, but the beautiful space in itself is reason enough to go.
If you’re seeking some clean and satisfying fare, Amy and Erin suggest Spring Cafe (119 South Spring Street), a relaxing place for an organic and vegan-friendly lunch.
Locals will always recommend a trip to The White House Tavern (302 East Hopkins Avenue). According to Amy and Erin, the menu is unpretentious but amazing, and the cocktails are legendary. “Hands down, this place is worth whatever the wait,” says Amy.
For a lovely outdoor dining experience, go to Casa Tua (403 South Galena Street) and enjoy the burrata salad with a glass of crisp white wine al fresco on the summer patio.
If you’re in need of something more substantial after a hike, grab a burger and the truffle fries at Ajax Tavern (685 East Durant Avenue) at The Little Nell. The restaurant, which has fantastic people-watching, is situated right at the base of Aspen Mountain, so the view is spectacular.
When friends come to town, Erin and Amy take them to dinner at Cache Cache (205 South Mill Street), which has been in business for three decades and boasts an impressive wine list. When going out with the whole family, they love to hit Home Team BBQ (38750 CO-82) 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,” says Erin.
Shop Like a Local
A day walking around town gives you the opportunity to explore everything from high-end luxury brands to local favorites, like women’s clothing boutique P.E. 101 (500 East Cooper Avenue) and contemporary clothing store Pitkin County Dry Goods (520 East Cooper Avenue). Amy and Erin also love the stylish LIV (605 East Cooper Avenue) and Souchi (205 South Mill Street) for everyday wear.
Jewelry lovers should stop into Meridian Jewelers (525 East Cooper Avenue) to peruse the luxury gems and accessories, and Elliott Yeary Gallery (419 E Hyman Avenue) for exquisite, one-of-a-kind pieces, as well as artwork displayed inside their distinctly Aspen space (think old wood floors and brick walls). Crafty visitors should not miss Needlepoint of Aspen (103 South Mill Street), which has original canvases that you can only find there, plus a wall of color with more than 850 silk threads (talk about Instagram-worthy).
Check In, In Style
The Little Nell (675 E Durant Avenue) 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.
Another great option, the Limelight Aspen (355 South Monarch Street) has a fantastic pool, a festive happy hour, and must-try pizzas—plus, it is located right next to the FOOD & WINE Classic, which means you just might spot celebrity chefs if you’re in town during the festival. Meanwhile, the Limelight Snowmass (65 Wood Road, Snowmass Village), the newest addition to lodging in the Roaring Fork Valley, has one of the tallest indoor climbing walls in Colorado and is perfect for families. Plus, visitors can hike right up Snowmass Mountain just outside the front door of the hotel.
Photograph by Brooke Casillas Photography. For additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in Aspen, Colorado, browse or buy a copy of The Scout Guide Aspen and follow TSG Aspen on Instagram.