The Best Things to do in Aspen, Colorado

The 15 Best Things to Do in Aspen, Colorado

Aspen, Colorado, is synonymous with winter sports and luxury living, but there is so much more to this Rocky Mountain town than meets the eye. 

Nestled in the heart of the White River National Forest, Aspen’s natural beauty is on display at every turn. The city is home to four world-class ski resorts, making it a mecca for winter sports enthusiasts from all over the world. But winter is only half the story in Aspen!

In the summer, the city comes alive with a different kind of energy. The mountains are dotted with hikers and bikers, and the streets are filled with people basking in the warm weather. There are tons of lakes, rivers, and trails for you to explore, plus hot springs, golf courses, and more. It’s also a prime destination for stargazers, as some of the darkest night skies in the country can be found here.

The downtown area is also packed with fun things to do. You’re never far from a great meal, and there are plenty of shops and galleries to explore. Then there’s the Aspen Music Festival and the Aspen Ideas Festival, which bring world-renowned performers and speakers to town each year.

Whether you’re visiting for a weekend or staying for a month, you’ll find plenty to do in this charming town. But the hardest part is knowing where to begin!

So we’ve compiled our list of the 15 best things to do in Aspen to help you plan the ultimate getaway. Fill up your Aspen bucket list with these activities, and you’re sure to have an awesome time exploring this beautiful part of the US!

15 Fun and Unique Things to Do in Aspen

1. Ski Down Aspen’s Snowy Slopes

Best Things to do in Aspen: Ski

Skiing is what put this Colorado gem on the world map, and it’s still one of the best things to do in Aspen! Whether it’s your first time hitting the slopes or you’re a seasoned pro, it only takes one run down the pristine mountains to get hooked on the experience. 

You have four mountains to choose from when skiing in Aspen: Snowmass, Buttermilk, Highlands, and Ajax (Aspen Mountain). Each offers its own unique terrain, so you can always find a new challenge no matter how many times you visit.

If you’re bringing the kids along, they’ll love skiing at Buttermilk Mountain. This is where the X Games are held, so you know the terrain is top-notch! Plus, there’s also a kids’ area known as Panda Peak, perfect for little ones just learning to ski.

Snowmass is the largest mountain in the Aspen area and is great for all levels. It boasts Colorado’s highest peak at more than 4,400 feet, so get ready for a serious adrenaline rush! If you’re looking for a real challenge, you’re going to love Aspen Highlands. This is where extreme skiers go to play, with double black diamond terrain you can only access via a hike.


2. Try Other Thrilling Winter Sports

Aspen Bucket List: Winter Sports

Aside from skiing, Aspen is also ground zero for other winter sports like snowboarding, sledding, and tubing. So if you’re not a fan of skiing or you’re looking for a change of pace, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the snow.

In fact, one of the most fun things to do in Aspen is snowboarding. You can shred the slopes at any of the four ski areas, and there’s even a half-pipe at Buttermilk Mountain if you want to show off your tricks! 

For a more family-friendly activity, go sledding or tubing at the Aspen Recreation Center. They have a hill specifically for sledding, and you can even rent tubes if you don’t have your own.

For something more laid-back, there’s always ice skating. You can skate at the Aspen Ice Garden or The Silver Circle Ice Rink. Or, go for a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown Aspen. No matter how you choose to spend winter in Aspen, you’re sure to have a blast!


3. Marvel at the Maroon Bells

What to do in Aspen: Maroon Bells

The Maroon Bells are going to take your breath away, guaranteed. This unspoiled natural wonder is made up of two 14,000-foot snowcapped peaks that reflect in a tranquil lake. 

In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve already seen a photo of it without even realizing it. The Maroon Bells are one of the most photographed spots in North America!

You’ll find the Maroon Bells just 10 miles from Aspen, up Maroon Creek Road, and within the White River National Forest. The best time to visit is in the fall when the leaves are changing color, but it’s gorgeous any time of year.

There are a few different hiking trails you can take to reach the Maroon Bells, depending on how much time you have. The Maroon Lake Scenic Trail is the shortest and easiest, but the finest lake views are from the Crater Lake Trail. This 3.6-mile hike is definitely worth the effort!

You can also camp in the area, but you’ll need to make a reservation. Because the Maroon Bells are so popular, the U.S. Forest Service limits access during autumn and summer to protect the fragile ecosystem.


4. Drive Independence Pass

Cool Things to do in Aspen: Independence Pass

Independence Pass boasts some of the best Aspen attractions, thanks to its sky-high elevation of 12,095 feet. To reach the pass, drive east on CO-82 from Aspen until you reach the winding and narrow road going up.

Once you’re at the summit, there are plenty of things to do. Take in the views, of course! Then go hiking, swimming, biking, sightseeing, or just breathe in the fresh mountain air.

If you’re feeling brave, head to the Devil’s Punch Bowl. Aspen locals love to jump into the icy water from the rock ledge at this place. We recommend checking the water levels before you leap, as they can differ depending on the time of year.

For another icy adventure, drive to the nearby Grottos Ice Cave and Grottos Trail. These are some of the coolest (literally) features of Independence Pass! The ice cave is a short walk from the parking lot, and you’ll need to climb down some makeshift stairs to crawl into the cave. The ice patterns here are incredible, and it’s definitely one of the most unique things to do in Aspen.


5. Find Peace at the John Denver Sanctuary

In the center of Aspen’s downtown, you’ll find a little oasis next to the Rio Grande Park and near the Roaring Fork River. This green space is called the John Denver Sanctuary. John Denver was an American singer who penned “Rocky Mountain High,” and the park is named in his honor.

The sanctuary is a lovely place to take a break from all the excitement of your Aspen sightseeing. Stroll through the famous Song Garden, which features boulders arranged in a circle to represent the circle of life. If you look closely into the boulders, you’ll see many of John Denver’s most famous lyrics carved into them.

The heart of the circle is a tall Colorado blue spruce. The tree symbolically represents the spirit of John Denver, and it’s a beautiful area for reflection.

If you’re in town in October, be sure to visit the sanctuary as it celebrates John Denver’s life with musical performances, readings, and more. It’s a great way to enjoy the autumn leaves while paying tribute to an Aspen legend.


6. Ride the Silver Queen Gondola

Aspen Bucket List: Silver Queen Gondola

Riding the Silver Queen Gondola is one of the top things to do in Aspen, literally! The gondola will take you to the peak of Aspen Mountain (aka Ajax), which is 11,000 feet above sea level! Sit back and relax because it’s 2.5 miles from the base of the mountain up to the summit. The ride never gets boring, especially as the tree tops get smaller and smaller as you climb!

Once you reach the summit, hop off the gondola and explore. There’s a restaurant up here with al fresco dining, and depending on when you visit, live music performances and other events are often happening too. Like most places in Aspen, Aspen Mountain also has nice paths for hiking, birdwatching, biking, and other outdoor activities.


7. Hike Aspen’s Beautiful Trails

What to do in Aspen: Hike Aspen’s Beautiful Trails

Aspen may be a ski town, but its hiking trails are equally amazing! Every season brings a whole new world of beauty to Aspen’s hiking trails. In the springtime, the wildflowers are blooming and you’ll be surrounded by the chirping of birds. 

In the summer, the trails are green and lush, and in the fall, you’ll be treated to views of Aspen trees changing color as they prepare for winter. Crunching gold and red leaves under your boots is one of the most quintessential Aspen experiences!

You’ll find the perfect trail whether you want something laid-back or more challenging. The Rio Grande Trail is a casual hike that meanders along the Roaring Fork River. That means you can sometimes encounter elk and other wildlife drinking from the river.

If you’re feeling ambitious, hike up to the Four Pass Loop. This 26-mile trail will take you through four different mountain passes and past several alpine lakes. The path is packed with steep switchbacks, rough terrain, and beautiful scenery. Just be sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete the hike, as it’s definitely not for beginners.


8. Grab a Drink at the Aspen Brewing Company

There’s nothing like knocking back a cold one after a day of exploring Aspen. Even better is sharing a pint with other travelers while enjoying live music at the Aspen Brewing Company!

This local brewery has been around since 2008, and it’s become a go-to for both locals and visitors alike. We recommend trying three of their most famous brews, the Barrel-Aged Temerity, the Silver Queen, and the Seasonally Inspired beer! 

If you’re feeling peckish, this place also serves up some seriously good sourdough pizzas to go along with your brews. Think Caprese, Spicy Pepperoni, and Prosciutto Arugula.


9. Check Out Aspen’s Art & Theater Scene

Unique Things to do in Aspen: Art & Theater Scene

Aspen has a vibrant arts and theater scene, which is not surprising. Inspiration probably comes easy when you’re surrounded by such natural beauty!

One of the top places to experience Aspen’s creative side is the Aspen Art Museum. Located in the former Hunter Creek Power Plant, this interesting museum doesn’t have its own collection. Instead, it hosts exhibitions from underappreciated artists, as well as up-and-coming talent.

There are also several theaters in Aspen that put on excellent shows, musicals, and plays. The Wheeler Opera House is a historic theater that first opened its doors in the 1800s. Today, it’s known for putting on a wide range of events, from dance performances to magic shows.

If you’re looking for something a little more unique, check out the Theatre Aspen. This theater is located in an open-air tent and offers free shows throughout the summer.

Finally, Aspen also hosts some awesome festivals throughout the year. If you’re into music, don’t miss the Jazz Aspen Snowmass for live jazz in the mountains. The Food and Wine Classic is a must-attend for any foodie, and the Aspen Ideas Festival is a great way to learn about new ideas and meet interesting people. We definitely suggest attending them all if you can!

Book a History Walking Tour


10. Explore Downtown Aspen

Fun Things to do in Aspen: Downtown Aspen

Downtown Aspen is the beating heart of the town and a great place to start your Aspen sightseeing adventure. It looks like a postcard come to life, with brick sidewalks, Victorian architecture, and mountains towering in the background.

As for things to do in Aspen, the downtown area is packed with great options. Shop at high-end boutiques or hunt down one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Drop by Explore Booksellers, a bookstore that was once a Victorian home, and peruse endless books. 

Aspen is super pet-friendly, too, so bring your furry friend along! Get them a few treats at the Rocky Mountain Pet Shop and maybe meet other pups at one of the dog parks.

If you want to learn all about downtown Aspen’s storied history, it’s well worth joining in on a guided tour of downtown Aspen. As you stroll through the streets of Aspen, your local guide will pepper you with all sorts of information about the city’s top landmarks, local community, and fascinating history. 

Book a City Highlights Walking Tour


11. Paraglide Along Aspen’s Skies

What to do in Aspen: Paraglide

If you think Aspen is beautiful from the ground, imagine seeing it from above. Paragliding is one of those Aspen activities you’ll never forget. After all, how many people can say they’ve flown over the Rocky Mountains?

You’ll have to jump from a mountain slope to get airborne, and it definitely sounds (and feels) terrifying at first! However, paragliding is actually one of the safest things to do in Aspen. You’ll be strapped into a harness that’s connected to a wing, and you’ll have an experienced pilot by your side guiding you the whole time.

Paragliders usually reach heights of 3,000 feet, but given the right thermal conditions, your pilot may even be able to take you up to 18,000 feet! The views from up there are unreal!


12. Ride the Rapids of Roaring Fork River

Fun Things to do in Aspen: Roaring Fork River

The Roaring Fork River is one of Aspen’s most iconic landmarks. It’s a beautiful river that runs right through the heart of the town, and once the snow melts, it turns into a raging whitewater river. In other words, it’s a terrific place to go rafting and one of the coolest things to do in Aspen!

You can book a guided whitewater trip down the Colorado River or Roaring Fork. We like how some companies offer a “mild to wild” option so you can pick a trip that matches your comfort level.

Roaring Fork also has some calm sections ideal for kayaking, canoeing, or paddleboarding. You can also rent an inner tube and meander lazily down the river with a cold drink in hand. Pack plenty of sunscreen and bug spray because you’re going to want to spend all day on the river!


13. Feast at the Aspen Farmer’s Market

What to do in Aspen: Farmer’s Market

From mid-June to early October, the Aspen Saturday Market sets up shop downtown to showcase the best of what Colorado’s farmers have to offer. Everything here is so fresh, and the stall owners love offering samples of their products.

You’ll find all sorts of goodies here, from jams and jellies to fresh-baked pies. There are also a ton of great lunch options, like gourmet sandwiches and wood-fired pizzas. If you’re planning to camp or picnic at one of Aspen’s many parks, grab some artisan cheese, some cured meats, and a nice baguette to make your own gourmet picnic.

Aside from the food, the Aspen Farmer’s Market is also a haven for talented Aspen artists and crafters. Browse unique jewelry, buy some artwork to take home, and enjoy the live music between 8 am and 2:30 pm on Saturdays.


14. Join an Aspen Historical Society Tour

Best Things to do in Aspen: Historical Society Tour

If you want to learn more about Aspen’s long and fascinating history, sign up for a tour with the Aspen Historical Society. They have a way of bringing Aspen’s past to life!

Most of the tours last for an hour, but others, like the Holden/Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum tour, can take half a day. They also have seasonal tours like the Red Butte Cemetery Tour, which you can only join during the summer. Others, like the Wheeler/Stallard Museum Tour, are available all year and indoors, so you can join them no matter what the weather’s like.

One of their most popular tours is the Historic Pub Tour – and for good reason. The combo of history and booze is always a hit! Learn about Aspen’s earliest bars and see some of the town’s most iconic landmarks. Of course, you’ll also get to enjoy a few drinks along the way.


15. Camp Out in the Forest

Aspen Bucket List: Camp Out in the Forest

Aspen has no shortage of fabulous campgrounds. Whether you’re looking to camp in the backcountry or in a developed campsite, you’re going to love being in the middle of nature here.

The White River National Forest has lots of areas where you can camp for free. If you want to bring an RV, you’ll also find several RV parks in and around Aspen. Just make sure you book ahead because spaces fill up fast!

For something closer to downtown, try the smaller campgrounds going up to Independence Pass. They’re just a short drive from town, offer great scenery, and have easy access to trails.

If you really want to treat yourself, book a camping reservation at the Maroon Bells Scenic Area. There are three campgrounds here – Silver Bar, Silver Bell, and Silver Queen – and they’re all absolutely stunning. Waking up to those mountain views is an experience you won’t soon forget!

There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Aspen, Colorado. What’s your favorite thing to do in Aspen?


Planning a trip to Colorado? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!


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