When you think of things to do in Aspen, CO, deep powder, chairlifts, and lots of time outdoors probably come to mind. And that makes sense: This Colorado mountain town is a literal peak of natural beauty and a haven destination for winter sports lovers!
But while there are plenty of winter activities, there’s also so much more to explore among Aspen’s top tourist attractions, whether the snow is falling or the sun is shining. From water parks to multiple nearby ghost towns to, yes, carving your way down the Rocky Mountains on some of the best ski slopes in the country, there’s something for every style and every season.
Looking for what to do while you’re in town? Plan the ultimate trip with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Aspen, Colorado!
Best places to visit in Aspen, CO
We challenge you to ever get bored at Aspen Snowmass. As it’s the biggest mountain in the Aspen area by a long shot, there’s a reason the Snowmass is the favorite spot of so many skiers country-wide. The endless variety of multicolored slopes here are as challenging for expert skiers as they are for novice skiers.
Get first dibs on fresh powder at Aspen Snowmass on the first run of the day with a staff-led run before the mountain opens. The Hanging Valley also offers high-alpine skiable terrain.
Looking for something to do on your days off from your skis or board? Hit the slopes in other ways: Take a lesson in snow biking or speed down multiple snow tubing lanes in the winter. Paintball and pedaling the 25 miles of mountain biking trails in the Aspen Snowmass Bike Park are the activities of choice come summer.
Head into Snowmass Village for a true ski town experience. Check out the interactive Luminescence light displays and make time for some stellar shopping—and, of course, s’mores!
John Denver Sanctuary
One look at the natural beauty of the John Denver Sanctuary, and it’s easy to tell where the longtime Aspen local got the inspiration for “Rocky Mountain High.” Located between the Rio Grande Park and Theatre Aspen, its relaxed atmosphere lends itself well to meeting fellow nature lovers.
Visit the John Denver Sanctuary’s serene Song Garden, where a circle of river rocks etched with John Denver’s lyrics mimics the circle of life set to music. The lone Colorado Blue Spruce in the center symbolizes the songwriter’s spirit, an ode to his love of the outdoors.
This quiet refuge is a popular spot for a picnic or a thoughtful walk. Make time to peruse the perennial flower gardens when they bloom in spring, one of the biggest for public use.
Ashcroft Ghost Town
Take a day trip from Aspen to the Ashcroft Ghost Town for an immersive historical experience. Drive down Castle Creek Road to this old silver mining hub that was once bigger than Aspen.
Like all metal mining towns, Ashcroft was built quickly and dissipated almost as fast. The bountiful silver mines ran low and the allure of Aspen beckoned.
At times planned as a European-style ski resort, Ashcroft Ghost Town was used for soldier mountaineering training during the Second World War and later a dog-sledding program before it became a National Register Historic Site.
Walk through “town” to see restored buildings, including the former Blue Mirror Saloon (at one point, one of many), as well as a hotel and a post office. Take a self-led tour or chat with the docent who’s available during opening hours to discover the storied past of this boom town.
The lesser known of the Aspen mountains, Aspen Highlands is another Colorado hot spot for winter sports enthusiasts. Fewer crowds mean more wild wilderness all to yourself.
Try the advanced slopes of Temerity or the other 84 miles of trails. Get tips and tricks from local pros with guided experiences, or take on the backcountry terrain of the Highland Bowl on your own. The hike to the peak is more than worth it, and its 270 acres of 35- to 48-degree runs are some of the steepest in the state.
On your visit to Aspen Highlands, take a minute to wonder at the fantastic views of the Maroon Bell landscape from the top.
Silver Queen Gondola
The Silver Queen Gondola might be the best way to see Aspen Mountain—and maybe even the town itself. Rise over 11,000 feet up to witness spectacular vistas of the “Town Mountain” and the city below.
Take the Silver Queen Gondola to get to the 75-plus mountain ski trails, or just ride it for fun. It’s worth a trip in its own right, especially if you’re more into the Apres-Ski than actually strapping into boots yourself.
Get a “foot pass” gondola ticket and climb aboard. For a little extra activity, take a winter snowshoe trip once you’re sky high with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
Stop at the peak to take in the far-reaching views and indulge in a mountaintop lunch (maybe with a hot chocolate) before making your descent back into town.
The Maroon Bells are some of the most recognized mountains on the continent. Named so after their striking bell shape, the mountains don their white strips of snow year-round.
The backcountry hiking at the Maroon Bells is next level and the paths make for an ideal locale to catch the changing leaves or blooming summer flowers. Pick from any of the numerous trails for views worth writing home about. Fill your water bottle and rent a bike at Maroon Bells base camp before pedaling up Maroon Creek Road.
Bring your camera to Maroon Lake for a postcard-worthy shot of the twin peaks, standing 14,000 feet tall above the mirrored surface. Want to take in the beauty and nature hikes a little longer? Camp out in the campgrounds just off the hiking trails.
Jutting up straight from the town center, the iconic Aspen Mountain has it all. Powder stashes, Bell Mountain, the lively nearby neighborhood, and, of course, the Silver Queen Gondola are part of what makes this mountain town what it is.
Winter on Aspen Mountain brings steep slopes and an Apres-Ski scene rivaled by none. Take part in a first-track run or compare your skills to the national ski team with a race down the public NASTAR course. For those really into a fresh snowfall, join a Powder Tour on the back of the mountain for track-free glades and a gourmet lunch.
Swing by the Sundeck on summer Sundays for some live Bluegrass or relax in a real mountain pose with mountaintop yoga. Follow that with a round of disc golf or a leisurely walk through the fields of wildflowers and hiking trails.
Trek up the Grottos Trail to see ice caves and fantastic views. With stunning natural scenery and the sounds of the streams, this makes a great spot for some real ASMR.
Hike or run down the short half-mile Grottos Trail pathway that’s easy enough for any fitness level. Dogs on leashes are allowed, so bring your pup, too, if you’re so inclined.
Walk by waterfalls and rapids in the White River National Forest on your way to the grottos. Their interior pools freeze with the frost, creating an icy wonderland in the winter and leaving turquoise water behind when the weather warms.
Independence Ghost Town
For a spooky and educational sojourn, visit the nearby Independence Ghost Town and archaeological preserve. Take the scenic drive 16 miles out of Aspen, down Highway 82, and the Top of the Rockies’ Scenic Byway.
Originally named after Independence Day in 1879, a time when locals struck gold, the tent city soon turned into a real one 1,500 strong. It wasn’t long, though, before Independence was abandoned due to the long winters and the lure of better jobs. (You try living 11,000 feet up!)
Visit the buildings in Independence Ghost Town to learn about the people and businesses that once thrived there and to think about what life must have been like in those days.
A stable, a general store, a stamp mill, and some cabins are still standing, all part of the National Register of Historical Places. Bring a donation for admission and prepare for a cool trip back in time!
Aspen Recreation Center (ARC)
Get physical at the Aspen Recreation Center (ARC). There will never be a dull moment here, with 80,000 square feet of activities to keep you busy.
Practice your swing in the batting cage or your spins while ice skating at the NHL-sized Lewis Ice Arena. Play an outdoor game of pickleball in summer or speed down the sledding hill when the temperature drops. Daredevils will delight at the 32-foot-high multi-level climbing tower.
Beeline to the Aspen Recreation Center’s aquatic center on hot days for some splashy fun. The zero-entry pool and two-story water slide will be a hit with younger ones. The older crowd can cozy up in the whirlpool, sauna, and steam room or wind along the lazy river.
Head out to the Rotary Pavilion for fantastic views of Maroon Creek Valley and an electric grill perfect for whipping up a summer lunch.
Buttermilk Ski Resort
Buttermilk Ski Resort is considered by many to be the easiest mountain in Aspen. With plenty of beginner-friendly slopes, this ski and snowboard area is the perfect place for a few days of skiing with the family in tow.
Diverse multiple terrain parks keep things interesting for more advanced skiers, including the X Park, host of the ESPN X Games Aspen. All types of skiers can rest assured that there’s something for them at Buttermilk Ski Resort. Uphillers with passes can skin, hike, or snowshoe to their heart’s content.
Get your rentals or sign up for lessons in the newly renovated base area opening in 2023.
Breathtaker Alpine Coaster
The Breathtaker Alpine Coaster is a unique way to see Aspen Snowmass and the mountains up close and personal. Thrill seekers can ride the roller coaster for a speedy view of over a mile of mountain forest. Zoom down the elevated track and whip through the pines above Elk Camp at up to 28 mph.
A little speed shy? Have no fear: You’re in control of your own car, including the brakes. Since the Alpine Coaster is part of mid-mountain Lost Forest park, there’s also a zipline, ropes course, hiking trails, rock climbing, disc golf, and even a high-mountain fishing pond if that’s more your thing. Bring the whole family for a fun group day trip for all ages!
For an even cooler experience, take the lit-up ride at night on special winter Ullr Nights. Make sure to buy your tickets in advance.
Aspen Brewing Company
The Aspen Brewing Company is a staple of the local craft beer scene. Nestled at the base of the Elk Mountains, Aspen’s sole licensed brewery is also the biggest in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Taste the crisp outdoor lifestyle Aspen is known for with Aspen Brewing Company’s wide variety of beers, ranging from creative to classic. Grab a pint at their taproom downtown or next to stunning views in the tasting room at their brewery by the airport. Order a sourdough pizza along with it for a match made in heaven.
Keep an eye out for their beer van pouring draught at events around town.
Aspen Art Museum
The Aspen Art Museum is the place to go to add a little culture to your visit in the form of contemporary art. Works on display range from paintings to sculptures, all free to visit. View one of the international traveling exhibitions in town or the twice-a-year shows dedicated to local artists from the surrounding area.
For a little boost after an afternoon of art, recharge at the Aspen Art Museum’s rooftop café. Grab a coffee and croissant and catch up on the finer points of each masterpiece. Then check out some more in the rooftop sculpture garden.
Interested in learning more about the art museum’s unique collection? Attend one of the chats in their lecture series for the lowdown from experts and artists alike.
Rio Grande Trail
For breathtaking views and a breath of fresh air, head down the Rio Grande Trail. The rail trail runs along what was once a line from the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad.
Follow the Roaring Fork River and Highway 82 to make your way between Aspen and Glenwood Springs. Take advantage of some or all of the 42 miles of multi-use paved hiking trail, whether you’re into fishing, biking, or cross-country skiing. Stop for a snack break at one of the many picnic tables or benches and take in the scenic natural surroundings.
Dogs and even horses are allowed on parts of the Rio Grande Trail, so feel free to bring your pet along for the ride. If you’re looking for biking trails, hitch a ride on the RFTA bus up to one of the trailheads between Aspen and Rifle.
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro
Looking for the ideal spot for a little apres-ski? You don’t even need to take yours off on the way to Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro. At this Swiss-style restaurant, it’s actually required you roll in via skis or snowcat!
Not only are the spectacular summit views of the Maroon Bells worth making a (mandatory) reservation for, but the location of Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro couldn’t be any more convenient. Glide into this modern European lodge in the Aspen Highlands, perched at the peak of the Cloud Nine Lift.
Kick back and relax with some of the best Alps-infused cuisine here between December and April. Dip into warming fondue or raclette and finish it off with an apple strudel.
Crater Lake Trail
If it’s breathtaking views you’re looking for, then the Crater Lake Trail is one of the best things to do in Aspen, CO. The trail is only about 30 minutes away from town, and even the drive here is beautiful.
Head down the Maroon Creek Road to travel through the White River National Forest and past the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Plan this one in advance; if you’re coming by car, you’ll need a permit and a reservation to save a spot.
Start at Maroon Lake and wander between the picturesque mountains and lots of wildflowers to end up at Crater Lake. The 5.6 km hike down Crater Lake Trail will likely take you around 2 hours to finish, depending on your speed. Keeners can extend it with an extra loop around Maroon Lake.
The path can be rocky in places, so bring your hiking boots. The low incline is suitable for all skill levels—even the kiddos can come along. Dogs are also welcome to walk the trail as long as they’re on a leash.