A few months back we wrote a post on ways you could stretch your dollar in Aspen and Snowmass Village during the winter. Now that we’re in the throws of summer, we thought we’d offer up some similar budget-conscious suggestions with a decidedly summer twist.
When it comes to “reasons why we all love summer,” few things rank higher on the list than the classic family vacation. Its that rare time in the year when you can reconnect and rejuvenate as a family, and build memories for your kids that they’ll carry into adulthood.
With all that in mind, there is also nothing wrong in cherishing time away with your spouse while your kids dive head-first into the Camp Aspen Snowmass experience. Reconnect? Rejuvenate? Build memories to last a lifetime? Do for each other what you’re doing for your kids by enjoying these six “grown-up-centric” things to do in and around Aspen Snowmass.
While there are plenty of kid-friendly mountain biking trails at Bike Snowmass — as well as around the valley — there are plenty you’ll pass up due to difficulty if the kids come along. Chase each other up and down the mountain on such trails as the Vapor Trail and Cross Mountain Trail. It’s the ultimate couples workout.
2. Yoga at Sundeck
At 10:20am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through the summer, we offer free yoga classes at the Sundeck atop Aspen Mountain (with gondola ticket purchase). It’s the perfect opportunity for couples to open their minds, stretch their bodies and savor the remarkable views of the Elk Mountains. Follow the class with an easy mountain-top hike.
With the kids at Camp Aspen Snowmass for the day, now is the time for you two to indulge your inner foodie and not worry about pleasing a fussy eater or two (or three). No other mountain town in the United States offers a better collection of gourmet restaurants than Aspen (there’s a reason the FOOD & WINE Classic is held here). This higher standard of dining even carries over to the on-mountain offerings at Elk Camp, Sundeck and Ajax Tavern, where you’ll savor exceptional cuisine in a casual, laidback environment.
4. Indulge in a Little Shopping
If you are in need of some new threads — or just want to rediscover the joys of shopping without the kids in tow — Aspen is tailor-made for this moment. Throughout the walkable and charming downtown, you’ll find a blend of haute couture brands (e.g. Prada, Ermenegildo Zegna, Burberry), upscale consignment stores, shoe boutiques, jewelers, art galleries and wine shops.
Rediscover the joys of solitude with each other by taking a pulse-quickening hike in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Here, in the shadows of six 14,000-foot peaks, you can reach unbelievable heights and take in some of Colorado’s best scenic vistas. Find trail suggestions on our complete guide to the area.
6. Speaking of Indulgence … Hit the Spa
Everybody could use a little pampering now and again, and here’s your chance. Swing by the Remède Spa at the St. Regis Aspen, the Auberge Spa at the Hotel Jerome, the Aspen Club & Spa at the Sky Hotel, or any of a number of local day spas and take your unwinding to a new level.
7. Savor a Night on the Town
Camp Aspen Snowmass’ overnight campouts for kids serve a dual purpose. Foremost is the unforgettable experience your children will have sleeping out under the stars. But we also can’t forget what it affords the two of you: the chance to savor Aspen and Snowmass’ dining, nightlife, and arts and culture scene on your own terms. Begin your evening with a stroll through the Aspen Art Museum, take in a performance by the renowned Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, dine at any of a handful of acclaimed restaurants (such as Element 47, Rustique or Matsuhisa) and then take in a concert at Belly Up. When you pick-up the kids in the morning, they might think they had more fun than the two of you… just let them believe what they want.
Shuttles to Camp Aspen Snowmass
Parents: as you plan out your day without the kiddos, take note that we offer free shuttles from Aspen (pickup is at 8am at the Yellow Brick Schoolhouse between First & Garmisch on Bleeker St.) to Camp Aspen Snowmass. This gives you a great option to get your day together started quickly if you are Aspen-based. Learn more on our Parent Information page for Camp Aspen Snowmass.
This summer, as part of our $29 Perfect Summer gondola ticket package, we’re offering a guided tour of the Maroon Bells. They are said to be “the most photographed mountains in America.” How they can quantify that statistic, we’re not sure. All we know is, they’re gorgeous, and being able to visit them in our own backyard is a pretty huge privilege.
Whether you are joining us for this tour, or looking to spend a day of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure underneath their shadow, we have rounded up a complete guide to enjoying the area below.
For the thrill of seeing the Maroon Bells. There is an exact moment when the twin peaks come into view along Maroon Creek Road, and it can only be described as exhilarating. Up ahead, it only gets better: the postcard view and reflection from Maroon Lake is so perfect, it almost seems deliberately composed. And if you burn some calories and reach Crater Lake, 1.5 miles into the wilderness, you’ll get a whole different view of the Bells from right underneath their imposing eastern face.
The Valley’s Mountains
Maroon Peak (14,156 feet) & North Maroon Peak (14,014 feet) – Together, these two peaks comprise the Maroon Bells. Separated by a treacherous saddle, the snow-striated peaks are comprised of mudstone, a loose, sedimentary rock that gives them their distinctive color and a nasty reputation among mountain climbers. From Maroon Lake, North Maroon Peak appears taller, but it is an optical illusion since it is merely closer.
- The Sleeping Sexton (13,460 feet) – The disorganized jumble of striped cliffs and towers that rest to the north of the Bells is known collectively as The Sleeping Sexton. Topping out above 13,000 feet, if this mountain stood alone, it would warrant a lot more attention.
- Pyramid Peak (14,018 feet) – Visible from Buttermilk, many first-time visitors confuse Pyramid Peak for the Maroon Bells. It’s snow-striped sides and sheer, angular features certainly bare a resemblance. From Maroon Lake, much of Pyramid Peak is obscured by the sheer rise of its northern ridges.
What Else You’ll See
- Wildflowers – The Elk Mountains are home to a great diversity of wildflowers. The combination of rich soil and heavy winter snowpack contribute to a profusion of color. In the aspen groves, look for Colorado’s state flower, the blue columbine, while along water-courses you will likely see bluebells, parry primrose and shooting stars. Alpine meadows above treeline offer a glimpse into some of the heartiest plants on earth, such as alpine sunflower, alpine forget-me-not and sky pilot.
- Wildlife – On Maroon Lake, there is a decent chance you will see beaver, particularly around the inlet. In the forests and meadows, mule deer and elk are frequent visitors, while on the rocky alpine slopes above, look for marmots, pika, mountain goats, and Colorado’s state animal, bighorn sheep.
Maroon Lake to Crater Lake (easy) – From where the shuttle drops you off (Maroon-Snowmass Trailhead), it is an easy, flat stroll through meadows along the northern edge of Maroon Lake. Beyond, you enter a grove of aspens and climb almost two miles to the lake, which sits at the foot of the Maroon Bells.
- East Maroon Creek (fairly strenuous and long) – For a little bit of solitude, visit the East Maroon Trailhead and travel into the beautiful depths of the wilderness area. Passing beneath the eastern face of Pyramid Peak, the trail eventually climbs to the top of Conundrum Pass some 8.5 miles in.
- Buckskin Pass (strenuous, short but steep) – For a glimpse over the mountaintops of the Elk Mountains, few views are better than the one from atop Buckskin Pass. Located on a rolling-green notch north of the Sleeping Sexton, the pass offers a vista that takes in Pyramid Peak, an unusual view of North Maroon Peak, and distant views of Snowmass Mountain and Snowmass Lake.
(Note: The Maroon Bells are two of the most challenging and dangerous mountains to climb in Colorado. This post is geared to those who want to take it down a notch, and does not include route info for making an ascent on the summit.
Three small, intimate and perfectly gorgeous campgrounds can be found along Maroon Creek Road — Silver Bell, Silver Bar and Silver Queen. Operated by the U.S. National Forest Service, you can make reservations online at www.recreation.gov. One advantage to camping in the valley is that your vehicle is free of usage restrictions on Maroon Creek Road.
Driving There On Your Own
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Maroon Creek Road has several restrictions on vehicular traffic, including:
- Personal Vehicles – Access in summer is restricted to 7am–9am, with an entrance fee of $10. From 9am to 5pm, you must take the shuttle bus from Aspen Highlands. Some exceptions apply. Visit the White River National Forest website for more.
- Shuttles – Regular shuttles travel up Maroon Creek Road to Maroon Lake. Pickup occurs every 20 minutes at the Aspen Highlands Village parking lot. Bus passes can be purchased for $6 at Four-Mountain Sports. Shuttles operate every day from mid-June to Labor Day, and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the fall. The road is closed in mid-November.