The essential Sunday itinerary in Aspen includes mountain-top views, exercise and good food, but it really centers around free bluegrass concerts at the top of the Silver Queen Gondola.
Featuring brands from around Colorado, the bluegrass concerts run every summer Sunday (June 18 through September 3) from 12pm to 3pm, and are free to the public. Make a day out of it and don’t forget the sunscreen.
Take the Gondola
Buy a gondola pass for the day ($24) and get comfortable for the 20-minute ride to the top. Better yet, purchase the Perfect Summer Package, which offers great value and includes a dining credit as well as guided bus tour of the majestic Maroon Bells.
Insider tip: Snag one of the red gondolas and choose your own music playlist by connecting your smartphone.
Hiking to the top of Aspen Mountain is a popular choice and the gondola ride back down is free. Here are two preferred routes:
The Ute Trail: accessible from town by foot (head down Ute Avenue until you see the trailhead on the right) most hikers stop at Ute Rock approximately .9 miles up the trail. If you venture beyond this spot for 2.2 miles you finally reach the top of the gondola. Be warned that this is a steep one, but the majority of it is shaded, so you can usually stay cool.
Aspen Mountain Summer Road: Head up Ajax Trail until you hit the convergence with the Aspen Mountain Summer Road. The Summer Road climbs roughly 3,000 feet over roughly 4.9 miles— it’s less steep than the Ute Trail, but still a lengthy uphill.
At the Top (Besides the Tunes)
The Sundeck Restaurant
Treat yourself to lunch while you listen to the music. Choose from options like made-to-order stir fry, pizzas, hand-tossed salads and plenty of beverages in a cafeteria-style setting.
Bring a Picnic
Maybe you’re more inclined to eat lunch halfway through your hike, or bring a blanket and set up your own smorgasborg. Stop at a downtown shop like Meat & Cheese for a selection of (you guessed it) meat and cheeses, or The Big Wrap for to-go sandwiches. Pretty much everything tastes better at 11,000 feet.
Play disc golf
This might be one of the few sports that won’t make you feel winded at such a high elevation, and the views are nearly impossible to beat. With 18 total holes, the top nine are suited for all playing abilities, while the back nine will provide more challenge. Disc golf is free with the purchase of a gondola ticket.
Tackle an obstacle course
For the small humans feeling restless, check out the free obstacle course as a way to get the wiggles out between sets. Fun play areas for kids ages 1 to 8 abound as well.
Après Spots (Downtown Aspen)
Sip Veuve Cliquot by the glass and watch the people go by at this sunny spot on the gondola plaza.
Limelight Hotel Aspen
With Happy Hour from 3–7pm daily, this is an obvious choice for a post-hike drink. Enjoy select discounts on beers and wine, or try a house margarita, mule or mimosa for $6.
Throughout downtown, you will find several excellent restaurants, many with surprising happy hour specials. A local institution founded in 1892, every trip to Aspen needs at least one stop at The Red Onion. Or join the locals at the popular Aspen Brewing Company for a cold pint.
Published June 2017
About the Author
Celine Wright is a Colorado native whose writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times and Colorado Springs Gazette, among other titles. During the day she can be found marketing brands in the outdoor industry at Carbondale-based Backbone Media and after hours (dependent on season) she can be found biking, skiing, and hiking in the Aspen area.