Is Labor Day summer's last dance? Or is it more like a prelude to autumn? It all depends on your perspective. Up here in the Roaring Fork Valley, some revelers prefer to go all out for one final endurance bike ride before season's close. Others just want to seek out a quiet corner and watch the river flow by.

Whichever mindset suits you, we can all agree that this year in particular demands some serious relaxation. As we round the bend and look to the end of summer — and the inevitable indoor time that lays before us —here are some ideas for the best way to relax over Labor Day weekend at Aspen Snowmass.

1. Ride a Bike

Bike Path on the Roaring Fork River
Bike Path on the Roaring Fork River

The Roaring Fork Valley was recently honored as a Gold-Level Ride Center by the International Mountain Bike Association, which honors the world's best destinations for mountain bike riders of all levels. This network of trails, as well as the 50-plus miles of trail at the Snowmass Bike Park, have been a vital escape for people all summer.

But one of the most relaxing rides starts right in downtown Aspen. The Rio Grande Trail is a 42-mile-long bike path which follows the Roaring Fork River along an old railroad grade (translation: nice and flat). Abundant shade and lovely river views punctuate the ride. Depending on your level of chill (or lack thereof) you can ride the path all the way to Glenwood Springs.

As always, Four Mountain Sports has you covered for bike rentals — from road bikes to cruisers to full suspension.

2. Stand-up Paddleboard

There is good reason that stand-up paddleboarding is one of America's fastest growing outdoor recreation sports: it's easy, undeniably mellow, and affords access to natural hideaways you can't experience the same way on foot.

Take for instance, the North Star Nature Preserve just east of Aspen. Here, the Roaring Fork River defies its name (for once!) and wends a slow and aimless course through willows and meadows. The stretch has become popular for SUPers who put in at the South Gate and paddle upstream. Herons, beavers, deer and trout can often be spotted.

3. Hike Into the WIlderness

Hiking in the Hunter-Fryingpan WIlderness
Hiking in the Hunter-Fryingpan WIlderness

To the south of Aspen and Snowmass Village resides one of Colorado's most scenic and best preserved landscapes: the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Encompassing 181,535 acres of lofty, roadless terrain, the wilderness is off limits to vehicles and anything mechanized (including mountain bikes and chainsaws ... even trail maintenance must be done entirely by hand). Take a brief and totally doable hike to Crater Lake beneath the Maroon Bells. You won't have it to yourself, but the staggering beauty will move your spirit. For a more challenging climb, head to Cathedral Lake.

Less well known is a second wilderness area: the Hunter-Fryingpan, located north and east of Aspen. The easily accessible Independence Lake trailhead offers a mostly alpine walk to a pristine lake surrounded by tundra. That chirping you hear? Adorable American pikas, an alpine mouse that lives in boulder fields and has a penchant for being vocal.

4. Go Fishing

Cast a line and see what nibbles. What could be more chill than that?

At Trout Hook Pond up on Snowmass, you can fish for rainbow trout while the rest of the family enjoys the relatively new adventure park known as the Lost Forest. Bring your own rod and reel.

A more serious fishing adventure can be found on the public water stretches of the Roaring Fork River, Fryingpan River and Maroon Creek.

5. Play Disc Golf

Disc golf on Snowmass
Disc golf on Snowmass

Like cornhole, croquet, badminton and bocce ball, disc golf seems tailor-made for a lazy Labor Day weekend, doesn't it? At Snowmass' Aerial Approach — part of the relatively new on-mountain adventure park known as the Lost Forest — you can choose from one of two 18-hole disc golf courses to play.

There's also a course on Aspen Mountain. Both are accessed via the gondola.

About the Author

Aspen Snowmass blogger photographer Kevin Day
Aspen Snowmass blogger photographer Kevin Day


Kevin Day is a professional wine writer, travel blogger and photographer based in Colorado. A lifelong resident of the state, he has worked extensively with Aspen Skiing Company and the Colorado Tourism Office, and for some reason, he can still name every 14er in the state off the top of his head (even though he has never climbed one). His wine writing has been honored by the International Association of Culinary Professionals and the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Awards.

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