Summer is short in Aspen Snowmass, so make sure to pack it all in with everything that the valley has in store. From biking to hiking, to wining and dining, to finding zen in nature, discover the best things that Aspen Snowmass has to offer with these top five summer activities for your bucket list.

1. Wheel Your Way To Woody Creek Tavern

Rent or borrow a cruiser bike (or an E-Bike for an easier commute) and spin your way through Aspen past the Wheeler Opera House, the Hotel Jerome and down South Mill Street to link up with the paved/dirt Rio Grande trail just beyond the Post Office. Cruise alongside the Roaring Fork River on this former railway -- that is now a trail – which winds past the Aspen Institute campus, a power plant, a couple of rock waterfalls, and then out onto the plains of McLain Flats. Head west until the trail intersects a road where you turn down and to the left to and which seems like you are headed to the middle of nowhere. You will find your destination – the iconic Woody Creek Tavern just a bit further on your left, beckoning with burgers and cold drinks.
After nine miles of pedaling, you've made it. Sit outside on the sunny patio or dive inside the cool, dark circus-like ambience of the dining room. Wall to ceiling, the place is riddled with old snapshots, posters, memorabilia and Christmas lights strung haphazardly in the middle of July. If, at first, there is a wait — then go next door and shoot pool until your seat opens. The tavern deals only in cash, but luckily there is an ATM conveniently located in the back by the bathrooms. Belly up to the bar as Gonzo journalist and Woody Creature (as the natives are called), Hunter S. Thompson used to do — or slink into a booth with your pals.
Woody Creek Cruiser Bikes
Woody Creek Cruiser Bikes

Known for Colorado-Mex specialties, order the homemade tortilla chips and guacamole and one of the Tavern's famous margaritas. Favorite dishes include the green chile, chicken enchiladas, fish tacos and burgers.

After a filling lunch, you can get back on the trail and ride back to town, slightly uphill the whole way, or feel free to call High Mountain Taxi for a pickup – their fleet is armed with bike-friendly vans.

2. Hike Your Way From Aspen to Crested Butte

Please be aware that this is an all-day adventure. Make sure your shuttle and other accommodations are reserved in Crested Butte prior to the hike.

As the sun rises, begin your day-long hike at the majestic Maroon Bells trailhead. Plan accordingly with enough water, food and layers because you will be hiking for around five hours via an 11-mile trail of varied rolling terrain.
Hiking to Crested Butte
Hiking to Crested Butte

As you push upwards on the switchbacks to the saddle near the middle, enjoy a respite for your lunch break. Be prepared to cross rocky scree, rivers and best of all, fields of green and rolling hills with a kaleidoscope of brightly colored flowers — as tall as you are in some places. But be sure to get an early start and don’t dawdle — you will want to miss possible rain and lightning storms in the afternoon.

If planned correctly, you'll be greeted by your ride, the Dolly Shuttle, at the end of the trail on the Crested Butte side, a few miles outside the ghost town of Gothic, which is around 8 miles from town. At the end of this epic journey, you will feel tired yet rewarded with all of the beauty you experienced — all accessed by foot in the pristine 181,535-acre Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area. Time the hike for late July or early August to coincide with the peak of wildflower season, or mid-September for stunning golden Aspen leaf foliage.

3. Independence Pass – A Gateway to Adventure

Independence Pass is a winding ribbon of road through alpine tundra. It is one of the highest paved passes in North America and dotted with adventures along the way.

From Aspen, Main Street turns into Highway 82 as you start up Independence Pass. Your drive will first take you alongside the scenic Northstar Nature Preserve. If you are looking for wildlife, stroll along the East of Aspen trail. If you would like to float the river on a stand-up paddleboard or inner tube, put in at the Wildwood School and float down the (mostly lazy) stream to the third bridge called Stillwater. Watch for beavers in the dams and great blue heron nests across the river up high in the trees.

Up the road a bit, a family-friendly hike and a favorite picnic destination can be accessed from the Weller Lake trailhead. Enjoy an easy half-mile hike (with kids, grandparents and just about anyone who doesn't think they can hike) across a bridge and through the woods with a gradual ascent to Weller Lake. Sit on huge boulders around the lake and take in the surrounding views and rising high alpine trout.
Independence Pass - Aspen Bucket List
Independence Pass - Aspen Bucket List

Independence Pass - Aspen Bucket List
Independence Pass - Aspen Bucket List

Independence Pass - Aspen Bucket List
Independence Pass - Aspen Bucket List

Further up the pass, the Grottos Trail — known for interesting rock formations resulting from the river's water and ice carving through the stone — is a 1.1-mile loop trail which is favored by families and leashed dogs.

If you're looking to cool off, the Devil's Punch Bowl is an icy plunge — and rite of passage for most locals and all daredevils. This large section of rocks overlooking a small pool stemming from the Roaring Fork River can be found just past mile marker 50 off of Independence Pass, but be mindful of high water conditions in early summer and after rainstorms, as the pool can be treacherous.

You've reached the apex! The highest point on Independence Pass (12,095 feet above sea level) is also the Continental Divide, the great separator of North America's watersheds, and a line that runs from the Bering Strait to Panama. Rain and snow that falls east of the divide eventually flows to the Atlantic Ocean, and west it flows to the Pacific.

4. Hallam Lake at Aspen Center for Environmental Studies

A favorite nature oasis just down from the center of town, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) is a hidden gem.

Head out from the visitor's center on a short trail to Hallam Lake around 3 or 4pm to watch the "airshow," as the local naturalists call it when all the birds flock to the lake to feed. Sit on the decks facing the lake. If you are quiet and still enough, you might see a beaver, deer or elk and some of the best birds in Aspen. A rescued red-tailed hawk and great horned owl live on premise and towards the end of the day, if you're lucky, the naturalists will let you watch as they feed the raptors their daily meals.
Sunset at Hallam Lake in Aspen Colorado.
Sunset as Hallam Lake in Aspen Colorado.

*Image courtesy of the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies*

5. Best Day Ever: Aspen, Mountaintop Yoga and Coffee + Sunny Patio Lunch

Start your day off with good intentions — and stunning scenery.
Hike up (about 1.5 hours) or ride the Silver Queen Gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain for the world's most natural and inspiring yoga class. For the ride up, purchase a foot passenger lift ticket for $37 ($30 if purchased seven days in advance) and have $10 cash donation for this special Hatha yoga class designed for all levels. Yoga mats are included. Jayne Gottlieb, affectionately known as the 'Madonna of Yoga' will set your spirit afloat in an unforgettable class filled with movement, stretching, strengthening and setting intentions for positivity, as towering mountains and evergreen treetops are your focal points.
Yoga on Aspen Mountain
Yoga on Aspen Mountain

You will feel on top of the world after this class, and what better way to celebrate than with a delicious coffee at the Lavazza Cafe inside the Sundeck? Step out onto the surrounding decks with your java — the views will take your breath away. Back down at the base, sip, dine and ‘see and be seen’ on the sunny patio of Ajax Tavern, because you earned those Parmesan truffle fries and that glass of rosé for lunch!

Cheers to summer in Aspen Snowmass!

About the Author

Lea Tucker
Lea Tucker


Prior to launching her own creative firm, Lea Tucker earned her chops managing international public relations for the Aspen Skiing Company for 9 years. When she’s not building creative communication campaigns for her clients, Lea can be found playing in the great outdoors: skiing, hiking, camping and en plein air watercolor painting. Lea also dabbles as a wildflower identifier, gourmet-backpacking chef, beachcomber, reader and writer.

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