When you think of Aspen, Colorado, you might think of elegant hotels and decadent parties or world-class skiing. But it’s also surrounded by some of North America’s most beautiful wilderness and is a natural base camp for some incredible hiking, biking, fishing, skiing, and even paragliding—just about anything you can do outdoors. While Aspen is a 4-season destination, there are tons of things to do in Aspen in the summer, and below we share our favorites!
Learn the best things to do in Aspen in the summer, including hiking, biking, camping, and lodging and restaurant recommendations.
Important reminder: As with all the destinations we share, please practice good track etiquette and remember that Leave no trace. This means packing out all your rubbish (including toilet paper), being respectful of others on busy paths and following established rules.
Aspen Summer Walk
Aspen is located in the Roaring Fork Valley, which offers a system of trails for every hiker from beginner to experienced. With fields of wildflowers, mountain views, and dense forests, hiking is one of the best things to do in Aspen in the summer. Here are some of our favorite trails:
West Maroon Pass
This hike starts below Maroon Bells at Maroon Lake, one of the most photographed spots in the country, and the first few miles are about as busy as you’d expect. But once you pass the picnicking families at Crater Lake, the trail becomes infinitely less crowded. It’s six and a half miles one way to West Maroon Pass, but you can turn around whenever you want (or you can keep going, go down the other side of the pass and go all the way to Crested Butte!). The view is unbeatable all the way!
You’ll have to drive a few miles down the valley to get to the trailhead, though Triangle Peak is a lesser-known hike that reaps big rewards in a short distance. You hike up a jeep road for two and a half miles to the top of Triangle Peak, and from there you have views of the entire Roaring Fork Valley, the entire Elk Mountain Range, and nearly all of Aspen-Snowmass’ four ski areas.
You can follow Outdoor Trail all the way to the top of Aspen Mountain. Although steep at the start, it is much less busy than the popular route up the ski hill. If you’re completely exhausted by the time you get to the top, you can take the gondola back down to town.
Aspen summer cycling
Aspen has cycling options for everyone. From lung-busting road trips to singletrack roller coaster rides and even family cruises, it’s all there, and one of the best things to do in Aspen in the summer!
A few Aspen road bike classics are Independence Passporta lung-busting climb to 12,065 feet above sea level, and Maroon Creek Roada relatively flat (but really, constantly uphill) ride to the iconic Maroon Bells.
If you have children or don’t want to drive with traffic, you can sail down the valley on Rio Grande Trail, a former railroad track turned multi-use trail that stretches more than 40 miles all the way to Glenwood Springs along the Roaring Fork River. A mid-morning trip to Woody Creek Tavern for lunch is hard to beat; it’s about 10 miles from Aspen, just long enough to serve that burger and brew.
Head up in the face of Aspen Mountain on the forest road and enjoy the single-track on the way down, or take one of the paths across the town, over the old smuggler’s mine. Do you want to get out of the city a little more? Nearby Snowmass Mountain has more singletrack, downhill and enduro riding than your legs could ever handle. For a dynamite one-way shuttle, take the free bus from Aspen to Snowmass Village, then combine Rim Trailjust west of Snowmass Village with the brand new single by Sky Mountain Parkcut back to Aspen on the hillsides above the Aspen airport.
Aspen summer fishing
There may not be a better place on earth for fly fishing. That Roaring Fork River, a gold medal fishing river, flows right through the town. Fifteen minutes down the valley, it is accompanied by Fryingpan River, another gold medal river. Fifteen minutes after there, the Crystal River joins the party – another world class fly fishing river. You can hire a guide to take you to their favorite secret spots, or you can just grab your rod and head out there – it’s hard to go wrong in this area!
Just make sure you don’t venture onto private property and pick up a Colorado fishing license! You can grab one onlinefrom the City Market downtown or at the fly shops in Aspen, Basalt or Carbondale.
Best Aspen Restaurants
Aspen is a food city with plenty of gourmet options. If you’re looking for a more casual place to grab a go-to meal or a bite to eat after a long day on the trails, here are some of our recommendations:
- Zane’s Tavern: A sports bar popular with locals, especially when the Denver Broncos are playing. The food is typical pub grub, but it is hearty and cheap. And you can’t go wrong with something fried, right?
- Big Wrap: This is a cash only casual joint that serves tacos, wraps, sandwiches and more.
- Jour de Fete: the French name may sound fancy, but this is a no-frills deli with great sandwiches and salads.
- Bangkok Happy Bowl: Delicious Thai food that you can eat in or take out.
- Woody Creek Tavern: This is the famous haunt of the late Hunter S. Thompson. About a 20-minute walk out of town (or 10 minutes by bike), they serve comfort food and have an eclectic atmosphere.
Other things to do in Aspen in the summer
Do you have more time to fill up during your trip? Here are some of our other favorite summer activities in Aspen:
- Hike or take the gondola up Aspen Mountain for a free game frisbee golf. There is a disc golf course right at the top of the ski area. Discs can be rented from Four Mountain Sports, or you are welcome to bring your own. If you are in Snowmass, there is also a course on the mountain there.
- Pipe or paddle board through Northstar Nature Preserve. The current is gentle, the water is shallow (and cold!), and there’s no better way to spend a summer afternoon.
- Go for the coldest swim of your life at The caves. These melt pools and waterfalls east of town look like a scene from an enchanted fairy tale, but the water temperature feels more like a winter nightmare. If you decide to jump in, be prepared for the icy waters to take your breath away – literally.
- Catch some music: The Aspen Music Festivall takes place every summer, all summer long, and students can be found giving free performances on street corners around the city. Also check the live music calendar at Belly up.
Aspen Camping & Lodging options
Aspen is a popular summer destination – make sure you book your camping or overnight stay in advance! Here are a few tips for campsites and hotels:
- Camping is limited in and around Aspen; the nearest campsite is Difficult campsite eight miles outside the city toward Independence Pass. You can also camp near the iconic Maroon Bells at Silver Queen Campsite. Both of these fill up quickly, so make reservations in advance if possible. Check out The Dirt app for more Aspen camping recommendations.
- Aspen budget hotels: Mountain Chalet, Tyrolean Lodgeand Annabelle inn all have fantastic locations without the price tag of their luxurious neighbours.
- If you want to turn it up a bit, you have to Limelight HotelHotel Aspen and Gantt are all great places to stay in the summer in Aspen.
Have you ever visited Aspen? Are we missing some of the best things to do in Aspen in the summer? Let us know in the comments below!