Independence Pass is a scenic route that offers the shortest distance between Denver and Aspen, and it takes you to an elevation of 12,095. In fact, Independence Pass is the highest paved mountain pass in Colorado and one of the most scenic. But Independence Pass is not for the faint of heart. The road starts out nice and wide at lower elevations, but becomes very narrow at some higher points along the way. You pass by some frightening drops without the security of guard rails. The pass is closed during winter.
Today, downtown Aspen is a picturesque 16-block area filled with charming old buildings, cobblestone streets, and sunny, tree-lined sidewalks. The heart of the town is small and walkable, with lots of unique restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, museums, and even consignment shops. I loved finding comfortable spots to sit down on a bench in the sun or under the shade of a small tree to enjoy a latte or ice cream cone and take in the sights and sounds around me.
I believe there actually may be more entertaining things to do in Aspen during the summer months than at any other time of year. The weather is amazing, with temperatures in the high 70s, seemingly endless blue skies, comfortable breezes, and virtually no humidity. You may experience a random rain shower here or there, but they never seem to last more than a few minutes… just long enough to create some exquisite rainbows.
Visitors looking for outdoor physical activities while in Aspen during the summer can go walking, hiking, road or mountain biking, horseback riding, birdwatching, fishing, rock climbing, rafting, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, ballooning, paragliding, and more. People with physical limitations can also enjoy Aspen’s fresh air and beauty by taking scenic drives with the windows down, riding a mountain gondola, enjoying a picnic lunch, relaxing in a hot spring, or making the most of a host of other opportunities to commune with nature. There are also wheelchair accessible hiking trails in and around Aspen.
Aspen's art and cultural offerings are remarkable. Truthfully, there is something for everyone. I visited more art galleries and museums within the town itself than I could ever have expected. I was very impressed by the high caliber of live musical performances, professional-level plays, lectures, and comedy shows to be enjoyed in Aspen, especially at Theatre Aspen and the recently renovated, historic Wheeler Opera House.
The following are just a few of the things you may enjoy doing and/or seeing during a summertime visit to Aspen.
The Silver Queen Gondola takes you from downtown Aspen to the top of Aspen Mountain in about 20 minutes while you check out the scenery from above the trees. The mountain top offers stunning panoramic views, but also a restaurant, trampoline, climbing walls, and plenty of hiking trails.
The Aspen Food & Wine Classic is a three-day weekend event featuring cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, and discussions. Some of the world’s greatest chefs and winemakers take part in the festivities.
The Aspen Music Festival is a two-month long festival that offers a variety of musical events and an impressive roster of guest musicians and talented students from around the world. You can purchase tickets and sit inside a huge tent or sit on the lawn outside the tent and enjoy the music for free.
The Maroon Bells are bell shaped mountain peaks that get their name because of their maroonish color when not covered with snow. Even if you have never been to Colorado, you may recognize the Maroon Bells because the site is one of the most photographed spots in the United States. Parking is restricted in the immediate area, but a free shuttle makes frequent trips from Aspen Highlands. There is convenient handicapped parking available nearby the site itself without using the shuttle.
* Just one "seasoned" (older) traveler's observations. Not to be considered a review or endorsement by Seasoned Times.
Aspen Colorado has a reputation as one of the most popular ski locations for celebrities and the mega rich. Although the reputation does hold true, this “seasoned” traveler discovered recently that Aspen can be enjoyed whether or not you are famous or whether or not you have a lot of money… and even whether or not you go there to ski.
I visited Aspen during the summer when only the very tippity top of the mountains were covered in white, and it turned out to be a pretty fantastic vacation. Rich or not so much… avid skier or not at all… you may want to put Aspen in the mix when planning your next summer vacation, especially if you enjoy the outdoors and beautiful scenery.
Aspen didn’t start out as one of the world’s most flourishing tourist spots. It began as a silver-mining town back in the 1800s. The town produced an impressive amount of silver until President Grover Cleveland repealed the Silver Sherman Purchase Act in 1893.
Subsequently, Aspen rather quickly became the poster child for the term “ghost town.” That all changed, however, shortly after World War II when a wealthy industrialist named Walter Paepcke arrived in Aspen and saw the tremendous potential it held. He founded the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Skiing Company and turned what was once a collection of mining camps into the international travel destination it has blossomed into today.