When you think of Aspen, Colorado, you may think of ritzy 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 basecamp 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’s tons of things to do in Aspen in summer, and below we share our favorites!
Learn the best things to do in Aspen in summer including hiking, biking, camping & lodging, and restaurant recommendations.
Important Reminder: As it goes in all of the destinations we share, please practice good trail etiquette and remember to Leave No Trace. This means packing out all of your garbage (including toilet paper), being respectful to others on busy trails, and following the established rules.
Aspen Summer Hiking
Aspen is nestled in the Roaring Fork Valley which offers a system of trails for every hiker from beginner to experienced. With fields of wildflowers, mountain vistas, 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 the 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 like (or you can keep going, descend the other side of the pass, and walk all the way to Crested Butte!). The views are unbeatable the whole way!
You’ll have to drive a few miles down valley to get to the trailhead, but 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 summit of Triangle Peak, and from there you have a view of the entire Roaring Fork Valley, the whole Elk Mountain Range, and almost all of Aspen-Snowmass’s four ski areas.
You can follow the Ute Trail all the way to the top of Aspen Mountain. While it’s steep at first, it’s much less busy than the popular road up the face of the ski hill. If you’re totally exhausted when you get to the top, you can take the gondola back down to town.
Aspen Summer Biking
Aspen has biking options for everybody. From lung-busting road rides to rollercoaster single track, and even family cruiser rides – it’s all there and one of the best things to do in Aspen in the summer!
A couple of Aspen road bike classics are Independence Pass, a lung-busting climb to 12,065 feet above sea level, and Maroon Creek Road, a comparatively flat (but in reality, steady uphill) ride to the iconic Maroon Bells.
If you’ve got kids, or don’t fancy riding with traffic, cruise down the valley on the Rio Grande Trail, a former railroad track turned multi-use pathway that stretches 40-plus miles all the way to Glenwood Springs along the Roaring Fork River. A mid-morning ride to Woody Creek Tavern for lunch is tough to beat; it’s about 10 miles from Aspen, just long enough to earn that burger and brew.
Head up the face of Aspen Mountain on the forest service road and enjoy single-track on the way down, or take one of the trails across town, above the old Smuggler Mine. Feel like getting out of town a bit more? Nearby Snowmass Mountain has more singletrack, downhill, and enduro riding than your legs could ever handle. For a dynamite single-track shuttle, take the free bus from Aspen to Snowmass Village, then combine the Rim Trail, just west of Snowmass Village with the brand new single track of Sky Mountain Park, cutting back to Aspen on the hillsides above Aspen airport.
Aspen Summer Fishing
There may be no better place on earth for fly fishing. The Roaring Fork River, a gold-medal fishing river, flows right through town. Fifteen minutes down the valley, it’s joined by the Fryingpan River, another gold-medal river. Fifteen minutes past 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’re not venturing onto private property and pick up a Colorado fishing license! You can snag one online, from City Market in the center of town, or in the fly shops in Aspen, Basalt, or Carbondale.
Best Aspen Restaurants
Aspen is a foodie town with tons of gourmet options. If you’re looking for a more casual spot to grab a go-to meal or a bite after a long day on the trails, here are some of our recommendations:
- Zane’s Tavern: A sports bar that’s popular with locals, especially when the Denver Broncos are playing. The food is typical pub grub, but it’s solid and inexpensive. And you can’t go wrong with anything fried, right?
- Big Wrap: This is a cash-only casual joint that serves tacos, wraps, sandwiches, and more.
- Jour de Fete: the French name might sound fancy, but this is a no-frills deli with great sandwiches and salads.
- Bangkok Happy Bowl: Yummy Thai food that you can eat in or take out.
- Woody Creek Tavern: This is the famed hangout spot of the late Hunter S. Thompson. About a 20-minute walk out of town (or 10 minutes by bike), they serve comfort bar food and have an eclectic atmosphere.
Other Things To Do In Aspen in Summer
Have more time to fill 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 of frisbee golf. There is a disc golf course right at the top of the ski area. Discs are available at Four Mountain Sports to rent or feel free to bring your own. If you are in Snowmass, there is a course on the mountain there as well.
- Tube or paddleboard 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 Grottos. These snowmelt-fed pools and waterfalls east of town look like a scene from an enchanted fairy tale, but the water temperature feels more like a wintry nightmare. If you decide to jump in, be prepared for the icy water to take your breath away—literally.
- Catch some music: The Aspen Music Festival takes place every summer, all summer, and students can be found giving free performances on street corners around town. Also, check out the live music calendar at the Belly Up.
Aspen Camping & Lodging Options
Aspen is a popular summer destination – be sure to book your camping or lodging in advance! Here are a few tips for campgrounds and hotels:
- Camping is limited in and around Aspen; the closest campsite is Difficult Campground eight miles outside of town toward Independence Pass. You can also camp near the iconic Maroon Bells at Silver Queen Campground. Both of these fill up quickly, so make reservations in advance if possible.
- Aspen budget hotels: Mountain Chalet, Tyrolean Lodge, and Annabelle Inn all have great locations without the price tag of their luxurious neighbors.
- If you want to step it up a little, the Limelight Hotel, Hotel Aspen, and The Gant are all great places to stay during the summer in Aspen.
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Have you ever visited Aspen? Are we missing any of the best things to do in Aspen in summer? Let us know in the comments below!