9 Stellar Things to Do in Aspen

wild raspberries cooper creek road aspen colorado Fastest assassination of stereotypes? Travel.

And many times it doesn’t even have to be far from home.

Although I have lived in Colorado for 13 years, I never took much interest in Aspen. I couldn’t reconcile the Gucci and Prada stores or the $22 million estates with my idea of a mountain town.


However, as David had yet to see the Maroon Bells and as the snow is scheduling its arrival soon, we thought it best to get after it.

We went for two nights.

The result?

David, who is consummately non-committal about his favorite of anything – always telling me – “I don’t have favorites. I like different things for different reasons,” told me on the second day we were there, “this is the most beautiful place I have seen in Colorado.”

Why did he/we love it so. 9 Reasons:

1. The Adorable Town (en Route) I Never Knew Existed

twin lakes village colorado visitor center

twin lakes village colorado 2

Were we just the last to know Twin Lakes existed or are you in the dark too?

To get to Aspen we took, I – 70 West to Leadville. When we turned onto Highway 82 West we came across an adorable little town – Twin Lakes Village, Colorado.

After a picnic lunch near the visitor center we visited The Twin Lakes Inn – a hotel recently re-opened.The cheerful folks at the hotel allowed us to poke around, so we could see all of the delightfully decorated rooms.  (According to a the healing nurse we chatted with who works there, each room in the hotel was decorated by individuals in town. Yes, this is the pride the locals take in their place.) The lunch and the dinner in the restaurant is rumored to be as divine as the views from it. If nothing else, stop for a drink and sit on their terrace.

twin lakes village colorado

twin lakes village colorado 3

 

2. Independence Pass

One of Aspen’s entrances (and exits).

independence pass aspen colorado

independence pass aspen colorado 2

independence pass aspen colorado 3

3. Some of the Friendliest People in Colorado

David and I are quite fastidious planners…except when it comes to travel. As an example, we planned a five week trip to Central America like this:

David: “Where should we go?”

Linda: “Flights to Panama are cheap.”

David: “Ok, let’s go there.”

Our conversations deciding we should go to Aspen and La Veta the weekend prior were almost identical.

This lends itself to a lot of spontaneity, and spontaneity typically leads to a lot of fun. HOWEVER, this can all fall on its face when where you chose to go coincides with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and all of planet earth is looking for a campsite in Aspen.

As our Colorado campground book suggested, we tried Weller Campground and Difficult Campgrounds (on Hwy 82 after Independence Pass). Both were full. Difficult Campground did have overflow which would have allowed us to camp in a field with others. We then tried Silver Bell, Silver Bar and Silver Queen which were also full. (If you are going to try these three, ignore the sign on Maroon Creek Road that say you cannot pass and that you must take the bus. This seemingly only applies to people going between certain hours and to people going for just the day. Those looking for a campsite can mosey on through.)

Discouraged and feeling a bit desperate we did the next logical thing – we went to buy wine.

It was over discussing Catalan and Spanish wines with the friendly guy at the store when we he suggested we take Castle Creek Road until it turns to dirt and check out the dispersed campground sites on the non-paved road.

4. Non-conventional 5 Star Camping Sites

camping castle creek aspen colorado

When the paved portion of Castle Creek Road ended we found two things:

1. 5 Star Views

2. All kinds of Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA) presence

A man from MRA was sitting on a nearby hill when we arrived.  He was waiting for a helicopter that was set to rescue a fallen climber. We asked about camping. He told us their were some options up the dirt road, but with the Subaru we might not get more than a mile or so on the road.

We decided to open our wine, pour it into our coffee mugs and decide to watch this helicopter action happen. (Total gawker move, I know.) Between helicopters landing and taking off, we got to know all kinds of things about Mountain Rescue Aspen.

Like, did you know this is 100% volunteer? Volunteer! Like zero coin?! We were also invited to his house on Monday to watch the bike races. (Yet another total stereotype buster and something that has never happened to me in almost a decade and a half of living in CO. Maybe because I never went to Aspen?)

After more helicopter-ism and more of those unpaid MRA life savers showing up on ATVs after hours helping the climber. David and I decided the best place to stay the night was right where we were – the most scenic parking lot on earth.

5. Gorgeous Hikes

After our 19 second conversation which would lead us to Aspen for the weekend I emailed a woman I met while living in Vail that now lived there. She mentioned Cathedral Lake and/or the American Lake trails. (She mentioned the American Lake Trail involved a lot of huffing and puffing, but that it was well worth it.) We also read about the Conundrum Hot Springs which seemed to involve lots of effort as well, but sounded well worth the challenge.

However, as we were camping in the most gorgeous parking lot on earth we walked along the nearby closed Forest Service Road, Cooper Creek, to find some stunning views, an almost completely unoccupied trail and wild raspberries!

hiking cooper creek aspen colorado

david wild raspberry collecting on cooper creek road near aspen colorado

wild raspberries cooper creek road aspen colorado

7. Maroon Bells

How these are not a National Park is completely beyond comprehension. An absolute most see if you are in Aspen or arguably even Colorado.

maroon bells in the summer aspen colorado

8. New York Pizza Company

After a few days of camping food comes pizza time. New York Pizza Company, as suggested by a guy we asked on the street,  is a no-nonsense downtown Apsen place that dishes up some damn good pizza.

9. Silver Bell Campground

The morning of the second day we arrived early to see if there were any campsites off Maroon Creek Road, as the ranger the prior night suggested, and alas – there were! A great campsite without perhaps the views of our parking lot campground but with bathrooms, a nice creek and good camping facilities.

To note, apparently the area has some rather bold porcupines that entertain themselves via eating the electrical wiring and tubing of cars and RVs. In the middle of the night we awoke to a very peculiar sound coming from underneath the car. It took a few times of David opening and slamming the door for the noise (porcupine?) to permanently cease.

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2 thoughts on “9 Stellar Things to Do in Aspen

  1. Cant wait to check out Aspen in the off season. I never consider heading there without snow being there. I want a bag of raspberries like that!

    • Sometimes I like places in the off season the best. They are still as beautiful just less crowds and less expensive, but of course the snow always calls. Good to live in a place where we have such predicaments. 🙂

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