Come wintertime, the hills in Aspen are alive with… skiers! The legendary winter wonderland is a virtual paradise for the rich and famous and, of course, the locals who flock here for world-class skiing among the gorgeous snowcapped Colorado views. After all, the centennial state is home to 53 so-called ‘fourteeners’ — which are mountain peaks of at least 14,000 feet. And seven of these are located in the Elk mountain range that surrounds the city.
But winter isn’t the only season that’s super hot in Aspen and nearby Snowmass. Summertime is a major deal here and should definitely be on your bucket list! And here’s the reasons why:
Often called the most photographed spot in Colorado, with Conde Nast even applauding this as the most beautiful spot in the whole state, the Maroon Bells are a must see. Here, among one of the most iconic of Colorado’s fourteeners, you can take in the overwhelming beauty of the Rocky Mountains. Of course, thanks to all the budding photographers of Social Media, you certainly won’t be alone — so you may wish to head there extra early. Like when the sun rises (and you’ll be rewarded with even more stunning photos as an extra bonus).
Still, it’s a stunning vista and a fun hike up, climbing over the many rocks (you’ll certainly see why they’re called the Rocky Mountains). In the summertime, be captivated by endless canopies of green forests, while come fall, the colors will start to change into brilliant jewel tones. We reached the parking lot a few minute before 8am and got one of the last spaces left (I’ve been told they sometimes let more cars in that spaces, d’oh!) Along with the rocky Rocky Mountains, we were left breathless by the beautiful wildflowers that carpeted some of the fields and the mirror-image of the mountain that stretched across Maroon Lake.
CRATER LAKE & MAROON BELLS
There are many trails to enjoy along Maroon Bells, including the picturesque trek to Crater Lake. It’s roughly 3.2 miles and much of it is quite rocky and some hikers may find rather steep, particularly if you are not used to incline hiking.
Know before you go — there is a small parking lot right off the lake that you can park in for a $10 fee (As of 2017). The catch? You have to make it through the gate before 8am or after 5pm. (Because the site is so popular in the summer, this helps keep the crowds at bay.) Otherwise, you have to catch the bus up (or take a nice bike ride or even longer hike).
Also, temperature is a tricky question being so high up in the mountains. Wear layers as you may be colder at the bottom and heat up along your hike (I did).
Do. Not. Go. To. Colorado. Without. Whitewater. Rafting.
Seriously. Whether you’re an extreme adrenaline junkie or like the idea of it just until you’re about to push out into the river. There are five levels of rapids that can accommodate all types of thrill-seekers… or scardy-cats, whichever the case may be.
Summer is the PERFECT time to go rafting and you can either sail leisurely down a creek or literally take your life (and oar) into your hands by trying a Level 5. We went right down the middle with a level 3 when we adventure’d down Grand Fork Rapids. If this is your first time (or second or third), obviously go with a guide. You won’t know how to best maneuver these rapids and they are tricky! Not to mention, if this is your first time here, you won’t know what’s coming up literally around the bend! Plus, guides can be fun and a great way to get to hang out with locals. Ours was pretty quirky!
The guides will suit you up and give you all the safety precautions. I was pretty dang proud of myself for not falling off the raft as that was my big fear. These rapids are pretty shallow and there’s rocks up and down the creek so while people do fall out, it is of course best not to!
I admit I was a bit scared when I first entered the boat. But once we started down the semi-raging waters (we were on level 3, after all) it was a total blast. We got sprayed with water a number of times but our guide kept us from getting into anything too rough as he captained our rafting ship. And along the way, we got to check out folks fly fishing and the stunning views. And we had a great time doing it. And oh yeah, the bragging rights were awesome.
As you can see since I oh-so-cooly left the watermarks on, we went with the Aspen Whitewater Rafting tour but there are numerous others that you can check out and which go to various creeks. Do them all!
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