Arrive in Aspen during the fall, as the golden season welcomes you with crisper air and fewer crowds and certainly brings out the town’s most vibrant colors, both outdoors and through locally beloved events and activities. With so much to see and do, we have rounded up key events and experiences you will not want to miss this fall.
DOWN TO EARTH IN ASPEN
With the trees adorned with vibrant fall hues, it isn’t difficult to see why fall is the locals’ favorite season. The area is home to a system of trails for all hiking abilities – making it a true hiker’s paradise. Wander the trails alongside rushing streams, through fields of wildflowers or into a lush, golden forest. For leaf peepers chasing the autumn foliage, we recommend hiking Castle Creek Valley, Hunter Creek Valley or Maroon Creek Valley. Insiders’ tip: September is when leaf-peeping is in its prime.
Hunter Creek Trail is a hop, a skip and a jump from downtown Aspen, making it one of the most easily accessible trails in town. To reach the peak, follow the creek through the meadow and be met with soaring sights above downtown Aspen. The trail easily connects with Smuggler Trail creating a nice 3-mile loop right in Aspen’s backyard. Take the Aspenites hiking, running or mountain biking as a sign that you are in the right place.
Lost Man Trail is divided into upper and lower sections along Independence Pass and ready for exploring. Transcending you through beautiful meadows to the picturesque Lost Man Lake, the entire 9-mile route can be experienced with a car shuttle serving each parking lot. If you are looking for a bigger challenge at higher altitudes, climb to Mt. Sopris, Mt. Daly or Castle and Conundrum Peak, just to name a few. We always recommend hiring a guide when exploring unknown terrain, particularly peaks with an elevation of at least 13,000 feet. For an in-depth database of all area hiking trails, visit the Aspen Trail Finder.
Drive over the Continental Divide at Independence Pass for stunning vistas and hidden gems. Its summit of 12,095 ft. makes it Colorado’s highest paved pass. Stop at the scenic overlook to take in 360-degree views of the Rocky Mountains. Hikers are welcome to explore the many different trails that can be found along the way; a few popular ones are Grottos Trail, Grizzly Lake Trail, and Ruby Ghost Town. The Pass notably serves as the midway point between Aspen and Twin Lakes, Colorado and divides watersheds that drain into the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Your fall trip isn’t complete without a peek at America’s most photographed peaks, the Maroon Bells. You arrive upon a view complimented by magnificent bell-shaped peaks towering 14,000 ft. above the Maroon Valley, surrounded by quaking Aspen pines. The Rocky Mountain beauty is evermore present with thriving natural habitats (insiders’ tip: visit on a weekday and utilize the bus service that departs from Aspen Highlands between 8am-5pm). Enjoy the views on foot with six hiking trails fit for all skill levels. For the more seasoned road cyclist, the Maroon Bells can also be accessed by biking up Maroon Creek Road on the mostly vehicle-free route.
Run 13.1 miles on one of the country’s most scenic races (or watch others) during the Golden Leaf Half Marathon (Sept. 22). The race trails from Snowmass Village to Aspen on mountain trails and roads with elevation gains up to 9,400 feet. The course stays true to its name as the beautiful fall foliage roots you on.
FALL SIGHTS FROM ABOVE
Glide to the top of Aspen Mountain on the Silver Queen Gondola for a bird’s-eye view of Aspen’s stunning fall landscapes, reaching 11,212 ft. in elevation. You can also hike to the top of Ajax, and ride the gondola back down the mountain, free of charge. Bring your pup for a ride! Pet-friendly cars are marked with a paw print. The Silver Queen Gondola runs on weekends through the beginning of October.
Watch dozens of vibrant hot-air balloons float through the sky during the Snowmass Balloon Festival (Sept. 7-9), one of the highest-altitude hot-air-balloon events in the country. Pilots compete in challenges and races over the course of three days, making for opportune photo-ops! If you arrive early, you’ll have the chance to meet the pilots and watch the launch of the balloons. Night owls can catch the glow show at night where the balloons flicker while grounded across Snowmass Village.
Thrill-seekers, set sail off of Aspen Mountain and soar high above fall-colored landscapes with Aspen Paragliding. With the wind in your hair and the trees glowing vibrant hues, the panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains is unmatched. You’re accompanied by professional tandem instructors as you float to the valley floor.
It is no wonder the fall season is the locals favorite time of year for exploration and adventure. The fun and experiences are bountiful, and the views cannot compare. Whether you prefer to hit the trails or soar high in the sky, we hope to cross paths in the mountains soon!