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Celebrities, counterculture icons, and mountain lovers of all stripes have long been drawn to Aspen, one of Colorado’s most popular getaways. This resort town in the Rocky Mountains brings understated sophistication to the alpine slopes. In addition to the nearby ski resorts, famous for their dry and powdery snow, you’ll find downtown Aspen filled with upscale restaurants, galleries, and a notable art museum. This is also the original home of the world-renowned Aspen Institute, founded here in 1949 as a retreat for intellectuals, artists, and business leaders. If culture and skiing aren’t on the day’s agenda, chances are you’re out hiking and biking through the photogenic landscapes.
While you can fly into Aspen Pitkin County Airport (ASE), fewer than four miles from the town center, more major airlines service Denver International Airport (DEN). You’ll find numerous ways to travel from Denver to Aspen. You could book luxurious private shuttles as well as the more cost-efficient Colorado Department of Transportation’s Bustang, a statewide network of intercity buses. But if you plan on taking day trips into the outdoors, you’ll want to go by car. You can easily pick up a rental at the airport or in central Denver. It takes 3.5 hours to cover the 200 miles from downtown Denver to Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. Tip to fairweather drivers: Make sure your car has appropriate tires for the winter journey.
Each season shows off a different side of Aspen, a truly year-round destination. If it’s snow you seek, visit in the winter months, with February and March typically offering the best conditions on the slopes. Daytime highs in the winter months are usually a tad above freezing. Pack warm coats and boots, as the temperatures get colder the higher you climb. Spring gradually brings warmer weather, even though the snow on higher-elevation hiking and biking trails may not entirely melt until May or even June. (In late spring and early summer, wildflowers bloom throughout the region.) Annual festivals take advantage of the mild summer weather, with typical highs in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit. Crowds thin in the fall, when the bright autumn colors reward hikers and photographers.
With snow-dusted mountains defining Aspen’s skyline, you’ll find slopes around town for almost any kind of skier. Four resorts make up the area’s world-class winter sports scene: Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands, and Aspen Mountain. Added together, they offer more than 5,000 acres of snowy terrain.
There are plenty of reasons White River National Forest remains the most visited national forest in the United States: Within its sprawling 2.3 million acres, you’ll find 11 ski areas, more than 2,500 miles of trails, and peaks climbing to 14,000 feet above sea level. Of all the scenic views in the forest, the Maroon Bells — a pair of giant mountains — may be the most photographed.
Fans flock to this meditative park, set along the Roaring Fork River, to pay their tributes to the famous musician. The late “Rocky Mountain High” singer and Colorado poet laureate lived in Aspen for much of his life. In the Song Garden, you’ll find lyrics to many of his hit songs etched on river boulders.