The off-season (meaning, basically, anytime it’s not ski season) in Aspen Snowmass can be a prime time to plan a Colorado vacation, especially if you’re an outdoor enthusiast. It’s the same in many Colorado mountain towns, really, but Aspen in particular has a lot to offer year-round. During the time of year when the snow starts to melt and the columbine begin to bloom, you’ll experience fewer crowds and a variety of outdoor activities that are more warm-weather friendly.
Here are 10 of our favorite off-season activities in the valley:
Rio Grande Trail
Try walking or taking a bike ride (there are a number of bike rental shops downtown) down the Rio Grande Trail. The well-maintained Rio Grande Trail is a popular route for cyclists of all levels (although if you’re looking for mountain biking, you’ll want something a little less paved). On the Rio Grande, you can bike as little or as much as you like. If you’re feeling ambitions, you can even ride the entire 42 miles to Glenwood Springs (and since you’ll be losing elevation, the ride will be mostly downhill)! If you do decide to tackle the trip all the way to Glenwood, take your swimming suit and enjoy a relaxing soak in the Glenwood Hot Springs (the largest mineral pool in the world, and the hottest in Colorado) before you return.
Aspen Art Museum
Stroll through the Aspen Art Museum to enjoy ever-changing exhibits. Admission to the Aspen Art Museum is free, and you’ll find plenty of guides throughout the facility who will answer any questions you have about the art on display. You can also check their website for special events occurring during your Aspen stay. When you’re done admiring the art, you can sit upstairs on the outdoor café deck for a locally-sourced lunch and an outstanding view of Aspen Mountain.
ACES Nature Tours
The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies has three main locations within the Roaring Fork Valley: Hallam Lake (in downtown Aspen), Toklat (7 miles west of Aspen on Castle Creek Road), and Rock Bottom Ranch. Hallam Lake offers tours of the Nature Preserve, Raptor visits, a Trout Stream and local wildlife viewing. Rock Bottom Ranch focuses on sustainable agriculture and also offers ranch tours and events further downvalley. The Toklat Center hosts a variety of talks and is located right across the street from a historic ghost town, for extra fun!
Aspen Recreation Center
The Aspen Recreation Center has two locations: One west of downtown (called the ARC), and a smaller location right downtown (called the Red Brick). The Red Brick mostly offers yoga, gymnastics, and upvalley’s only bouldering gym, and when you’re done getting your sweat on, there’s usually an art show at the Red Brick Center for the Arts next door. At the ARC (west of downtown and around the roundabout), you’ll find an indoor swimming pool with a lazy river and waterslides, as well as rock climbing towers and various fitness classes. The ARC also offers various summer camps for kids, if you’re looking for something to engage the kiddos while you do something more adult-focused.
Ice Age Discovery Center
No matter what season it is, kids (and kids and heart) will love the Ice Age Discovery Center in Snowmass. You’ll take a trip back in time, exploring local fossils under the guidance of real paleontologists. By the way, entrance to the Discovery Center is completely free.
Snowmass Recreation Center
You can also splash the day away at the Snowmass Recreation Center. The rec center boasts a year-round outdoor pool, which is a perfect setting for enjoying views of the surrounding mountains. Aside from the luxurious 17-person hot tub, you’ll find both a lap pool and a leisure pool. The entire family will love the zero-depth entry, water slides, jets and waterfalls. Daily passes are only $15, and punch cards are available for multiple visits.
Free Aspen Music Festival Concerts
If there’s not a film festival happening while you’re in town, and if you’re not feeling like an indoor concert at the Wheeler Opera House, there’s also plenty of outdoor live music. Aspen Music Festival and School offers weekly live concerts at the Benedict Music Tent downtown. You can even bike there — during the summer months, the free WE-cycle bikeshare allows you to check out a bike, ride to your destination, and check it back in right near the tent!
Hiking Smuggler Mountain
Smuggler Mountain is a great, accessible hike in town — especially great for those just getting acclimated to Aspen’s elevation. It’s only three miles round-trip to the overlook and back, which is digestible for athletes of any fitness level (and worth the walk for the view). There’s even a WE-cycle station at the base, so you can bike to the hike, then coast all the way downhill to your hotel when you’re done.
Maroon Bells Sightseeing
The Maroon Bells are iconic, no doubt. To avoid parking hassles near the Bells themselves, take the RTFA shuttle from Aspen Highlands Ski Area, just west of (and around the roundabout from) downtown Aspen. Feel free to hike the trail around the lake, or even up to Crater Lake (But a number of lives have been taken over the recent years, so hiking up the loose rock of the Bells themselves isn’t advised unless you’re a professional). For an overnight hike and even bigger adventure, you can also hike the 12 miles from the Maroon Bells to Crested Butte (and once there, pick up a shuttle for a 3 hour drive back to Aspen). Watch out for bears!
Shopping in Downtown Aspen
Walk around the downtown mall and enjoy the simple quiet of off-season in Aspen Snowmass. Businesses, storefronts and restaurants are staying open to welcome you, even when the snow has long gone, and they’ll be happy to see you! Enjoy discounted sale prices, open stools at the outdoor bars, and maybe a celebrity sighting or two on the peaceful streets of Aspen in the springtime.
Planning Your Off-Season Visit
Plan your off-season visit to Aspen Snowmass by contacting us here at Alpine Property; explore our available Aspen Snowmass rentals and speak with our professional vacation experts to determine your best home base. We’ll give you the insider tips to make your off-season stay in Aspen Snowmass as comfortable and memorable as possible.