During the time of year when the snow starts to melt and the columbine begins to bloom, you’ll experience fewer crowds and a variety of outdoor activities that are more warm-weather friendly.
Aspen’s off-season (anytime it’s not ski season) is the prime time to plan a Colorado vacation, especially if you’re an outdoor enthusiast or photographer. If you’re trying to make a choice between Colorado’s quiet mountain towns, Aspen may have the most to offer. From sheer convenience to quality of experience to variety of activities on the menu,
Here are our 10 favorite Aspen Snowmass off-season activities:
1 — Downhill Road Cycling
Rio Grande Trail
Try a day trip via bicycle down the well-maintained Rio Grande Trail towards Glenwood Springs. Whether you rent a road bike or an e-bike from the bike shops in Aspen, you’ll never forget this 42-mile journey, during which you’ll descend 2,641 feet in elevation. Grab some lunch next to the Colorado River in Glenwood, then enjoy a relaxing soak in the Glenwood Hot Springs (the largest mineral pool in the world) before you return. Take one of the RFTA buses back to Aspen, or cruise your e-bike back the way you came.
Bike from the Maroon Bells
Experience an epic downhill ride from "the most photographed peaks in North America.” Cruise down the 12-mile paved road (closed to public vehicles during the day) from Maroon Lake back to Aspen, while keeping your eyes out (and camera ready) for moose and black bear. Rent a road bike or an e-bike from Four Mountain Sports, then either take a shuttle to the Maroon Bells parking lot, or plan your uphill pedal for early morning to avoid the heat. You can also set up a guided Maroon Bells bike tour through local adventure company Blazing Adventures.
2 — World-Class Mountain Biking
Whether you’re a singletrack expert or a mountain biking newbie, you’ll have access to incredible mountain biking terrain at Aspen Snowmass. Aspen’s Roaring Fork Valley has been designated an IMBA Gold-Level Ride Center. The valley is one of only 7 Gold-Level MTB centers in the world, and the only Gold-Level Ride Center in the state of Colorado. Hire a guide or sign up for lessons at Snowmass Bike Park before taking off on your own to explore miles upon miles of gorgeous terrain (over 25 miles of trails traveling almost 3000 vertical feet at Snowmass alone).
3 — Paddleboarding (SUP)
Standup Paddle Boarding (SUP) is an accessible way to enjoy the high-alpine lakes and cool, clear streams of the Rocky Mountains. If you haven’t brought an inflatable SUP (iSUP) along on your off-season Aspen vacation, you can always rent one from a number of local paddleboarding guides and vendors.
SUP at North Star Nature Preserve
A mile east of Aspen at North Star Nature Preserve, you’ll find a slow-moving stretch of the Roaring Fork River where you can paddle through wetlands and grasslands at the foot of Aspen Mountain. Launch your paddleboard from the Wildwood School, just out of town on Highway 82 enroute to Independence Pass.
SUP at Twin Lakes
For standup paddle boarding with majestic views of Colorado’s highest peak (Mount Elbert), drive over Independence Pass to Twin Lakes, Colorado (about an hour from downtown Aspen). As the town’s name suggests, there are two scenic alpine lakes which are connected by a small water bridge which seems to flow upstream. Explore the Interlaken ghost resort, or just paddle to the far shore for some peace and quiet, far from the highway and busy campgrounds.=
SUP at Ruedi Reservoir
You’ll find Ruedi Reservoir upstream from Basalt by driving through downtown and following Fryingpan Road for about 16 miles. Drive about a mile past the dam, turn right into the campgrounds, then park and start paddling from the boat ramp or the nearby shoreline. You can paddle along the pine-forested shoreline, or enjoy the 997 acres of open water (where you’ll occasionally encounter waves from motorboats).
SUP at Beaver Lake in Marble
While it’s located just a few miles from Aspen Snowmass as the crow flies, getting to Beaver Lake by car will take an hour or two. That said, the serene environment and still water of Beaver Lake is a highlight of visiting Marble, Colorado. You’ll enjoy the mountain views, the local barbecue, and even some local history — the Yule Marble quarry provided marble for the Lincoln Memorial, as well as other important buildings and monuments.
4 — Off-Road Adventures
Little Nell Adventure Tours
Located at the top of the pool deck stairs near the Silver Queen Gondola, the Little Nell offers daily adventure tours to Aspen Mountain’s 11,212 foot summit, where you can look down on the town and across the wilderness to the Continental Divide. Some tours cross high exposure ridge lines or venture to crystal blue high alpine lakes. All tours, whether 2- or 6-hours, offer snacks or boxed lunches.
Blazing Adventures Jeep Tours
Book one of Blazing Adventures’ rugged off-road Jeep tours and visit wildflower-carpeted meadows with endless, top-of-the-world views. Choose to explore Aspen Mountain, the Lenado backcountry, or Taylor Pass, and come away with a wealth of local history and nature knowledge. You may even spot local wildlife on your tour — look for marmot, elk, deer, bear, foxes and other mountain wildlife.
5 — Whitewater Rafting
For a whitewater adventure that’s both safe and satisfying, book a guided tour from one of Aspen’s local outfitters.
Blazing Adventures offers a number of whitewater options on three nearby rivers: The Roaring Fork River (which runs through Aspen and downvalley), the Colorado River (flowing through rocky Glenwood Canyon), and the Arkansas River (requiring a breathtaking drive over Independence Pass).
Aspen Whitewater Rafting
Aspen Whitewater Rafting is owned and operated by a local certified rafting guide, who’s chosen a team to create personalized scenic whitewater adventures through the beautiful Elk Mountain range.
Elk Mountain Whitewater
Since 2012, Elk Mountain Whitewater has brought a more boutique, personalized experience to the rafting industry in the Aspen valley. Contact them to book smaller trips with their team of highly trained rafting guides.
6 — Free Outdoor Concerts
If you’re hoping to enjoy the Colorado weather while being entertained, you’ll find plenty of outdoor live music via the Aspen Music Festival and School. Aspen’s Benedict Music Tent offers weekly concerts — either purchase a ticket and sit inside the tent, or relax outside on a picnic blanket for free. During the summer months, the free WE-cycle bikeshare allows you to check out a bike, ride to the Music Tent, and return it when you arrive!
7 — Maroon Bells Hiking & Sightseeing
The Maroon Bells are internationally iconic, so expect crowds while you’re touring. Take the RTFA shuttle from the Aspen Highlands base (just west of downtown Aspen) — make sure to reserve your spot. Once you arrive at the parking lot, hike the trail around Maroon Lake, or trek a couple of miles to Crater Lake. Watch out for bears and moose! For an even bigger adventure, bring your camping gear (and bear box) to hike from the Maroon Bells to Crested Butte. While it’s just a 12-mile hike through the mountains, you’ll need to book a a shuttle for the 3-hour drive back to Aspen once you arrive.
8 — Aspen Art Museum
Take a free tour through the Aspen Art Museum and enjoy unique, continually-rotating exhibits. Ask the guides stationed throughout the museum any questions you have about the exhibitions on display. Check the museum’s website for special events during your off-season vacation. Once you’ve finished admiring the art, have a seat on the outdoor deck of the upstairs café and enjoy a locally-sourced meal with an outstanding, up-close view of Aspen Mountain.
9 — ACES Nature Tours
The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) offers free and ongoing educational nature opportunities. ACES has three main nature centers within the Roaring Fork Valley: Hallam Lake (in downtown Aspen), the Catto Center at Toklat (7 miles west of Aspen on Castle Creek Road), and Rock Bottom Ranch. Hallam Lake offers Nature Preserve tours, birding events, Raptor visits, a Trout Stream and local wildlife viewing. Rock Bottom Ranch focuses on sustainable agriculture, including ranch tours and downvalley events. The Toklat Center hosts a variety of artist and nature talks, and is located across the street from the historic ghost town of Ashcroft for extra fun!
10 — Shop & Dine on the Downtown Pedestrian Mall
Stroll along the brick walkway of downtown Aspen’s pedestrian mall and enjoy the simple quiet of Aspen’s off-season. Businesses, storefronts and restaurants welcome you, even when the snow has long gone; many eateries set up tables with umbrellas for fresh air dining with a view. Enjoy discounted off-season prices at Aspen’s chic boutiques, and maybe spot a celebrity or two on Aspen’s spring streets.
Plan an Off-Season Aspen Vacation
Let us help you plan your off-season Aspen Snowmass vacation. Contact our concierge to explore available Aspen Snowmass rentals, and let our professional vacation rental experts help you choose your perfect home base. We’ll give you insider tips and make your off-season stay as comfortable and memorable as possible.