I shared with you on Instagram that I visited Colorado last week, and it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. It was the perfect time of the year to visit as the fall foliage was in its prime, and the weather was so enjoyable. A lot of you were interested in seeing my full itinerary, so I hope that this is helpful for your trip to Aspen! As a quick note, I was there for 3 nights. Also, while I was doing research on things to do, I came across A Charming Escape's guide, which I am so thankful for! This was pretty much what I followed throughout the trip.
Outfits I Wore
Day 1 // Travel Day & Denver
+ Fly into Denver International Airport: this is much more affordable that flying directly into Aspen, and it also gives you a chance to explore the city if you've never been before.
+ Pick up rental car and check into hotel: there are shuttles at the airport that can give you a ride to the rental facilities (for free). We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Downtown, which was super close to 16th Street Mall. This was great because there were a few toiletries I forgot to pack that I was able to pick up there. I also recommend buying a gallon of water for you to have throughout the trip. We also stopped for dinner while we walked around, and called it a night by 9PM to have an early start the next day.
Day 2 // Road trip to Aspen
+ Breakfast: Our hotel offered breakfast starting at 6:30AM, so set your alarms and try to be the first ones down to get a head start.
+ Hit the road: On your way to Aspen from Denver, make sure you take Independence Pass! It is the longer way, and took us about 4.5 hours, but it is so worth it. You get the most beautiful views and pass through the cutest towns along the way. I'll get into this a little bit more later.
+ Train Ride in Georgetown: This had been on my bucket list for years, and to say I was not disappointed is an understatement. Georgetown is along HWY 70 on the way to Independence Pass, so the great thing is you don't have to detour or waste any additional time. We purchased tickets online in advance for their earliest time slot, which was great because it was pretty quiet and it gave us time to explore the town afterwards. You will get the most magical views of the fall foliage, and I honestly felt so giddy the entire train ride.
+ Georgetown Lake and Lunch: Stop by the town before you head out and grab some lunch to get fueled for the rest of the road trip. A quick note, a lot of shops and restaurants were closed Mondays and Tuesdays, so we missed out on a few. We ended up at A&K's Place, which had quite a few options. On your way down to get back on the road, don't forget to stop by Georgetown Lake. You can park and stroll along the lake to get breathtaking views.
+ Independence Pass: The trip into Aspen was one of the most memorable parts of the trip. Like I mentioned earlier, you get the most amazing views, and there are several designated spots and parking lots that you can stop at along the way to safely get off and snap a few pictures. A few worth stopping at are Continental Divide on Loveland Pass, Twin Lakes near Leadville, and a few more that we missed but stopped at on the way back into Denver, which I will talk about later.
+ Arrive in Aspen: We arrived into town at around 5:30, so it was the perfect timing to drive around and soak in the views as the sun set. Snowmass is about 10 miles out of Aspen, and has a little more affordable lodging, so we decided to stay there. We stayed at The Stonebridge Inn, which had free parking, and very spacious rooms. We looked up restaurants in the area with good reviews, and to our surprise Artisan Bistro had some of the best ratings, and was right in our hotel. The food was great and I was so thankful that we were able to head right back to our room after dinner after a long day.
Day 3 // Maroon Bells
+ Breakfast: If you want a quick and quiet breakfast with great views, head to Poppycock's Cafe inside of Aspen Square Condominium Hotel.
+ Maroon Bells: If you want to drive to the Maroon Bells yourself, you must have a parking permit, which are very limited and sell out way out in advance. I recommend taking the shuttle instead, which you can catch at Aspen Highlands Village. Purchase your tickets in advance, and you can catch the same shuttle back every 15 minutes up until 5pm, so plan accordingly. This was one of my favorite places in Aspen. The views were once again breathtaking, and it exceeded my expectations. I will admit I was a little unprepared and did not pack any water, food, and wore my brand new white sneakers, which were ruined by the end of it. If you came from stories, you know what I'm talking about lol we ended up *mistakenly* hiking the longer trail that lead to Crater Lake (about 3.5 miles roundtrip),but the views were stunning and so worth the hike! It's a great spot to have a picnic and soak in the views. If you are short on time or want to do an easier hike, you can do the Scenic Loop, which is about 1.9 miles.
+ Lunch: Once you've taken the shuttle back to Aspen Highlands Village, you have lot of options for lunch or dinner. I was so sad because it was on my bucket list to ride the gondola, but it was unfortunately closed for the season. We did stop by Willow Creek Bistro. They had fire pits outside, and we were able to make s'mores with a great view. Don't forget to stop by next door to grab a chocolate croissant for later (so good!)
+ Drive around town for sunset: take a break from the day by driving around town and stop by your favorite spots to snap pictures. We didn't have anything else planned for the day, so we just took our time to explore and got a nap in before venturing out for dinner.
+ Dinner: One thing to note if you will be visiting in October is that a lot of places and restaurants are closed from the end of September until November for the winter season. We had a hard time finding a restaurant that was open in Snowmass, but we did find a chill spot called Thai Grub for some fried rice and pad Thai.
Day 4 // Head back to Denver
+ Breakfast: we had an early start to make the most of our last day, and stopped for breakfast at the Bear Den in Aspen. As expected, the food in town was pricier, but this place was so good! They also had great chocolate croissants, and their vanilla latte was great as well. After breakfast, we walked around the shops and got in a few last minutes before making our way back.
+ North Star Nature Preserve: Since there were a couple of spot we didn't get to stop at on our way into Aspen, we decided to take Independence Pass back to the airport. One of the first stops was North Start Nature Preserve where you can take awesome photos. If you aren't as pressed on time, there are plenty of trails you can walk, or even kayak in the rivers along the preserve.
+ Devil's Punchbowl: This was another favorite spot! It is right along the road before Grotto's trail and was a hidden gem of a view. Make sure to stop here for pictures.
+ Grotto's Trail: Only 2 minutes from Devil's Punchbowl is Grotto's Trail. The trail is super short (about a 0.6 mile loop) and you get to see an amazing view of the waterfalls.
+ Leadville: Stop by Leadville right at the trail head of Twin Lakes for another great photo op, and to grab a few souvenirs and snacks for the road.
+ Arrive at airport and head home: Give yourself plenty of time, more than you normally would. The lines at security were insane, and apparently have been in the last few months, so don't forget to give yourself lots of time to have all of your bags checked, use the restroom, grab snacks, or take care of any last minute things before boarding your plane.
That concludes the in-depth itinerary for Aspen, Colorado! I hope this is helpful for your visit to Aspen! Let me know which spot you're most excited about visiting.