Aspen, Colorado Summer Travel Guide: What to Do and Where to Stay in the Rocky Mountain Town

An Aspen, Colorado summer is nothing short of spectacular. The skies are a sparkling electric blue (Aspen gets 300 days of sunshine per year), while the temperature hovers at that goldilocks range of high 70s, low 80s. Indian paintbrushes and blue bells dot the meadows, and the air seems to carry a certain fresh sweetness from all that’s in bloom. The Rocky Mountain peaks, unburdened from heavy snow, exude their full majestic glory. There are abundant trails for mountain biking and hiking, and the Roaring Fork River is a paradise for paddleboarders, kayakers, and flyfishers alike. Add in Aspen’s impressive culinary and cultural offerings (the Food and Wine Classic, held in June, attracts thousands of visitors each year), as well as its world-class shopping, and you have a summertime destination well worth the trek.

For those planning — or perhaps still dreaming — of a summer in Aspen, Vogue has compiled a guide of things to do, places to stay, and restaurants to enjoy during the warmer months. Below, our recommendations.

Things to Do

Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado.Photo: Sierralara

Hit the Hiking Trails

Maroon Bells Scenic Trail is probably the most famous hike in Aspen, and for good reason: the trail has a breathtaking view of an alpine lake surrounded by wildflowers, and the dual peaks of Maroon and North Maroon. For those interested in a more challenging hike, tack on the Crater Lake Trail, which, after a scramble through a glacier rock deposit, leads you to the crystalline water’s shores.

Another popular route? The Little Nell Trail, which starts underneath the Aspen Mountain gondola right in town. Hike up and ride down — then enjoy a well-deserved Aperol spritz outdoors on the plaza.

Bike to Woody Creek Tavern

Consider this both an activity and restaurant recommendation: bike the Rio Grande Trail to Woody Creek Tavern, a rustic spot covered in Hunter S. Thompson memorabilia that serves a mean burger and margarita. It’s not a journey for the faint of heart — it’s about seven miles each way if you’re coming from town — but with stunning views of rivers, meadows, and mountains, it’s very much worth the pedaling.

Paddleboard Through Stillwater

As the name implies, the Stillwater section of the Roaring Fork River has a current so gentle it’s essentially a lazy river, which makes it absolutely perfect for a leisurely paddleboard ride. Rent from any of the various sports equipment centers in town, lather up with sunscreen, and float down the crystal clear river where alpine vistas are always just around the bend.

Fly fishing

Ask Wild Willow Outfitters to organize a guided fly-fishing expedition on the Roaring Fork River. They’ll provide everything from equipment, to round-trip transportation to, you know, advice on how to actually catch a trout. For the truly adventurous, they’ll skip the van in favor of an e-bike, which will allow you to reach more fishing spots.

Shopping

Designer boutiques dot the town of Aspen, and while yes, they’re fabulous, make sure to stop by some of the stylish spots that are unique to the location. Stop by Kemo Sabe, Miron Crosby, and Nick Fouquet for upscale Western gear and custom hats, while the Meat and Cheese farm shop is just the place for gourmet goodies. Pitkin Country Dry Goods is a family owned clothing shop, whereas Little Bird is an eclectic vintage and consignment shop.

Resorts, Hotels, and Rentals

Hotel Jerome in the summertime.Photo: Noe DeWitt

Founded in 1899, Hotel Jerome’s interiors evoke its historic role as a rugged mountain respite: the hotel’s living room is adorned with plaid curtains, a candled chandelier, and soft leather couches. Cowhide chairs and wild west-themed artwork adorn the guest rooms. In the summers, the garden becomes a haute hub of social activity, thanks to the hotel’s superb cocktail program.

Thanks to its perennially buzzy après ski scene, the Little Nell is perhaps the most famous hotel in Aspen. Yet even when the slopes are closed, the five-star lodging is still the place to be: its Holly Hunt-designed rooms are well-appointed, and there’s no better place to enjoy an Aperol Spritz than the sundrenched patio at Ajax Tavern on Gondola Plaza. This summer, they’re also hosting al fresco dinners at the riverside Mag Dog Ranch in Old Snowmass, formerly owned by Jimmy Buffett.

Right on the cusp of Aspen Mountain is the luxurious and sprawling St. Regis resort which, in the summer, has the best pool in town. Splurge on a room with a balcony so you can sip iced coffee while taking in the alpine views, and book a spa treatment at their world-renowned wellness center. An added bonus? The fluffy and friendly Bernese Mountain dog named Kitty who wanders the halls of the hotel.

Airbnb Luxe, the high-end arm of the online booking platform, offers several spectacular homes in the Aspen-Snowmass region, whether you want something slopeside or walking distance of downtown. Perfect for families, a group of friends, or those looking to decamp to the mountain region for a longer stay.

Restaurants

Betula in Aspen.Photo: Romeo Balancourt

The deck at Betula, where one can gaze out onto town or Aspen Mountain, is reason enough to make a reservation at this bonafide hotspot. Yet the mountain-meets-French-island cuisine (it’s the sister property to Bonito in St Barths) is certainly a reason to stay: start off with one of their ceviches and then splurge on the bison ribeye steak.

Meat and Cheese does not accept reservations, but do not let a little wait deter you from dining on the patio at this beloved Aspen gem. As the name suggests, the menu focuses on local and sustainable raised meat and cheese, which changes with the seasons. But, as you could probably guess, you can never go wrong with getting the meat and cheese board.

Grab an outdoor table at White Horse, a former miner’s cottage turned eatery, order the French dip sandwich, and people-watch as fellow visitors mill about town.

While Hotel Jerome’s living room is always a classic spot in Aspen, during the summer their sprawling outdoor garden is the perfect place for cocktails made with ingredients from their home-grown herbs and flowers. With wicker tables, white umbrellas, tealights, and abundant sunshine on a blue sky day, you’ll likely stay awhile.

For healthier – yet still delicious — fare, head to Spring Café for lunch. It’s a bright and airy space that specializes in comfort vegan food and organic juices. We’re particular fans of their tempeh reuben, housemade lemonade, and any salad on the menu.

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