Aspen: Pursue Your Summertime Bliss in Maroon Bells Country
By Chris Duthie
Aspen is known worldwide as a wintertime paradise for skiers, snowboarders and backcountry enthusiasts. Yet in summer, those same high-altitude panoramas reveal scrapbook-worthy playgrounds for golf, hiking, cycling, zip-lining, horseback riding, four-wheeling, camping, fishing and boating, plus other incentives like festivals, dining, shopping and cultural attractions.
Here, the sky is the limit for adventure. If you hope your weekend or weeklong getaway will tempt, delight and be forever remembered, consider the following six suggestions that await:
1) Believe it or not, Aspen’s sun-splashed summers are more popular than its Gucci-cool winters. Adding to its favored status are great public golf courses like the Frank Hummel-designed Aspen Golf Club, Ironbridge Golf Club (Arthur Hills/Tom Lehman), River Valley Ranch (Jay Morrish), Glenwood Springs Golf Club (Henry Hughes) and Lakota Canyon Ranch (Jim Engh). Stay-and-play tip: Snowmass Club (Engh) is strictly private, however limited rounds are made available to overnight guests of the Viceroy Snowmass, Ritz-Carlton Aspen Highlands and the Westin Snowmass Resort.
2) Gaining access to a members-only golf club can be tricky but not impossible. Sometimes a tee time is as simple as phoning a well-connected friend, writing a well-penned letter to the club’s pro, or coordinating a site visit with the intention of purchasing real estate or a membership. For a mind-blowing golf experience, get invited to play super-exclusive Aspen Glen (Jack Nicklaus/Jack Nicklaus Jr.), Maroon Creek (Tom Fazio) or Roaring Fork Club (Jack Nicklaus).
3) For non-golfers there is recreation aplenty. Satiate your two-wheel bliss on the thrilling Rio Grande Trail, a 20-mile paved and unpaved pathway to Emma; canoe or paddleboard Ruedi Reservoir and cast a line for an elusive rainbow trout; horseback ride or hike the 6.4 mile Capitol Creek Trail, a breathtaking ascent into the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness that climaxes at Capitol Lake; and at the Snowmass Bike Park, adrenaline rushes come fast and furious on the 3,000-foot descent from Elk Camp Chairlift to the base of Snowmass Village.
4) Defeat summer’s warm temperatures by making your way to the North Star Nature Preserve for canoeing, rafting and SUPing. For some of the best fly-fishing in the state, take full advantage of the serene and majestic surrounds along the meandering Roaring Fork River. And for even more eye-candy scenics, drive Highway 133 from Delta to Carbondale, a three-hour tour that underscores the grandeur of the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway.
5) Double your Aspen memories by pairing your trip with an upcoming event. Eclectic happenings include: Bluegrass Sundays (June through September); the Aspen Music Festival (June through August); Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (July through August); Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (July 20-21); Power of Four Race Series (July 28-29); Rotary Club of Aspen’s 27th Annual Ducky Derby (Aug. 11); and the Third Annual Aspen BBQ Cook-Off (Aug. 16).
6) Though relatively compact, downtown Aspen features more than 200 shops ranging from consignment to haute designer selections. Spend an afternoon strolling the pedestrian malls and browsing vintage apparel, fashion trends, accessories, art, home goods and unique gifts. Saturday Market (through early October) is another popular pastime that showcases locally grown produce and artisans. And don’t miss the free-admission Aspen Art Museum, which is featuring summer-long exhibitions by Sarah Cain, Klaatu Barrada Niktu and Cheryl Donegan.
Aspen is located 160 miles southwest of Denver, much of it via I-70. For more details about the area, go online to AspenChamber.org.
Chris Duthie is a Durango-based contributor to Colorado AvidGolfer. Colorado AvidGolfer is the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it, publishing eight issues annually and proudly delivering daily content via coloradoavidgolfer.com.