If You Only Have A Day in Aspen During the Summer

Summer in the Rockies is fleeting, and so if you only have one day in Aspen, make the most of it: ice cream, hiking along the Roaring Fork River on the Santa Fe Trail, stellar mountain views, a walk around historic downtown, a few perfect meals, and boom, you’re done.

320 S Galena St, Aspen, CO 81611, USA
Paradise Bakery has been opened since the 70’s. You might see a franchise in malls around America but this is the original and one of the only ones that serves ice cream. All their treats, muffins, cookies and brownies are scrumptious, especially the cream cheese brownie but I go for the ice cream. Homemade in a variety of flavors, the hardest part is choosing which flavor and whether you should get one scoop or two. Once you decide they top it off with a Chocolate Chip Cookie Munchier. If you ask nicely they will switch it out with a Black Diamond Cookie Munchier. They are also great for a quick bite to eat for breakfast. They have numerous muffin options, croissants and they make great breakfast sandwiches. Top it off with a cup for joe to get your morning started right.
120 Carriage Way, Snowmass Village, CO 81615, USA
Tom Blake Trail is a beginning-to-intermediate trail for hikers and mountain bikers. Located on the lower side of Snowmass’s Burnt Mountain, bikers zip through groves of Aspen trees on a single trail with the sunlight flickering through the leaves. Pick up the trail in either two spots: near Owl Creek or follow the Snowmass Gondola up Assay Hill, and just after the mid-station on the left is an opening in the trees. This is the first mountain bike ride I ever took and it was an unforgettable experience—it’s just hard enough to challenge you but easy enough to gain your confidence as a rider.
43151 CO-82, Aspen, CO 81611, USA
You know summer is here when people are renting Stand Up Paddleboards to float down Stillwater. About 3 miles up Independence Pass there is an area were the river meanders through the North Star Preserve in fairly tame waters. There are many methods to get you down the river, Kayaks, Canoes, Inner tube, but a new favorite is the Stand Up Paddleboard. You can rent them from a few local shops, like Up Snowboard Rentals and when they ask you if you need booties I recommend that your answer is yes. Although in theory you are floating above the water there are times when your feet dip into the very cold, fresh snowmelt water and you can get very chilly. Shuttle the cars and leave one at the take out point then drive up to the drop in near Wildwood. Bring a few beverages for the nice and relaxing float while the river snakes around corners. Near the end there is “the Beach”. This is accessible other ways and you don’t have to float the river but it is always fun to stop and hang out with other river floaters. Play Frisbee or beach badminton and pretend you are on a beach somewhere tropical.
Aspen Mountain, Colorado 81611, USA
In both the summer and winter, if you only have a day you must take a ride up the Silver Queen Gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain. The gondola cabs are all windows allowing for fantastic views as you travel 3,627 feet to the top. Once you get up top, walk to the ledge for incredible views of Castle Creek valley and surrounding mountains. Snap a few photos then get some food at The Sundeck Restaurant. For on-mountain dining the fare of grilled items, pizza, salad, and wok entrees, which you might expect to be like cafeteria food, is surprisingly exquisite. The experience is worth the elevated price you pay for the food to be transported up the mountain. In the summer, on Sundays there is a different Bluegrass band every week, filling the air with music. In the winter on a sunny day the outdoor patio is lined with people in lounge chairs soaking up the sun. Again, this is a must-do experience while visiting Aspen.
Rio Grande Trail
My morning routine in Aspen always starts with a run along the Rio Grande Trail. The trail is easily accessed from downtown and stretches 41 miles between Aspen and Glenwood Springs with an elevation change of 2,120 feet. It used to be an old railroad corridor before it was converted into a mostly paved trail for cyclists in 2008. I start my run in Aspen and run out and back for about six miles. That stretch of the trail takes you past the Aspen Art Museum (which is moving locations in 2014), the John Denver Sanctuary, and stunning homes nestled along the river and up in the mountains. In July and August the wildflowers pop with color and if you leave early enough there’s a good chance you’ll spot deer, chipmunks, and other wildlife.
306 E Main St, Aspen, CO 81611, USA
Carl’s Pharmacy is more than a pharmacy. Opened in 1965 as a drug store, it is an extended version of a mom and pop’s store with a little bit of everything. On the first floor, they have a liquor department, a food department, a cosmetic department, the biggest greeting card selection in town, and of course the pharmacy and all the medical tools and remedies that go along with a pharmacy. The second floor is the fun stuff with souvenirs and costumes for the next upcoming holiday but the best part is the toy and arts and crafts area. For a small store they have a wide selection. They have everything from the modern computerized toys to the old-school wooden toys to the silly putty. I enjoy going up there and looking at all the entertaining knick knacks. On your way up the stairs make sure you get a pin to mark where you are visiting from on the large map.
520 E Cooper Ave, Aspen, CO 81611, USA
Pitkin County Dry Goods is where the locals have been shopping since they opened their doors in 1969. Always up on the latest trends, Pitkin County Dry Goods carries a number of boutique designers to mix a sophisticated look with the casual lifestyle of Aspen living.
2037, 685 E Durant Ave, Aspen, CO 81611, USA
When I worked at Food & Wine Magazine, my colleagues and I would religiously hit Ajax Tavern as soon as we descended upon town for the annual Food & Wine Classic event. The draw: Ajax’s addictive truffle fries. There are times where I dream of that paper cone overflowing with thin-cut fries coated in truffle-spiked Parmesan. Yes, they are that good. On a recent visit to Aspen, the chef of Ajax lamented that people always order the burger and truffle fries so I decided to appease him and try something new. The entire Ajax menu proved just as satisfying as those famous fries. The menu reflects the ingredients of the season and I ordered the ricotta gnocchi with spring pea fricasée, pickled carrots, and preserved lemon. It was the perfect fuel before I biked to Maroon Bells. Ajax’s outdoor patio is the hot summer hangout in Aspen so be sure to call ahead for a reservation or be prepared to wait for one of the coveted umbrella-shaded tables.
221 E Main St, Aspen, CO 81611, USA
Located above Explore Booksellers off of Main Street, Pyramid Bistro is Aspen‘s first restaurant serving sustainable food with integrity. Martin, the head chef and owner, prides himself on preparing the freshest food from raw, nutrition-dense ingredients. This is the optimal place to eat if you are gluten-free or vegetarian. You can’t go wrong with one of their amazing salads, delectable stir fries, or house specials like Indian Spiced Red Lentil “Gallette” or Caraway Dusted Petaluma Duck Breast. Dining in a historical Victorian House only enhances the experience.
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