Looking to head out and take in some of the sights and attractions that make this region famous? Snowmass offers a convenient home base to explore everything from exquisite mountain vistas on the Continental Divide to historic ghost towns tucked up high into the mountains. Just ten miles from Aspen, Snowmass is centrally located for exploring the entire Roaring Fork Valley. Each historic town along this scenic corridor has a unique flavor and plenty of sights to explore in its own right, from hot springs to historic downtowns.
Renowned as one of the most photographed places in America, the Maroon Bells is a sight-seeing must-do when visiting Snowmass. Located about 16 miles from Snowmass up Maroon Creek Road, the Bells have limited access by car between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Buses ($8 adult, $6 youth/senior, Under 5 free) run every 20 minutes from Aspen Highlands up to Maroon Lake, where visitors can snap photos of the famous mountain-lake reflection, check out an interpretive center, stroll around the lake, or set out on a longer hike up to places like Crater Lake. Visitors looking for more information on accessing the Bells can get more information here.
The Maroon Bells Guided Bus Tours started in 1977 after it was recognized that the beautiful roadside wildflowers were dying and that the overhanging Aspen trees were being choked to death. It was then that the problems of automobile air pollution, inconsiderate drivers, and very fragile high altitude mountain terrain had to be addressed. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority worked with the National Forest Service to prevent the complete closure of the road to the Maroon Bells. To this end a bus service was initiated during the peak hours and months. The road was closed to private cars from 7:30am to 5pm with the exception of handicap vehicles and those with 12 passengers or more. Since the buses have been in use the trees and flowers have substantially recovered from the damage the heavy car traffic had created and the valley is therefore still available for recreational use. We thank you for your cooperation.
The Maroon Bells Bus service is a guided tour that runs every day starting June 11 through Labor Day and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the fall. All buses depart from Aspen Highlands Ski Area. There is plenty of parking at Aspen Highlands (click here for pricing) or you can take the free Castle Maroon Bus from Rubey Park to reach Aspen Highlands. Your driver/tour guide will point out areas of interest and geographical features, describe the wildlife, and tell you some of the area’s history on your way to the Maroon Bells. When you arrive at Maroon Lake at the base of the Bells you may depart the bus and return on any later bus, affording you the opportunity to hike, take a ACES guided nature tour from 10:15am to 1:15pm, picnic (there are no food vendors at the Maroon Bells), take pictures or have a moment of solitude. One should be sure to bring a jacket (afternoon thunder showers are common), walking or hiking shoes and of course a camera.
Scenic Gondola Rides
Aspen Snowmass offers not one but two scenic gondola rides up to spectacular mountaintop destinations with activities for the whole family, places to grab a snack, and breathtaking panoramic vistas of the Elk Mountains. In Aspen, the Silver Queen Gondola whisks riders up to 11,200 feet, while in Snowmass a gondola and then a chairlift ride top out at 11,325 feet with a different stunning perspective on the surrounding mountains. On-mountain activities in both locations range from biking and hiking trails to disc golf, paintball, a Eurobungy, climbing walls, restaurants, and more.
Part of the Top of the Rockies Colorado Scenic Byway, this summer drive up to the Continental Divide is well worth the slightly harrowing, windy, and in some parts narrow road. Follow signs for Hwy 82 through Aspen and you’ll pass several great pull-outs along the way, including The Grottos Ice Caves, the Devil’s Punch Bowl, and Independence Ghost Town before you climb above treeline to what feels like the top of the world. Continue on down the other side, and you’ll hit picturesque Twin Lakes and the historic town of Leadville.
Ashcroft Ghost Town
Approximately 15 miles from Snowmass is Ashcroft Ghost Town. From Snowmass, head towards Aspen on Hwy 82 and at the roundabout, take Castle Creek Road. This winding, scenic road will lead you directly to Ashcroft, where you can stop and take the interpretive self-guided walking tour. Continue following the road, and you’ll end up at the Pine Creek Cookhouse, an excellent restaurant stop for lunch.
From its renowned shopping and dining scene to a gondola ride up to the top of Aspen Mountain, to its famous Saturday farmer’s market and cultural activities like history and art museums, Aspen is a renowned Colorado hub that’s well worth the visit.
Hot Air Ballooning
If you’d like to check out the sights from a rarefied view, hot air ballooning is the thrilling way to go. Early morning sunrise rides at Snowmass take visitors up nearly 2,500-feet over the Snowmass landscape to expansive views of Mount Daly, Capital Peak, and the surrounding Elk Mountains, plus the chance to see wildlife like never before.
Located approximately 16 miles down Hwy 82 from Snowmass, historic downtown Basalt offers a quaint main street with local shops and restaurants. With a Sunday farmer’s market, the town also serves as a gateway to a vast network of outdoor recreation opportunities including fly fishing, boating, and hiking up the Frying Pan River to Ruedi Reservoir, and beyond.
Twenty-seven miles from Snowmass is Carbondale, a rising star in its own right. From its funky local arts flavor to its charming historic downtown with its world-class dining scene, Carbondale is also a great jumping off point for outdoor recreation. Don’t miss each month’s First Friday celebration when the whole town turns out for evening festivities and gallery openings.
Located approximately an hour from Snowmass on Hwy 82, Glenwood Springs is home to a vast array of activities, such as the largest man-made hot springs in the world, natural cave tours and an adventure park, and a historic downtown district.