Aspen in the fall has been on our Colorado bucket list for some time, so when we had a free 2 days we jumped at the chance to explore this mountainous town well known to the rich and famous.
From Colorado Springs to Aspen the drive is approximately 3 hr and 30 minutes (via Independence Pass). We headed west on Highway 24, drove through Buena Vista (lunch and playground break), and stopped at Twin Lakes to take some amazing pictures! We were just at Twin Lakes in July and the difference with the fall colors was spectacular!
Highway 82/Independence Pass starts just outside of the town of Twin Lakes and is a spectacular 32 mile drive. We have experienced Colorado in the fall for over 20+ years, but nothing could quite compare to the colors, scenery, and beauty that was fall on Independence Pass.
Just like driving Mt. Evans and Pikes Peak, there are some steep drop offs, but honestly in my opinion I thought the drive up those 2 fourteeneers was a lot more nail biting than driving Independence Pass.
You know you are getting close to Aspen when the houses start tripling in size!
We had planned our trip to include a one-night hotel stay since Aspen is a little farther than we like to go in one day. This way we didn’t feel rushed driving up and could thoroughly enjoy the scenery and stopped when we wanted to see something or take pictures.
We booked one night at the Aspen Square Hotel. These are condo rentals and it was walking distance to the main shopping area, plus close to the ski lifts (if you ski- we do not!). There was a small kitchenette and a sofa bed, so all 5 of us fit perfectly in the studio condominium. We had a spectacular view from our hotel room!
Eating in Aspen can be very expensive, and I felt a little nervous bringing my kids into any restaurant because I wasn’t sure how used to kids any of the restaurants would be. We only ate 2 meals here (and the rest was food I had packed).
Dinner our first night was at The Red Onion. It is a little bar-ish, but they put us in the back so we were away from the people at the bar. Plus this food here was AMAZING! Their kids meals were actually quite generous in portion size. The kids fit in well here and since it was also Sunday Night Football no one seemed to care if they were being noisy.
Breakfast the following morning was at Main Street Bakery. This was another yummy meal- we had quite the assortment of donuts, pancakes, omelettes, eggs Benedict, and homemade apple juice (and between the 5 of us we ate every single thing!). This is probably one of the best breakfasts that I have ever eaten. The restaurant is also a very casual environment and kids fit right into the atmosphere. We also had the best waitress who let me use her own phone to call Erick (who had left early to go to Maroon Bells) since mine died on the walk over to the bakery.
Maroon Bells is the crown jewel of Colorado. I can see why it is one of the most photographed places in the USA!
Erick first woke up early and went just before sunrise to take pictures with that perfect morning light hitting the mountain. He came back to pick us up and then the 5 of us headed to Maroon Bells.
Maroon Bells is a very popular tourist destination (rightfully so it was truly amazing), so when you are a few miles away from the entrance you have to park and take a shuttle the rest of the way into Maroon Bells. Information on exact location and pricing can be found here.
HOWEVER, if you have a handicapped sticker OR have a child under the age of 2 (us!), you do not have to take the shuttle and can drive straight to the parking lot adjacent to the lake. This saved us a lot of time and I didn’t realize that this was an option until our concierge at the hotel had mentioned it.
Maroon Bells itself has 4 different hiking trails to choose from: Maroon Lake Trail (1 mile round trip), Scenic Loop Trail (1.5 miles round trip), Maroon Creek Trail (3.2 miles 1 way), and Crater Lake Trail (3.6 miles round trip).
We opted for the Scenic Loop Trail since it went past the lake and deeper into the mountains. This trail is very kid-friendly (a lady who recently had a knee replacement passed us!) and carries you along the stream, a small waterfall, and 2 bridges.
There were signs everywhere warning of moose- we did not see any. I think it would have been fun to see at least one (from a distance- of course!).
PEOPLE, PEOPLE, PEOPLE:
We went to Maroon Bells on a Monday after school had started and it was still crazy crowded. I am sure that in the summer it’s jam packed full of people. Erick had went at sunrise and there were approximately 400 other photographers there.
The dates that we went to Aspen to see the fall colors were September 25-26, 2016. This seemed close to peak for the colors, so if you don’t make it this year then in general this time of years seems to be a good time to go to Aspen and Maroon Bells.
Maroon Bells information:
Maroon Bells is apart of the US Forest service: Information on camping, fees, etc., can be found here.
Boys’ ages at time of hiking Maroon Bells: 5, 3, and 1. Trails around the lake are stroller friendly- past the lake they are rocky and bumpy (baby was in the Ergo).