Travel Guide: Aspen, Colorado

Aspen has always been on my radar but growing up in Texas we always went to Colorado in the winter to ski. My first ski experience was at 8 years old in Breckenridge, then Purgatory, Telluride, Vail and Beaver Creek but Aspen was never on our hit list. We were a ski in the winter, beach in the summer kind of family and I loved that. I always questioned why people were so enamored with Colorado in the summer. Now having just gone I can tell you I get it now.  I may even have a greater appreciation for Colorado summer’s than ever before given the lockdown in the concrete jungle I lived through.

In typical fashion I made the decision to hit the road to CO in about 36 hours. I was sitting sipping a frozen margarita and it was 98 outside at 9 PM on a Saturday night. It’s a pretty straight shot to CO from Texas and one that I was willing to embark on given it wasn’t winter and therefor no snow (or so I was promised!) We headed out with little plans but knew Aspen was definitely a must for a few nights and we’d go from there.

Little did we realize there is SO much going on in charming Aspen that a few nights would not suffice. Here is why from the hotels to stay at to all of the fun activities we did! Plus a full where to eat and drink post is coming soon.

Whether you’re looking to do a short weekend escape or make it a big family vacation reach out to me to inquire about how we can put the ultimate trip together whether here in CO or anywhere in the world with my client Embark Beyond who will ensure you get upgrades (yes even in high season!), credits (hello spa time!) and so much more. Just email me at ashley@tenthonhudson.com.

How to get there?

Roadtrip:

If you’re looking for a road trip this was one of the most fun ones that I’ve done. Much longer than any previous ones but the drive is relatively easy 14 – 16 hour drive from Texas and you hit little ghost towns along the way. I also love that Aspen is about a 6 hour drive to other great outdoor places such as Jackson Hole, WY

Flying:

You can get to Aspen on major airlines or private charters to the Aspen airport or Denver Airport year around.

  • The Aspen airport is a mere 10 – 12 minute drive to Downtown Aspen
  • The Denver airport will take about 4 hours in good weather though one accident or a major snow storm and you could be looking at much longer (it took me 5 hours to get to Denver in the snow!)
  • Grand Junction’s Walker Field (GJT) airport is a two hour drive to Aspen

Where to stay:

The Little Nell

From its ideal location – right at the base of the mountain and right in the middle of town – to its sizable heated pool, incredible dining options and its 20,000 bottle wine cellar there is nothing that The Little Nell has overlooked. Each room has a fireplace and most come with a balcony to enjoy the fresh air and views from sunrise to sunset. Make sure to request a mountainside room too, ours had a balcony that faced the pool and the mountainside – it couldn’t have been better!

This 92 room property is perfect for couples and friends and is the central location to everything happening during ski season too. In the summer, an adventure concierge team arranges off-road outings by Jeep and Stargazing tours by Audi, high country fly-fishing ventures, hikes, cycling trips, climbing excursions and more. During the winter the a ski concierge team tunes equipment, warms your boots, stores equipment overnight and can also arrange for rentals and instruction.  Plus The Little Nell is home to Chair 9, one of the hottest spots in town once the snow bunnies start to arrive. Make sure to get reservations set up asap.

Did I mention that The Little Nell is the only ski-in/ski-out hotel in Aspen? Now get to booking – email me at ashley@tenthonhudson.com to help put your trip together and get you perks (even during ski season!) such as upgrades, credits and more.

Hotel Jerome

Hotel Jerome has an incredible history behind it. The famed hotel has been a social hub of Aspen since its opening in 1889 at the height of the town’s silver boom, known as the place where all great stories were born and are told.

The ambiance at the hotel is unlike any other in town with an eclectic art collection, pieces of Aspen’s history on display, custom furniture, big fire places and their huge outdoor space, The J. Bar. Located 10 minutes from Aspen Mountain Base or an easy 5 minute drive with their complimentary driving services with Audi.

St Regis Aspen

I’ve long been a fan of the St. Regis brand, their property in Park City, UT is one of my favorites for many reasons but especially for the memories I made there during my days going to Sundance. So it was no surprise to me that the same rang true for me while I was at the one in Aspen.

The same incredibly friendly, knowledgeable, wonderful staff were so accommodating that you felt that you didn’t have to lift a finger. With their daily Bloody Mary bar’s and nightly Champagne sabers this is one place you can always feel like you’re on holiday.

Their big spacious garden area was beyond enjoyable for coffee and breakfast in the mornings, followed by a bit of sun at the pool (or one of their 3 outdoor hot tubs.) Out of the three properties I would recommend this one for families!

Looking to stay a little longer?

The Residences at the Little Nell are the perfect option year around. While many of the rooms at The Little Nell can be combined for larger group accommodations or if you’re traveling with kids, the Residences are private, a bit more secluded and are the epitome of a great private rental in the heart of Aspen.  The Residences come with their own concierge staff, full kitchens, laundry and more. They’ll even handle all of your grocery shopping to ensure you have a fully stocked kitchen before you arrive after your trip in. They are ski in and ski out as well, right at the base of Aspen Mountain. What I loved about these particular units are that they are super spacious, multiple rooms, all have porches and the residences have a rooftop pool with big grills, lots of seating and unbelievable views of Aspen and the slopes!

Looking for a place for your family for the holidays? There is still a little bit of availability for the festive season and you can get a large enough place for a month (or two) to hunker down with your family then swap them out for your friends for New Year’s!

What to do:

Get yourself out in nature. This was a key reason why we chose to go to Colorado. I needed to ground myself, reconnect with Mother Earth and there is no better place to do that than in Colorado.

Echo Lake

On our drive up we stopped at Echo Lake a quick detour off of HWY 70 that took us to a beautiful little crystal clear lake tucked back in the mountain side. A short hour hike around the lake and to our car we were back on our way to Aspen. A great pit stop option for some fresh air!

American Lake Hike

This is a hike for the intermediate hiker for sure and if you do the entire hike it should take about 4 – 5 hours so plan accordingly. We only did about an hour and a half. It’s a beautiful hike regardless of how long you go I highly recommend making this a stop on your itinerary! It’s about 20 minutes from Downtown Aspen. 

Maroon Bells

This was just breathtaking. We thought we’d only spend an hour here and wound up staying an extra night in Aspen because we stayed much longer hiking around the area than originally planned. There are three trails you can take, the Crater Lake one is the lengthier one. Definitely pack a lunch or at the very least a bottle of wine or aa few beers to enjoy while sitting by the water!

Camping

I joined a few friends who reside in Aspen these days for a night of camping on top of Aspen Mountain.  While I lucked into them having all of the things one needs to camp if you aren’t driving you can rent camping gear, connect with your hotel concierge to get camping gear or go to a company who will handle everything for you from driving you up to a perfect spot to setting up camp and cooking food for you!

Horseback Riding

I love horses, sometimes they love me so one day a year for the past few years I’ve found myself going horseback riding on a trip. We knew we wanted to go while in Colorado and the team at the St. Regis coordinated our ride with the Maroon Bells Outfitters.

A great, easy hour and a half ride near Maroon Bells! Our guide was fantastic, incredibly friendly and our horses were perfect.

We stopped on our way back to town for a drink and a cookie at T Lazy 7. This spot was tucked way off the side of the road with big round tables for social distancing and a huge grill set up for burgers and BBQ. We would have eaten because the food looked amazing but sadly we didn’t have time.

Star-gazing jeep rides with an astrologer

I am absolutely fascinated with the stars, planets and our solar system. I’ve been this way for a while but when you have an opportunity to be in a place with near zero light pollution the experience you get is unlike any other. To be able to see the milky way shine bright or catch a shooting star, it feels surreal. The Little Nell does sunrise, sunset and star-gazing jeep rides, among many others, but the star-gazing one includes a renowned astronomy professor. We sadly couldn’t go because there had been a full moon the night before we wanted to go but this is definitely one item I’d highly recommend looking into!

Where to get the best views?

Do a gondola ride up to the top of Aspen Mountain. The views are spectacular and on a clear day you can see for miles and miles. There is a restaurant at the top you can stop at for coffee, lunch, snacks. If you’re in the mood for a hike this one comes highly recommended for all levels.

Do note you need to have tickets to ride the gondola, I recommend having the concierge set this up for you in advance so you don’t have to worry about it.

Ajax Tavern at The Little Nell

We had drinks here at sunset on two different occasions. I love the view from Ajax because they are at the base of the mountain so whether it is summer or winter you have unbeatable views of the mountains. It is a perfect location to meet up with friends too. Reservations are highly recommended – especially to snag a spot at on their patio. You come off the mountain and you’re right there!

The top of Aspen Mountain. We camped here and it was breathtaking. If you’re not familiar with the area please don’t try to get up there on your own – hire a guide or coordinate with your hotel concierge so in the very least you know where you’re going and you don’t wind up falling off the side of a mountain!

 

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