Aspen is renowned for its world-class skiing, but winter isn’t the only time to visit this quintessential Colorado mountain town. Fall is a great time to explore Aspen, when the town’s namesake trees burst into hues of red and orange and the ski crowds haven’t quite hit yet.
The Jerome dates back to 1889—it’s even on the National Register of Historic places—and will serve as your homebase throughout your time in Aspen. This boutique hotel has played host to the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, Cameron Diaz, Jack Nicholson, and Bill Murray, and its appeal is clear—its rustic-but-luxe interiors that pay homage to the rugged West, coupled with its history and convenient downtown location, make it a perfect retreat.
The most photographed site in the state of Colorado, the Maroon Bells are a breathtaking example of the beauty of the Rockies. The only downside is that they’re notoriously difficult to see in person. Because the state of Colorado wants to preserve them to the best of its ability—and for good reason—you’ll have to sign up for a reservation through the Aspen Chamber of Commerce website, either for the shuttle from Highlands Village or for self-parking. (But we promise the effort is worth it.)
John Denver Sanctuary
One of Aspen’s most beloved residents, singer-songwriter John Denver adored the Rocky Mountains and lived within them for most of his life. After his tragic 1998 death, the city came together to honor him with a serene memorial park. It’s a perfect place to sit and reflect while surrounded by the nature he loved so much, bursting into the colors of fall.
Aspen Art Museum
Aspen is known for its upscale vibe and celebrity visitors, and its art museum reflects that eclectic culture. The museum is free to enter, and within, you’ll find incredible works of modern art, like whole-room installations that explore the concept of sound, electricity, and light. There are also more traditional offerings (like, say, paintings) and an Andy Warhol exhibit is coming soon.
The Grottos Trail
An easily accessible, short hike that still has a huge payoff in views, the Grottos Trail offers a unique feature: ice caves. The trailhead is just a 20-minute drive from the Hotel Jerome, and on the half-mile loop, you’ll pass waterfalls, rapids, the trail’s namesake grottos, and the caves, which fill with water and freeze in the winter. During fall, though, the labyrinth of caves is a blast to explore.