When I realized we were only 60 miles from Aspen, we decided to take a day trip to check it out. Getting there was half the fun, since the only way to go is Hwy 82, which crosses over the Continental Divide and 12,095’ Independence Pass. We first passed by Twin Lakes, a popular recreation area for fishing, camping and hiking.
Then we kept climbing to the pass, where there is a big parking area and a paved trail to an overlook. It was 50 degrees and very windy at the top so we didn’t stay too long, but it was beautiful up there.
The road descends over 4,000’ from the pass into Aspen, and becomes very narrow and even one lane at times. And there are lots of 10-15 mph switchbacks. The sign said no RVs over 35’, but I sure wouldn’t want to be driving anything larger than a car, and preferably something like this little Zapcar we saw along the road.
On the outskirts of town we began to see some of the high-dollar homes along the Roaring Fork River. I can see why all those celebrities have second or third homes there. The downtown is an upscale shopping area with stores like Gucci and Prada, similar to Beverly Hills but with lots of trees. Needless to say we didn’t do any shopping there. I read that Aspen began as a big silver mining town in the late 1800’s, and was revived as a ski resort in the 1940’s, and has grown in popularity from there.
We did go a few miles outside of town to Maroon Bells Scenic Area. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, cars are prohibited on the road through the area so you have to take a shuttle bus from town. During September the road is open on Monday-Thursday, with the buses only running Fri-Sun, so we were able to drive in. Of course it was still crowded and we couldn’t find a parking place, but ended up parking in the lot for overnight backpackers.
We hiked the Crater Lake trail, a 1.8 mile trail which passes by Maroon Lake, then gently climbs to Crater Lake. The trail was rocky but not real steep, so Jim didn’t do too much complaining. Besides, who could complain while looking at this gorgeous scenery.
These are the “Maroon Bells” the area is named for.
Some more views from the trail. We loved walking through the aspens, and some of the leaves were beginning to change at the higher elevations.
Crater Lake itself did not have much water in it, but it was a beautiful place. There was still some dirty snow and a waterfall high up the mountain.
This has been our favorite part of Colorado so far, with much prettier scenery than Rocky Mountain National Park. We would definitely come back here.