Updated: Sep 27, 2020
This week's blog is written by travel enthusiast Masha from Mash On the Move! Originally from Moscow, Russia, Masha grew up in Austin, Texas, and uses her blog as a creative outlet to share her adventures around the world.
Be sure to check out her other blog posts at https://www.mashonthemove.com/ for everything from self-care reflections to trip planning tips to Iceland travel guides. You can also check out Masha's travels via photographs on Instagram @mashonthemove!
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THE PERFECT 3-DAY ITINERARY IN ASPEN, CO
I took a somewhat spontaneous trip to Aspen and it was amazing! I’ve been to Colorado plenty of times, but I’ve never ventured to the Aspen area, and let me tell you, it was 100% worth it.
DAY 1: INDEPENDENCE PASS
We flew into Denver, rented a car and headed to breakfast at the Denver Biscuit Company (AHMAZING!). Then we started the 3 hour drive to Aspen through Independence Pass (Highway 82). It reaches an elevation of over 12,000 ft and sits on the Continental Divide. It was truly one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever been on. Along the way there are several longer hikes that I recommend coming back to once you get used to the altitude. We chose to wander through Independence Ghost Town, an old mining town, checkout the Grottos for the ice caves and waterfall, and the Weller Lake Trail. The Grottos are a short <1 mile hike with gorgeous rock formations and a stunning waterfall. It’s one of the best areas to view the Roaring Fork River in its full glory. Weller Lake was a 1 mile hike up to the lake and for those of us coming from sea level, it seemed more intense that it actually was. The views at the top were fantastic and the best part was that there were only a couple other people there.
DAY 2: MAROON BELLS
For day 2, we planned to spend the entire day at Maroon Bells. Reservations are required in advance for most time slots and they book up pretty quick. It’s a quick 10 minute drive from downtown Aspen and a shuttle takes you up to the main lake. Along the way, the shuttle driver will tell you about wildlife safety and the different trails you can explore. He also pointed out some wildlife - we saw a Marmot! Once at the top, we started with the Maroon Lake Scenic Loop trail. This trail is 1-2 miles depending on where you cut your loop and is the best way to see the lake and all its beauty. Checkout the beaver dam that sits on the north side of the lake! We were also fortunate enough to see a giant moose - it was one of the highlights of the trip for me.
Next, we did the Crater Lake trail. It’s a 3.6 mile roundtrip and pretty steep on the way up. Bringing a camelbak was one of my better decisions, otherwise it would’ve been much harder. We stopped for a snack at the top and took in the view of nearby waterfall as well as the lake. Both lakes were a little drier than usual due to the lack of rain, but this worked in our favor since we didn’t have to deal with the infamous Colorado mid-day storms. The descent is a lot easier and gives you a better opportunity to take in the scenery and enjoy the magnificent Aspen trees.
There’s another hike - the Maroon Creek trail - that is 3.2 mile one-way trail best down from the top since it goes down hill. We ran out of time and couldn’t do this one, but I recommend it if you want to see wildflowers and enjoy an easier stroll.
DAY 3: RAFTING, SNOWMASS, AND HOT SPRINGS
For the first part of our third day we decided to split up. My friend went down the Roaring Fork River in a duckie (inflatable kayak) and I opted to go on a quick hike in Snowmass - Aspen’s neighboring town. I opted to do the Spiral Point via the Rim Trail South. It was described as a 2.7 mile roundtrip easy hike and that’s what it felt like. You head uphill the entire way but because of the spiral pattern of the trail, it feels a little easier. It took me ~45 minutes roundtrip and I had a quick break at the top to snap some photos of Mt. Daly and Capitol Peak. Spiral Point is also referred to as Yin Yang because of the yin yang symbol at the top of the point.
From there we continued on to Carbondale to stop by the Farmer’s Market for lunch and do some shopping. The stores here were unique and we had a great time popping in and out. Our next stop of the day was the Iron Mountain Hot Springs in Glendale. These are reservation only and based on our research, much nicer than the Glendale Hot Springs. There are 16 geothermal soaking pools situated right next to the Colorado River with a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains. For the price, it was 100% worth it and we basically had the place to ourselves.
Last but not least, we went to the Aspen Glen country club for dinner and views. The food was phenomenal and the views of Mount Sopris were unbeatable. Ask for a table outside so you can enjoy the beautiful Colorado weather as you gave at Mount Sopris in the background. It was extra magical at sunset!
DAY 4: RED ROCKS PARK
On our last day, we headed back to Denver. Naturally, we drove through Independence Pass again and the views were just as amazing as they’d been the first time. At Red Rocks Park we walked in and around the amphitheater since neither of us had been before and then we did a quick hike around the park. We opted for the Trading Post trail since it was only 1.5 miles and marked as easy; we didn’t want to be too gross for our flight home. The hike was scenic and we even saw some deer and plenty of chipmunks!
WHERE TO EAT
Denver Biscuit Company: These biscuits are no joke and they’re so good!
The Brutal Poodle: A super random find with a really cool atmosphere.
French Pastry Cafe: This is close to the airport and business district. The pastries are superb!
Jour De Fête: Super cute breakfast and lunch spot. The sandwiches were phenomenal and there are plenty of options for everyone in your group. I recommend the Frenchie :)
Spring Cafe: Great for breakfast and lunch and an awesome healthy spot. They offer organic food, smoothies, and juice.
Meat & Cheese: By far the star of the show in terms of food for me. The charcuterie board was to die for!
L’Hostaria: Good Italian food and wine, but nothing super special. This could be due to the fact that I was half asleep and only ordered Caprese salad
OTHER THINGS TO DO & SEE
The John Denver Sanctuary
Rio Grande Trail
Ajax Mountain & gondala ride
American Lake Trail
Cathedral Lake Trail
Lost Man Trail
Happy travels! Don't forget to check out Masha at @mashonthemove on Instagram and at https://www.mashonthemove.com/ for more fun travel tips and guides!