Colorado was way undermined by R and I. In our heads it was someplace you’d go to ski. Since I wasn’t a winter sports enthusiast it never piqued our (rather my) interest until, I spotted a breathtaking picture of Maroon Bells on my Instagram feed.
That visual changed everything – Aspen made it to the travel list and after some light research proved to be the best getaway for Labor day weekend. Wohoo!
This was to be a getaway for our second anniversary and hence we did not plan on hiking a lot. Mostly sightseeing, eating and relaxing was on the list of things to do. All accommodations for this trip were made using booking.com (super sweet deals with awesome cancellation policy) and below is the itinerary we planned to follow
|Day 1||Arrive in Denver. Stay the Night|
|Day 2||Early morning drive to Aspen through Mount evans, Vail and Glenwood Springs|
|Day 3||Maroon Bells – Scenic Loop Trail and Maroon Lake Trail|
|Day 4||Castle Creek Road (Fall colors). Picnic?. Vineyards? Brewery?|
|Day 5||Drive to Denver through Trail ridge road|
Day 1: One of the rarest times when both R and I managed to get to our destination at exact times mentioned on our itineraries. No delays, no detours (Yay Southwest!!!). We reserved our rental car with Discount Car Rentals (do not recommend this at all). Probably our first and last association with this car service (old vehicles, mostly damaged vehicles etc). We got to Baymont Inn (your typical close to the airport dwelling) to crash for the night.
Day 2: We woke up to a bright sunrise that suggested we get ourselves out of the door asap to take advantage of what was going to be a beautiful day. Now, Mt. Evans was R’s suggestion. He convinced me we didn’t have to hike, we could drive up to the summit, just relax and enjoy the views and even better, it was on our way to Aspen.The 90 mins drive to get to the base of the Arapaho National Forest area was rather stunning with the leaves changing color. Now, I have said this time and again that it’s really humbling to feel small before nature’s grandness and to drive through highest paved road in America to get to the Summit Lake and the summit of Mt. Evans was simply marvelous. Taking in the sights, R and I made our way to Aspen while making a pit stop at Vail. We caught a quick bite and walked around the ski town / resort before getting on the road.
Entering Aspen, we noticed that the beginnings of fall was more pronounced in this tiny town. It was hard not to fall in love with this pretty town instantly with its neat roads, perfectly kept up parks and homes. What made it even better was the location of our hotel which was 5 mins walking distance to downtown and right in front of Wagner park. An old time ski lodge(one of the first ones in Aspen) preserved and upgraded to serve tourists. We loved our stay at Mountain Chalet and would happily recommend it.
Day 3: Having familiarized ourselves with the tiny Aspen downtown the night before, R and I had no issues in getting to the bus stop to get to Maroon Bells. (also the fact it was a few blocks away from where we were staying helped;) ) The bus ride to Aspen Highlands is free and buses run every 20 minutes. At Aspen Highlands, you have to transfer to another bus that takes you to Maroon Bells. If you are driving, this is where you can park and take the bus.The bus charge is $8 per person (round trip). It’s a 15 min ride to get to the Maroon Bells visitor center. You walk about 5 mins until the gorgeous view is in sight. It is ridiculously breathtaking. You see tons of pictures, imagine what its going to be like and let me tell you its a hundred times better. Take it all in!
Now, the weather was playing peekaboo. We soon realized it can get cloudy-rainy-sunshiney all in a matter of a few minutes and were glad to be dressed in layers. We planned on hiking the Maroon Creek Trail and the Scenic Loop. However, the scenic loop was closed as they had sighted moose the previous day. And if one sees a moose, the trail is closed for 48 hrs since the time. Having no choice we decided to hike the Crater Lake trail. A 4 mile hike (roundtrip) with about ~800ft elevation gain. One advantage is fewer people on the trail and we got to walk amidst huge trees just about turning yellow and orange. Fall was coming!!! We made it to the top an hour and half later but were a little disappointed with the view. Lots of campers – folks grilling, picnic-ing, photo taking. It was like the view of the lake was muddled by all the people around. We barely spent anytime here and soon made our way back to the Maroon Lake.
We decided to take a breather before our next hike, and so R and I lay on the ground with the majestic bells for a view. I was so tired of watching people click endless selfies that I did not want to take any photos. I just wanted to lie there and take it all in. Take in that sight that I have been looking forward to for couple months (the beauty, the grandness and the calmness). Pictured below is me getting looks from other tourists in lines of “what is she doing?”. But I lay there blissful with R doing the same thing a few feet away and the only thing that connected us was the sound of ‘Stand By Me’ playing on a very low volume on my phone <3.
As more people started coming in, R and I made our way to the Maroon Creek trail which was surprisingly the path less taken. We walked may be half a mile before we turned back as the terrain was too rocky and there wasn’t any ‘view’ per say. We stopped at Aspen highlands to grab a late lunch and made our way back to Aspen.
Fresh after a nap and some tea followed by fresh cookies (courtesy, our hotel), we walked around downtown for quite a bit before making it to our dinner reservation at La Creperie Du Village. Find out more about the restaurant here.
Day 4: We have grown so fond of our hotel’s breakfast that we refused to try other places our friends recommended. Mountain Chalet’s fresh orange juice had me hooked. Now, the plan for this day was to go to a vineyard but it fell through cause there was an accident and we had to detour. This detour led us to a tiny barbecue joint very close to the beaver lake. We walked around the beaver lake and made our way to Independence Pass. The vistas along the drive and at the summit are breathtaking and were amplified by the bright afternoon sunshine.
Back in Aspen, we walked around downtown trying to pick a souvenir and check out local stores. R suggested we try White House Tavern and it did not disappoint. Very good cocktail menu, relaxed ambiance and an eclectic menu.
Day 5: We decided to skip the Trail Ridge Road drive and get couple of extra hours of sleep (so worth it). Late afternoon we made our way to Denver and drove through downtown , got a taste of Little Man ice cream and headed to the airport.
Sad part of our vacations is taking different flights home. We are hopeful this long distance will end soon. But until then airport rendezvous and good byes are as sweet and bitter as they come.
1. Aspen downtown has a good food scene.
2. Dress in layers. Always carry a poncho/raincoat
3. Aspen is expensive. Snowmass is another ski town nearby for lodging.
4. Disconnect and enjoy the mountains.