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Aspen, Colorado is rightly famous for its skiing, but don’t let this discourage you from visiting this fun place.  Aside from the famous skiing resorts that are only mainly available during winter, there are plenty of things to do around the area all year round. The variety of activities available in Aspen range from natural wonders to urban tours. Regardless of the season, you will find fun activities that you and your kids can enjoy.

This area is actually quite close to home for us, so we visit frequently. You can consider this the insiders guide by the locals. We have a couple of our favorite secret camping and hiking spots in this article just for you.

About Aspen, Colorado

Aspen, Colorado is the county seat of Pitkin County, in Colorado. Its name came from the many aspen trees in the area. Before being known as the ski resort town that it is today, Aspen, Colorado started as a small mining camp. It grew to a mining town as residents settled there during the Colorado Silver Boom of the 1880s. In the 1890s the panic of 1893 ended the boom but declined the town’s population to less than 1000 by 1930. 

By the mid-twentieth century, Aspen shifted its economic base to skiing and tourism, helping it recover. During its ascend, celebrities, journalist Hunter Thompson, and singer John Denver all helped in getting this once little town back to its feet. Their statements saying that Aspen is a great place to live in greatly helped the town’s economy and fortune. Today, as of the recent Census estimates, Aspen’s population is at 7427.

List of family-friendly things to do in Aspen.

Aspen Center for Environmental Studies

The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies is an environmental research center and outdoor nature center. Guided tours of the center’s multiple facilities are available, and other activities range from lectures to birding. 

We recommend trying the kids’ program throughout the summer that varies from day camps to overnight programs. For the winter season, there are snowshoe tours among other activities.

  • Website
  • Location – 100 Puppy Smith Street, Aspen, CO 81611
  • Hours – Mon-Fri 9 AM.- 5 PM, tour and activity hours may vary. See website for details.
  • Cost – Free admission, see website for details.
  • Available discounts—no information available

Buttermilk Ski Resort

Buttermilk Ski Resort is one of the most famous resorts in the Snowmass skiing complex because it is home to the X-Games. It is also greatly known as a beginner-friendly ski slope, making it great for families. Parents and older kids will enjoy their lessons and tours that are available for all ages. For parents with small kids, we recommend The Hideout, a skiing education center for very young kids.

If you’d rather have your kids away from the snow, there is childcare available at the resort. If you’d like to enjoy a great view, you should try the Cliffhouse, a restaurant at the top of the summit.

  • Website
  • Location – 38700 CO-82, Aspen, CO 81611
  • Hours – Open December—April, 9 AM – 4 PM
  • Cost – Tickets and season pass available for multiple resorts in the area. Prices vary, see website for details.
  • Available discounts – Season passes available, see website for details.

Camping at Lincoln Gulch and Grizzly Creek

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About 11 miles southeast of Aspen lies one of our favorite secret places, Lincoln Gulch Campground. There are only 7 camping sites on the grounds and reservations are not available. The campsites are free and can be used on a first-come-first-served basis. There are available activities that your family can enjoy even if you don’t camp there. Just be reminded that vehicles over 35 feet long are prohibited to drive Independence Pass that leads to this campground.

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Grizzly Creek is another campground with a limited space of just 28 pull-through sites. What’s great about this campground is that it is situated between HWY 36 and the river. This makes it a good base camp with plenty of waterfront adventures.

  • Website
  • Location – Walden, Colorado 80430 USA

Breathtaker Alpine Coaster

Do you and your kids love rollercoasters? If so, you should try the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster. Just be reminded that this coaster is not for the faint of heart as it is running through an elevated track and speeds up to 28mps through a mile of forest, with plenty of curves and hairpin turns. To add thrill to the ride, the drivers are responsible for maintaining safe distances and proper braking. Thus, it is sometimes described as a civilian’s version of bobsledding.

For parents with smaller kids, be informed that there is a minimum height requirement for riding and driving. If your kid wants to drive, he or she should be above 16 years old.

  • Website
  • Location – Aspen, CO 81611
  • Hours – November – April, 11 AM-3:30 PM (Ullr night rides 5:30-8:30 PM)
  • Cost – $64 one-day coaster and tubing combo ticket

John Denver Sanctuary

For John Denver fans, you can’t go to Aspen without visiting his sanctuary. The John Denver Sanctuary is a shrine to the late country musician who died in a plane crash in 1997. The sanctuary is located near the Rio Grande Park and Roaring Fork river and has even inspired one of his hit songs. His hit “Rocky Mountain High” was inspired by the time he spent in the Colorado Rockies. 

It is a beautifully designed memorial that features Denver’s song lyrics etched into stone and a memorial spruce pine in the middle. It also is home to a perennial flower garden. 

Be reminded that there is no public parking near the sanctuary. Prepare a minimal fee for the parking garage nearby instead.

  • Website
  • Location – 470 Rio Grande Place, Aspen, CO 81611
  • Hours – Open daily, dawn to dusk. 
  • Cost – Free

Maroon Bells

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Maroon Bells

The Maroon Bells are a pair of partially snow-covered mountains that are known separately as Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak. The two mountains got their name from their color which turns maroon in the right angle of light and their bell shape. The Bells are described as one of the most photographed places in Colorado, but some say that even photographs can’t do justice to their beauty. There are multiple hiking trails nearby. 

The Maroon Bells are emblematic of the beauty of the Rocky Mountains in all seasons. For that reason, access is mostly limited during the prime seasons of Spring and Summer. Reservations are required to visit, and during the summer season, and it is only accessible by public shuttle. Limited winter access is available by snowmobile.

  • Website
  • Location – Colorado, 81654
  • Hours – 8 AM -5 PM ., from June to October
  • Admission – Shuttle fare, $15.95. parking fees vary, see website for additional information.
  • Any discounts – no information available

Aspen Snowmass

If your family loves skiing, you can’t miss the Aspen Snowmass. It is the Major skiing resort/area in Aspen encompassing four mountains, including Aspen Mountain (nicknamed “Ajax.”). Snowmass is a big part of what makes Aspen the great skiing town that it is. 

Unlike other resorts in the area that are only open during the winter season, Aspen Snowmass is open in summer and they even offer summer activities for the whole family.

  • Website
  • Location – 601 E Dean St, Aspen, CO 81611
  • Hours – Aspen Mountain open November-April 9 AM – 4 PM daily. For other parts of the complex, and for summer hours see the website for details.
  • Cost – Lift tickets start at $179 per adult and $121 per child for a single-day weekday past. For other expenses, see website.
  • Discounts – Multi-Day discounts available—see website for details.

Crater Lake Trail

The Crater Lake trail is a popular 3.8-mile hiking trail that has been described as “moderate” in difficulty. One of the highlights of this trail, which connects with the larger Four Pass Loop trail network, includes Maroon Lake and Crater Lake. 

We recommend trying out the trail between June and October to maximize the beautiful view of Maroon and Crater lakes. If you happen to visit Aspen during winter, this trail is also available but do so with extra care.

  • Website
  • Location – Colorado, 81611.
  • Hours – The trail is open 24/7.
  • Cost – Free.
  • Any discounts – Not applicable.

Grottos Trails

two kids playing by the rock at Grotto's White River National Forest in Aspen Colorado along Grotto's Trail
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Grottos White River National Forest Aspen Colorado

The Grotto Trails is a small (.6-mile) popular loop trail that is described as beginner and kid-friendly. You can play in the creek right by the parking lot or hike on this trail to get to the waterfalls and pools during the non-dry seasons. 

This trail is good for hiking, running, and nature walks. The best time to hike on this trail is between June and September, though it may also be traveled in winter. Dogs are permitted on the trail but must be kept leashed.

Note: the parking lot is small and overflows right up to the road on summer weekends.

  • Website
  • Location – 26692 CO-82, Aspen, CO 81611
  • Hours – The trail is open 24/7.
  • Cost – Free.

Fun Activities at Wagner Park and Mill Street Fountain

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While looking for activities that your kids can enjoy, don’t forget to go downtown and pass by Wagner Park and Mill Street Fountain. The kids will surely enjoy splashing on the fountain and playing with newfound friends.

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Be sure to bring extra clothes for you and your kids. You’ll never know if you’ll get wet too with the fun and excitement happening around.

  • Location – Downtown Aspen
  • Hours – Open 24/7
  • Cost – Free.
  • Any discounts – Not applicable.

Smuggler Mountain Road

Smuggler Mountain Road is a three-mile dirt road best known for its great views of Aspen and the nearby ski resorts, as well as other mountains. Note that this is different from the more difficult Smuggler Mountain Trail.

Get ready with your camera because a viewing platform is available along the route. The Smuggler Mountain Road is best hiked in the morning or after 5 PM, due to sun glare as part of its high altitude. The road is also used by mountain bikes, dirt bikes, and sometimes vehicles, so exercise appropriate caution.

  • Website
  • Location – Colorado, 81611.
  • Hours – The road is open 24/7.
  • Cost – Free.

Aspen’s Dark Side Ghost Tour

Are you looking for a good scare? Aspen’s Dark Side Ghost Tour is one of several local tours available in Aspen through Dean’s Aspen Tours, this 60-minute evening tour takes you alongAspen’s darker past—Ghosts, murder, and mayhem. If you’re into this kind of stuff, we recommend you try this out.

Tickets are limited in order to create “smaller groups for a scarier experience.” Private tours can also be arranged through their office.

  • Website
  • Location – 320 E Hyman Ave, Aspen, CO 81611
  • Hours – Ghost Tour, 7:30 daily
  • Cost – $35 per adult
  • Any discounts – $25 per child.

Aspen Scavenger Hunt

The Aspen Scavenger Hunt is a fun way to get acquainted with the city of Aspen and as advertised, helps provide an “altitude adjustment.” This app-based scavenger hunt which is a creation of the Let’s Roam Company is both a tour and a game. The scavenger hunt is flexible and can be completed on your own time. If you have a big family and wish to arrange a hunt, visit or call them.

  • Website
  • Location – 611 E. Dean Ct. Aspen, CO 81611 
  • Hours – Set your own time (typically takes 1 ½ to 2 hours)
  • Cost – Prices start at $6.95 for a two-game scavenger hunt. See the website for further information.
  • Any discounts – Occasional sales. See website for details.

Independence Pass

A beautiful mountain view with lots of trees along the Independence Pass View of White River National Forest
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Independence Pass View of White River National Forest

For a pretty drive, try the Independence Pass, a mountain pass that spans the Continental Divide. The pass is both a Scenic byway and recreational area. Some of the sights to expect to include a ghost town and Grotto Ice Caves. 

There are fee-based campgrounds along the route if you wish to stay here.

  • Website
  • Location – Colorado 81210
  • Hours – The highway is open 24/7.
  • Cost – Free
  • Any discounts – Not applicable.

T Lazy Z Ranch

The T Lazy Z Ranch, which is an eighty-plus-year-old ranch that is both a summer and winter recreation center and event venue, is a great place for year-round outdoor activities. The ranch’s offered activities range from horseback ride and fishing and summer to snowmobiling in winter. No matter what season you choose to visit, your kids will surely love the activities.

The ranch also includes snowmobile tours and rentals. Rental cabins are available at the ranch for multi-day stays. The ranch also includes farms and farm stores.

  • Website
  • Location – 3129 Maroon Creek Rd, Aspen, CO 81611
  • Hours – 9 a.m.-5 PM, Mon-Sat. Closed on Sundays
  • Cost – Tour and cabin prices vary. See the website or contact organization for details.
  • Any discounts – Occasional “Locals” discount.

Ashcroft Ghost Town

You can tell Aspen has a rich ghost history by the number of scary activities they have. For a look into the region’s mining past, visit Ashcroft Ghost Town, an abandoned silver mining town not far from Aspen. The ghost town’s restored buildings include a saloon, post office, and hotel. 

The ghost town is primarily open during the summer months, but winter tours can be arranged through Ashcroft Ski Touring.

  • Website
  • Location – Castle Creek Rd, Aspen, CO 81611.
  • Hours – The site is open 24/7
  • Cost – Free. Organized tours may have fees. 
  • Any discounts – No information available.

Glimpse of Aspen Tour

This walking tour offered byDean’s Aspen Walking Tours company is your introduction to the town of Aspen; its culture, restaurants, and shopping. It is also a good way to acclimate to Aspen’s altitude! Tickets may be purchased online for a 60-minute tour. Private tours can also be arranged.

  • Website
  • Location – 320 E Hyman Ave, Aspen, CO 81611
  • Hours – Tours Sundays and Friday, 1 p.m.
  • Cost – $35 per tour per adult.
  • Any discounts – $25 per tour for kids 17 and under.

Weather

Weather in Aspen is typical of the Rocky Mountain region. Summers are described as “comfortable and dry,” while winters are “snowy and freezing.” The region is partially cloudy year-round. The average summer high is 73 degrees Fahrenheit, and the average winter low is 7 degrees Fahrenheit (and the temperature rarely goes below -7 degrees Fahrenheit)

Getting to Aspen, Colorado

Aspen, Colorado, can be reached by car driving along I-70 and I-64. The most direct route from I-70 is C-82 South. If driving in winter, make sure that you have the appropriate tires. Also, be aware of crowded roads during ski season weekends.

If you prefer to fly, Aspen is within reach through four major airports-including Aspen/Pitkin County Airport and Denver International Airport. The Aspen/Pitkin County Airport is the most convenient, but flights there may be the most expensive. There are plenty of direct flights into Denver International Airport and the other regional airports.

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19 Things to Do in Aspen, Colorado with Kids!

Final Thoughts on Things to do in Aspen, Colorado

For a skiing vacation, it is hard to do much better than in Aspen, Colorado. But Aspen is clearly not just for skiers, given the variety of activities it offers for the whole family in all seasons. If you have been to Aspen recently, what activity did you enjoy the most?

If you want to go around Aspen in an RV but don’t want to buy one, consider renting from a local. You can also ask for tips and tricks from them when you have your RV delivered or when you pick it up.

Here are some resources that can help you.

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    Shauna Kocman founder of Family Travel Fever

    Hi, I’m Shauna – Welcome to Family Travel Fever.  We are a large family, that was bitten by the travel bug!  We travel with kids and extended family.  I take the kids by myself sometimes because I don’t mind flying or driving solo with my crew to discover the coolest places.

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