Wondering what to do in Aspen: take a scenic drive

We really enjoy taking scenic drives in our car. The Colorado Rockies were made for this. Wondering what to do in Aspen, Colorado? Here are three not-to-miss scenic drives a short distance from town.

Maroon Bells:

Colorado travel Maroon Bells photo Steve Collins

Maroon Bells in late spring, photo/Steve Collins

The Maroon Bells are two mountain peaks, Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak. They are what Colorado calls “fourteeners” (mountains over 14,000 feet above sea level). These stark peaks are names for their red hue and distinctive shape. According to the Aspen/Snowmass tourism folks, they are “the most photographed peaks in all of North America.” Closed during the snowy season, it opens some time in spring. During shoulder season you can drive Maroon Lake; in summer, access is via shuttle bus.

Colorado travel:  Maroon Bells viewed from Maroon Lake, photo Steve Collins

The Maroon Bells tower over Maroon Lake, photo/Steve Collins

Colorado travel: Maroon Creek, Aspen, CO

Maroon Creek roaring down the mountain with the Spring runoff, photo/Steve Collins

Castle Creek Road:

Colorado travel: One of the few buildings still standing in the former mining town of Ashcroft photo Steve Collins

Historic log cabin in the former mining town of Ashcroft on Castle Creek Rd. photo/Steve Collins

Just to the south of the road to Maroon Bells is another scenic mountain drive. Castle Creek Road takes past to the historic mining town of Ashcroft where a few buildings still stand. On the way up, you’ll drive past a pristine mountain creek with signs of beaver dams. You’ll get some great mountain views, too. From mid to late September, the area is a riot of fall color, mostly the yellow of the aspen trees, which, not surprisingly, grow in profusion in the area.

Colorado travel Take a scenic drive on Castle Creek photo Steve Collins

Beaver dam on Castle Creek Road, Aspen, CO photo/Steve Collins

Independence Pass:

Colorado travel

Independence Pass with late spring snow, photo/Steve Collins

Independence Pass is another seasonal drive that will bring oohs and aahs to your lips. The road is open from Memorial Day Weekend through the first serious snow (usually around November 1st). With an elevation of 12,095, it’s the highest paved pass in Colorado. On the west (the Aspen side), the road (Colorado Route 82) runs along Roaring Forks River. There are lots of places to pull over, picnic and even camp. Drive to the top and turn around, or continue on past Twin Lakes and connect with Colorado 24, which goes to Leadville to the north and Buena Vista to the south.

Colorado travel: The Roaring Fork River

The spring run-off in Roaring Fork River west of Independence Pass, photo/Steve Collins

Whether you do one of these or all, you will get some great views and photo opportunities along the way.

Do you have  any favorite mountain drive you’d like to share? If you have a great mountain photo, we’d love to feature it as the Photo of the Week.  Contact us.

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2 Responses to “Wondering what to do in Aspen: take a scenic drive”

  1. Traveling Ted
    May 31, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    I am a big fan of scenic drives too. I especially like ones with nice shore hiking trails along the way. I get tired of being in the car all the time, so love having cool places to get out and hike. These pictures are beautiful, and I am sure Colorado has many options for hiking.
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    • Billie Frank
      May 31, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

      You really need to do a southwest trip with tent, sleeping bag and camera! Colorado offers scores of 14ers to conquer. No shortage of trails. Family on Bikes is hiking through CO this summer.

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