Aspen Colorado United States

Aspen, Colorado

After spending the day in Great Sand Dunes National Park we starting make the 3 1/2 hour drive to Aspen. On the way we were fortunate to go through Independence Pass, a rather scenic drive full of gorgeous mountain ranges and winding roads. Many times we would find a place to pull over and take in the breathtaking scenery that we were being surrounded by in the Rocky mountains.

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We got so lost in the moment that hours later we noticed a storm coming in and might we add… quickly! However, we decided to visit the Grottos Trail on our way down because we had heard that there was an area with amazing ice caves. Within 15 minutes of starting the hike on the Grottos Trail the storm we had seen previously caught up with us and it started pouring (go figure)! Determined to still visit the ice caves we kept moving forward only to find out, to our disappointment, the ice caves were completely flooded within moments of the rain starting. We both counted our blessings that we weren’t inside the caves before it had started raining or we may have been in a rather grim situation with flash flooding. We decided to then turn around and head back to the trailhead.

Grottos Trail Facts
1.2 Mile Loop
Elevation Change: 78 ft


Grottos Trail


It may not look like it from this perspective but inside the ice caves were completely flooded!


Trying to brave the weather. Thanks to Columbia for keeping us dry during the storms!

That evening we went to  Creperie du Village, a French restaurant that serves fondue, crepes, and many other French delicacies. We enjoyed the unique ambience and the beautifully displayed and deliciously prepared cuisine.
Hours: 11:00am-11:00pm | 

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The sweet and savory French crepes were divine!

After a night of restful sleep at The Westin Snowmass Village we woke up at 5am to visit the Maroon Bells. We sat at Maroon Lake for hours watching the sunrise and taking in the beauty that surrounded us.


If you stay long enough the view at Maroon Bells changes every few minutes.

There are two trails nearby that we would recommend:
Maroon Snowmass Trail 
Length: 18.3 Mile Loop
Rating: Difficult
Elevation Change: 3,257 ft
For more information on the Maroon Snowmass Trail trail visit here.

Crater Lake Trail: An easier, shorter trail
Length: 3.4 mi loop
Rating: Moderate
Elevation Change: 629 ft
For more information on the Crater Lake Trail visit here

Travel Tips:
-If you arrive before 8am you should be able to drive straight to the parking lot by the trailhead ($10 for parking). We suggest getting there no later than 7am.
-If you arrive after 7am or 8am you might have to park at the Aspen Highlands, and take the shuttle which operates from 8am-5pm.

After visiting Aspen, we were off to Glenwood Springs for a rather exhausting but gorgeous day!

Only have one day in Aspen? Here are some of the things you must do!


  • Reply
    Nigel Kane
    September 6, 2016 at 2:17 AM

    We are big fans of Colorado so enjoyed your article. Reminds me of our trip to Telluride in Colorado, beautiful place by the way and worth a visit. We left Monument Valley in hot desert sun and three hours later a snow plough passed us as we headed up into the Rockies! Always sure of amazing scenery but weather can be unpredictable :-D. We seem to have a lot in common in our travel styles so look forward to following more of your adventures!

    • Reply
      September 6, 2016 at 8:32 PM

      Thank you Nigel! We haven’t visited Telluride so maybe someday when we do we can get your travel ideas. That sounds like our time at the Great Sand Dunes where the sand was 105 F and then we arrived in Aspen to snow topped mountains! We will check out your adventures as I saw you linked your website too!

  • Reply
    Melissa Jones
    September 24, 2016 at 1:13 PM

    Omg just WOW! If I visit Aspen I’m definitely taking this route from Great Sand Dunes National Park, the views are just incredible! Shame about the ice caves being flooded but I’m sure you’ll be back to explore them next time, this route is too awesome not to do again 🙂

    • Reply
      September 25, 2016 at 5:03 PM

      Melissa, we hadn’t originally planned to go that way but we were SO glad we did. It was one of the most memorable places from our trip. Definitely a shame about the Ice Caves but we were just glad we weren’t inside them when the flooding started! You’re right… we plan to visit again sometime really soon. 🙂

  • Reply
    Carol from Wayfaring Views
    September 24, 2016 at 7:17 PM

    That whole valley is so beautiful. I visited Great Sand Dunes for the first time last March and loved it.

    • Reply
      September 25, 2016 at 5:00 PM

      Carol, glad you felt the same way! We loved it as well.

  • Reply
    Julie Smith
    September 25, 2016 at 3:48 AM

    I loved visiting Aspen last summer. I was there for a wedding, so, let’s face it, didn’t do much hiking, but we did drive over Independence Pass, and it was one of the most gorgeous drives I’ve ever done! I think next time in the area, I’d spend more time hiking and less time drinking, but live and learn 🙂

    • Reply
      September 25, 2016 at 4:56 PM

      Julie, we loved Independence Pass as well. The beauty there is just unreal and can hardly be captured by a camera. You must go back to visit again when you have more time. 🙂

  • Reply
    Adelina // PackMeTo
    September 25, 2016 at 10:22 AM

    Gorgeous photos! Lucky you weren’t in the caves when the rain came! I’ve only driven through the Rockies in Canada, but will definitely have to do it in the US one day too.

    • Reply
      September 25, 2016 at 2:38 PM

      Thank you Adelina! You’re right, we were really lucky. We kept saying that we were glad we stopped along the way or our situation could have been scary. Please do! We need to make it to Canada to see the Rockies. 🙂

  • Reply
    September 25, 2016 at 4:04 PM

    I’ve made it to Vail but haven’t made it to Aspen yet. The view at Maroon Bells is breathtaking. Will have to find a time to get up there and explore.

    • Reply
      September 25, 2016 at 4:51 PM

      You definitely need to! Maroon Bells are so beautiful and the look of them changes throughout the day. 🙂

  • Reply
    September 25, 2016 at 5:03 PM

    So nice to flash back to Independence Pass! I grew up in the Rockies and love it there. Even got to show it off to my Australian beau a few years ago. Glad you didn’t get trapped in the caves!

    • Reply
      September 25, 2016 at 5:05 PM

      What a lovely place to grow up! Did he enjoy? From our experience, Australia is so different from the States, especially Colorado. We were glad too! 🙂

  • Reply
    Anita Hendrieka
    September 26, 2016 at 10:23 AM

    Never been to Aspen but you’re post is making me want to visit. love your photos!

    • Reply
      September 26, 2016 at 6:26 PM

      Thank you Anita! You definitely should go someday. 🙂

  • Reply
    RaW (@rambleandwander)
    September 26, 2016 at 10:38 AM

    That photo of Maroon Bells is just amazing! I’m sure I could sit there all day long with just a picnic basket and a book in hand. Would have loved to see you photos taken there during sunrise, by the way!

    • Reply
      September 26, 2016 at 6:26 PM

      Thank you so much RaW! 🙂 We will work on posting more of those. We wished we could have spent an entire day there as well.

  • Reply
    tickets for two jc
    September 27, 2016 at 5:35 AM

    Loved this one! You’ve got me looking forward to visiting Grotto’s trail! 🙂

    • Reply
      September 27, 2016 at 6:39 PM

      Please do! Then let us know how it was without all of the rain! 😉

  • Reply
    January 1, 2017 at 4:08 PM

    My home!!! I’ve been exploring Colorado for 8 years now and admittedly I’ve avoided Aspen – mostly due to the crowds, but I’m determined to get there this year! I’d love to climb Maroon Peak and do the Maroon Traverse. Thanks for this post! I love reading about Colorado 🙂

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