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Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley Travel Guide

  • Photo: Peter Guttman/

Plan Your Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley Vacation

The Roaring Fork Valley—and Aspen, its crown jewel—is the quintessential Colorado Rocky Mountain High. A row of the state's famed Fourteeners (peaks over 14,000 feet) guards this valley. There are only two ways in or out: over the precipitous Independence Pass in summer or up the four-lane highway through the booming Roaring Fork Valley, which stretches 40 miles from Glenwood Springs to


Outside Aspen, Colorado natives regard the city and its mix of longtime locals, newly arrived ski bums, hard-core mountaineers, laser-sculpted millionaires, and tanned celebs with a mixture of bemusement and envy. The "real Aspenites," who came for the snow and stayed for summers, have been squeezed out by seven-digit housing prices. Most have migrated down-valley to the bedroom communities of Basalt and Carbondale. In the words of one refugee, "the Aspen millionaires are making room for the billionaires."

The quest for wealth in the valley dates back to the mid-1800s, when the original inhabitants, the Ute people, were supplanted by gold prospectors and silver miners, who came to reap the region's mineral bounty. The demonetization of silver in 1893 brought the quiet years, as the population dwindled and ranching became a way of life. Nearly half a century later the tides turned again as downhill skiing gave new life to Aspen. Today the Roaring Fork Valley weaves together its past and present into a blend of small-town charm and luxurious amenities, all surrounded by the majestic beauty of central Colorado's 2-million-acre White River National Forest.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Fine fare Restaurants in Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs are used to being praised for climbing gastronomic heights, and the dishes that many offer, from locally raised Wagyu beef to Russian caviar, are as upscale as the clientele.
  2. Historic hotels Thanks to moneyed preservationists, the Victorian Hotel Jerome in Aspen and the Medici-inspired Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs still stand.
  3. Hot springs The 93°F mineral-water pool at Glenwood Springs has been a therapeutic retreat since the Ute Indians called it "healing waters."
  4. The mountains You'll find postcard Colorado in the 14,000-foot Maroon Bells, especially when these steep-faced peaks are reflected in Maroon Lake.
  5. The scene You'll see it all in Aspen—Hollywood celebs in cowboy boots, high-heeled Brazilians, tanned European ski instructors, and fascinating and friendly locals.

When To Go

When to Go

Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley are a year-round destination. If it's skiing you're after, February and March historically have the best snow...

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