Driving from Vail to Aspen and Back

Aug 15th, 2008, 11:18 PM
  #1  
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Driving from Vail to Aspen and Back

Can we drive from Vail to Aspen and back again in one day and still have time to enjoy the sights along the way? We have rented a condo in Vail for the week and wanted to follow the recommendations (replies to an earlier post) to drive through Glenwood Canyon. We have friends joining us on Sunday who would really like to see Aspen if that wouldn't be too much.

If we start early in the day and don't mind getting back to Vail around 10 pm or so, would we be able to go to Aspen and perhaps get to the Maroon Bells as well?

Have no idea how much time would be needed for driving, getting lunch and dinner, and stopping along the way to enjoy the scenery.

If we would be in too much of a hurry, perhaps it would work to focus on the Glenwood Canyon area one day and make Aspen our focus another day - even though we would be driving from Vail both times.

As an aside, we went to Sapphire point on Swan Mountain yesterday - following a tip on this forum - and it was a great place to watch the sunset and look out over Lake Dillon, etc. I will write a trip report when we are home again....

Thanks for your help!



Sapphire is offline  
Aug 16th, 2008, 08:18 AM
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I think you'd have a great day trip - it's only 100 miles, less than two hours, to drive directly between Vail and Aspen, and you can even do a circle trip, returning over Independence Pass through Leadville.

This is what I'd recommend:

Drive I-70 West through Glenwood Canyon early in the day. It's a beautiful area and an engineering feat the way the highway was reconstructed through the canyon. You'll be in Glenwood in less than an hour. Unless you're hugely interested in swimming in their hot springs pool, I'd save that for another trip. Turn onto Hwy 82 towards Aspen. Before you get into town, just past the airport, follow signs towards Aspen Highlands to get the bus to Maroon Bells (it's well marked). It's better to see this area in the morning, I think, because of how the sun shines on the peaks. Walk the Scenic Loop trail around the lower part of the park - unbelievable scenery and wildflowers! Return to Aspen for lunch and shopping and looking around.

When you're done, continue on Hwy 82 over Independence Pass, stopping for a look at the ghost town of Independence on the right. There's a parking lot and overlook at the top which is worth seeing - just be sure you have warm jackets because it will be very cold up there. Follow Hwy 82 to Hwy 24 north towards Leadville. This might be the place to have dinner, if it's late enough. There are some good restaurants, including a dive-y Mexican bar/restaurant that I went to a long time ago where eveyone raves about the food! (Sorry, the name escapes me.)

From there, it's only 35 miles back to Vail on Hwy 24. It's a terrific day trip, perfect to view some of the best scenery in Colorado. If you still want to try out the hot springs in Glenwood, just drive down there another afternoon.
tekwriter is offline  
Aug 16th, 2008, 02:18 PM
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It is an easily one day trip. The return over Independence Pass is about 30 miles shorter but about the same time. In Leadville, you have the Mineral Trail Loop == hike or biking -- a hidden gem. The return over Tennessee pass will take you pass the old training ground for the 10th Mt Division and worth a stop. The County Club in Minturn has great steaks. That is just the name -- has nothing to do with golf course or private club.
fmpden is offline  
Aug 16th, 2008, 03:30 PM
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Thank you for the quick and very helpful responses! Sounds like it will be a great trip - a highlight of our trip. Scenic drives and gentle hikes/walks are just what we are looking for. (One of our guests has had heart trouble recently - heart attack and bypass surgery last year - and has the OK to come to Colorado mountains but we don't want to overdo it....)

We have just arrived in Vail today, and there are still some super cranes here (which someone referred to in an earlier post). We drove from Breckenridge this morning, and there was a lovely dusting of fresh snow on the mountain tops. Here in Vail, we experienced a brief hailstorm but it has been sunny and pleasant most of the day.

Thank you again. You are very kind to take the time to answer questions like mine. I hope that I can return or pass on the favor to someone else in the future.

Sapphire is offline  
Aug 16th, 2008, 06:41 PM
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The Independence Pass/Leadville will take you to around 11,000 feet and keep you there for awhile. I am sure you friend will be fine in a car but you might watch him closely if you do any walking in Leadville. The approach through Glenwood canyon is much lower.
fmpden is offline  
Aug 16th, 2008, 07:07 PM
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Thanks for the additional input regarding elevation. We definitely want everyone to have a good time and not have any health problems!
Sapphire is offline  
Aug 24th, 2008, 04:46 AM
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You've received great recommendations. Just wanted to send my seal of approval as well that this loop will be very enjoyable and satisfying to you. It's all so beautiful and the best parts of that part of the country. Do take it easy on exertion at high altitude with your guest w/the bypass surgery. Anyone of us will get short of breath and exhausted from exertion in the mountains, let alone a person with this condition. Ditto the rec. for a jacket at the top of Indep. Pass - surprising how cold it can be in summer up there.

You'll enjoy this so much. We'll be in the same part of CO Labor Day weekend. Have gone for many years, and I never tire of the beauty, dry air, cool temps and exhiliaration I feel there (coming from Kansas that's easy to achieve!)
Stephie is offline  
Aug 24th, 2008, 05:13 AM
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Another "me too" for all of the suggestions. Do get out and see the exhibit at Glenwood Canyon on how it was built. It doesn't take long and it is an amazing feat of construction.
Might want to take a couple of aspirin for the altitude.
Gretchen is offline  
Aug 30th, 2008, 07:30 AM
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My Mom was telling me that many years ago they went to the Maroon Bells and were able to take a couple of different ski lifts (summer) to the top. Any idea if this is still available? Thanks.
Ronda is offline  
Aug 30th, 2008, 09:25 AM
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Here is a site with info. The Maroon Bells is not a ski area. You can take lifts to the top of Ajax.

http://www.stayaspensnowmass.com/p-m...wilderness.php
Gretchen is offline  
Aug 30th, 2008, 09:46 AM
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Thanks for the link to the bus, Gretchen. Here is one to the gondola at Ajax:

http://www.aspensnowmass.com/summer_rec/aspen.cfm
Ronda is offline  
Aug 30th, 2008, 10:01 AM
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Ronda, I am sure what your mother did was to take the chairs at the Aspen Highlands. You can get great views of the MBells from the Highlands but technically you are not at the Bells. At one time the Aspen Highlands was an independent ski area not associated the Aspen complex (a very long story) and they did operate the chairs for the view but don't know if they still do today. In the old days, it was a terrific little ski area that kind of poked Aspen in the eye from time to time. It was a hang out for some really hard core skiers. But now Aspen owns them.
fmpden is offline  
Aug 30th, 2008, 01:10 PM
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Aspen Highlands was a great area for beginners--nice terrain. Don't quite know about the eye poking. And it was cheaper than Snowmass and Aspen.
Gretchen is offline  
Aug 30th, 2008, 02:48 PM
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Gretchen, I think you mean Buttermilk which may have a new name. But that was the beginner areas. The Highlands was a bit more of a challenge. The Highlands was privately owned by an old timer skier who refused to sell to Aspen. But a long story.
fmpden is offline  
Aug 30th, 2008, 04:04 PM
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You are EXactly right of course, and as I wrote that, I was trying to come up with Buttermilk. Aspen Highlands was fun, however. Thanks.
Gretchen is offline  
Aug 31st, 2008, 06:44 AM
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It has been several years since I skied but I thought I had read, been told, hear somewhere that Aspen was trying to rebrand/rename Buttermilk to kill or at least substantially reduce Buttermilk's image of being only a beginner's mountain. I was just on the Aspen web site and the name is the same. Either what I heard was wrong or Aspen threw in the towel on renaming.

For comparison Aspen Highlands has 18% beginner (Green) type of slopes while Buttermilk has 35%. AH has 52% at Black (Diamond and double diamond) while Buttermilk has only 26% at single diamond. There is also a live camera on the Aspen site showing a light dusting of snow on the mountain.

The is the big weekend of SNIGRAB which is the official start of thinking about skiing. Six weeks and counting.
fmpden is offline  
Aug 31st, 2008, 04:36 PM
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Not sure what you are saying but Buttermilk can't exactly realign its "mountain". It is not as steep as others in the area. /thye would do well to market it as such. It was fun to ski there long years ago.
Gretchen is offline  
Sep 1st, 2008, 09:28 AM
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This is kind of off topic from the original question. But various ski area acquire reputations (justified or not) among skiers and that will impact who skis there. Buttermilk has a reputation of being for beginners only. Great place to learn but ski someplace else once you learn. Keystone is another -- great family skiing (translate that to lots of kids) and overly groomed slopes. The result is (and I am guilty) that I have never skied at Buttermilk in the 25 plus years that I have skied the Aspen mountains. Nearly the some for Keystone. My guess is that Buttermilk has some perfectly fine slopes that I would enjoy but I prefer Snowmass and the Highlands. Keystone has worked hard of the years to maintain the family but offer more to the advance skier and they have been fairly successful. It is mostly perception.
fmpden is offline  
Sep 15th, 2008, 09:38 AM
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This loop takes a lot of time and is a very long day.
Ronda is offline  
Sep 15th, 2008, 05:37 PM
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I agree with your assessment. If you are a beginner skiier, Buttermilk was just fine. Snowmass is SO much bigger, and has some good terrain. You better be ready for black at Ajax.
Buttermilk was fun fun fun for us. We had nothing to prove.
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