Aspen Times Weekly: Independent Spirit | PostIndependent.com

Aspen Times Weekly: Independent Spirit

by Jeanne McGovern | photos by Anna Stonehouse

TAKE A PEEP

As any local will tell you, fall in Aspen is one of the best times of the year.

Town begins to quiet down after the nearly nonstop activity of the summer months, allowing a mellower, calmer vibe to permeate. The weather is fantastic, too, with warm, sunny days and cool, crisp nights nearly always on tap.

But it’s the city’s namesake that truly bespeaks the spectacular during the fall. Explosions of color from the numerous aspen groves that paint the mountainsides of nearby valleys and vistas are breathtaking and easy to access by foot, bicycle or car (assuming you can’t get out there on horseback). Here are a few suggestion on how to soak in the season.

HIKE IT: When the aspen leaves peak, the Castle Creek Valley is a sea of gold year after year, especially on the trails to American Lake and Cathedral Lake. The valley is also home to the ghost town of Ashcroft, which the public can walk through on their own.

DRIVE IT: The section of Highway 82 from Aspen to Leadville is part of the Top of the Rockies Scenic and Historic Byway, named for good reason. And countless aspens line the road as well as the trails and peaks surrounding it. The byway continues to I-70 by two different routes — Highway 91, which ends at Copper Mountain, and Highway 24, which takes drivers to Minturn.

“On this drive you can be a part of history, as countless generations have experienced viewing the fall colors on this pass, from skiers, miners, ranchers, railroad travelers, and many generations of Native Americans,” says the White River National Forest’s website.

BUS IT: OK, yes, there’s lots of hiking here too. But the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will continue to offer bus service to the Maroon Bells every day through Oct. 1. That will be the only way to access the site between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Bus tickets to the Bells cost $8 for adults, $6 for children ages 6 to 16 as well as seniors and are free for children under 6. After Oct. 1, motorists are welcome to drive up to the Bells at any time.

BIKE IT: A cyclist’s dream singletrack, Tom Blake Trail in Snowmass Village is also a leaf-peeper’s paradise­, as it is flanked by a thick grove of aspen trees. Gary Tennenbaum, assistant director of Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails Program, called it the “Yellow Brick Road” because it traverses stands of aspens. And you might just spot some wildlife peeping back at you, too.

RIDE IT: The weekends of Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 and Oct. 7 to 8 mark the final days to ride the Silver Queen Gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain before ski season begins. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (last ride down at 4:30 p.m.), and the views from the 11,212-foot summit are always stunning — whether you’re hiking the nearby trails, playing a round of disc golf or just enjoying a drink at the Sundeck Restaurant. Over at Snowmass, Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 is the final weekend of lift-served mountain biking on the Elk Camp Gondola; it’s also the last time to ride the gondola — and enjoy the offerings at Elk Camp — before the winter season.

HIKE IT: When the aspen leaves peak, the Castle Creek Valley is a sea of gold year after year, especially on the trails to American Lake and Cathedral Lake. The valley is also home to the ghost town of Ashcroft, which the public can walk through on their own.

DRIVE IT: The section of Highway 82 from Aspen to Leadville is part of the Top of the Rockies Scenic and Historic Byway, named for good reason. And countless aspens line the road as well as the trails and peaks surrounding it. The byway continues to I-70 by two different routes — Highway 91, which ends at Copper Mountain, and Highway 24, which takes drivers to Minturn.

“On this drive you can be a part of history, as countless generations have experienced viewing the fall colors on this pass, from skiers, miners, ranchers, railroad travelers, and many generations of Native Americans,” says the White River National Forest’s website.

BUS IT: OK, yes, there’s lots of hiking here too. But the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will continue to offer bus service to the Maroon Bells every day through Oct. 1. That will be the only way to access the site between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Bus tickets to the Bells cost $8 for adults, $6 for children ages 6 to 16 as well as seniors and are free for children under 6. After Oct. 1, motorists are welcome to drive up to the Bells at any time.

BIKE IT: A cyclist’s dream singletrack, Tom Blake Trail in Snowmass Village is also a leaf-peeper’s paradise­, as it is flanked by a thick grove of aspen trees. Gary Tennenbaum, assistant director of Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails Program, called it the “Yellow Brick Road” because it traverses stands of aspens. And you might just spot some wildlife peeping back at you, too.

RIDE IT: The weekends of Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 and Oct. 7 to 8 mark the final days to ride the Silver Queen Gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain before ski season begins. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (last ride down at 4:30 p.m.), and the views from the 11,212-foot summit are always stunning — whether you’re hiking the nearby trails, playing a round of disc golf or just enjoying a drink at the Sundeck Restaurant. Over at Snowmass, Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 is the final weekend of lift-served mountain biking on the Elk Camp Gondola; it’s also the last time to ride the gondola — and enjoy the offerings at Elk Camp — before the winter season.


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