Visit Aspen, Colorado Like a Local

Every year, people flock to the mountain mecca of Aspen, Colorado. It’s easy to see why! With the postcard-perfect Maroon Bells, dizzying heights of Independence Pass, and an arts, shopping, and dining scene that would make any big city envious, Aspen is a can’t-miss destination. Help to reduce your environmental impact during your next visit with the tips below.
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Whether you’re planning your very first visit to Aspen, Colorado, or returning for your annual vacation, your visit matters. By signing the Aspen Pledge, you agree to explore this mountain town as a member of the community—and make a lasting impact that will help preserve the magic of Aspen for years to come. We break down five of the key elements of the pledge and how you can apply them to your upcoming trip, below.

This story was created in partnership with Aspen Chamber Resort Association.

Aspen Outdoor Adventure

1. “I will prepare for any experience.”

Aspen, Colorado is a true adventure paradise. Here, the unique landscape means that there are miles of trails to explore in the lush valleys and mountainous peaks surrounding Aspen. You could spend a lifetime hiking, mountain biking, and snowshoeing them all! Prepare for success with these tips.

Plan Your Adventure

It’s a good idea to get your bearings before you head out the door. Plan your route based on the abilities of your group. For example, the 28-mile Four Pass Loop requires an overnight (or two) in the wilderness at elevations over 10,000 feet. Conversely, the Lower Hunter Creek Trail is a close-to-town out-and-back that follows a beautiful creek bed. You’ll also want to make sure you’ve mapped out your trailhead, and whether the area is dog friendly before departing. You can always stop by the Visitor’s Center for a map and to ask for friendly guidance!

Dress for Success

Another thing to consider during your trip to Aspen is your wardrobe. You might want to pack something fashionable for dinner, of course, but what about for your hike? It’s always wise to pack a waterproof layer and base your outfit on functional, technical layers like merino wool. Good hiking boots and poles can provide stability on uneven terrain, and a wide-brimmed hat will keep you from having to reapply sunblock every hour.

Sightseeing in Aspen, CO

Pack Plenty of Water 

In Colorado, people might seem obsessed with staying hydrated. That’s because at elevation, your body requires more water to function. Plus, if you’re climbing up Smuggler Mountain Road midday, you’re guaranteed to work up a serious sweat! Always bring enough water for each member of your party, including your furry friends. 

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Once you’ve arrived at your trailhead, the scenery can easily distract you. Take note of what time you’re starting your activity (and what time the sun will set), and consider taking a photo of the trail map. Keep in mind that in the summertime, the Rocky Mountains are famous for afternoon thunderstorms. If there is a storm coming, opt to adventure in the morning or pick an indoor activity, instead.

Go with a Guide

One way to ensure a successful outing in Aspen is to go with a guide! Whether you hope to learn how to cross-country ski or reel in your first rainbow trout, Aspen has a plethora of guides who can help.

Wildlife Guidelines in Aspen, Colorado

2. “I will remain in one piece by leaving the wildlife in peace.”

Aspen is home to incredible Rocky Mountain wildlife, and opportunities to see these animals up close are more than common. Here’s how to keep both yourself and these Aspen residents safe during your stay.

Small Critter Guidelines

Few mountain locals are cuter than chubby chipmunks and squeaking marmots. But—as with all wild creatures—it’s imperative that you do not feed them. Not only can this shorten their lifespan, but it could also put you in danger of being nipped. This goes for Aspen’s other small mammals like foxes, gray jays, and squirrels. 

Big Critter Guidelines

When it comes to Aspen’s largest stars, like elk, moose, and black bears, protocol varies based on the specific animal. You are more likely to spot these locals during certain times of year, early in the morning, and on quiet sections of singletrack. But part of the magic of Aspen is that you can also see a black bear while walking to the coffee shop! Take some time to research best practices before you go.

Leave No Trace When You're Outside

3. “I will go sightseeing while leaving the sites worth seeing.”

It’s important to leave nature as we found it. Some Leave No Trace principles are more obvious than others, such as packing out all your trash and keeping singletrack single. Below, you’ll find two lesser known tips. Remember: following all outdoor guidelines will help preserve Aspen’s delicate ecosystem so that generations of visitors can continue to enjoy these beautiful sights and trails, long after we’re gone. 

What to Do When Nature Calls 

Just because the bears do it, doesn’t mean we can! While this tip is especially helpful for those embarking on a backpacking trip, it’s good information for everyone to have in their back pocket. This guide can help answer specific questions regarding what to do when nature calls.

Aspen Bark: Not Your Canvas 

What’s better: gazing upon a pristine grove of aspens, or looking at a bunch of graffiti? Do not carve your initials or any other “artwork” into nature while in Aspen, Colorado. As the saying goes, “take only photos, leave only footprints.”

Biking in Aspen, CO

4. “I will travel by foot, bike, or bus when I can, and drive carefully when I cannot.”

There are many ways to slow your pace down—and minimize your environmental footprint—when in Aspen. Here are just a few ideas to get off the beaten path during your next trip.

Roaring Fork Valley Artwork

5. “I will accept our differences and celebrate our diversity.”

Aspen is much more than outdoor recreation. It’s also a resounding hub for culture, food, and art. Whether you are interested in Bahaus or Victorian design, the sounds of the saxophone, or want to step back in history, there’s something in Aspen for you. Consider visiting these centers of diversity and education—many of which feature open-air experiences—the next time you’re in Aspen!

Read the remainder of the Aspen Pledge, and sign it, here. The Aspen Chamber Resort Association will donate $18.80 for each signature received, in honor of the year of the city’s year of incorporation: 1880. Pledge participants can select an organization of their choice, either the Independence Pass Foundation or Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers. The next time you journey to the Roaring Fork Valley, you can rest assured you are leaving Aspen better than you found it. 

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