Aspen has boomed over the decades into a world class ski resort and vacation destination. The town deserves its glitzy reputation and is considered by many the gold standard of American mountain towns. Complete with gorgeous hotels, endless gourmet restaurants, and a pleasant pedestrian only downtown, the town of Aspen itself is enough of a draw to tempt tourists from around the globe. It’s the Maroon Bells, above Aspen, where the fun really begins. The Maroon Bells, characterized by the brooding purple hue of the summits, are equal parts stunning and idyllic. Well maintained trails offer access to mountain passes well over 10,000 feet as well as alpine lakes which glitter beneath the snow-capped summits.
Despite the popularity of Colorado as a destination in recent years, Crested Butte remains a bit of a secret. Considered by locals to be one of the last truly quirky ski areas, Crested Butte is defined by the Butte itself, a mountain which stands between the heart of the Rocky Mountains and the vast expanse of the southwestern desert. Hike down from the high mountains into the town of Gothic, one of the most remote locations in the U.S. Adding charm to this area are the local ghost towns and old mining towns which were once even more populated than the modern villages in the valleys below. These ghost towns now cling in ruins to the mountainsides as living museums and reminders of a bygone era of exploration.
Ouray is a mountain town only a stone’s throw away from the popular ski area of Telluride and is part of the San Juan Mountains. Separated from Telluride by the Sneffels range it is home to Mount Sneffels, standing tall at 14,150 feet. Due to the size and precipitousness of the mountains here, traveling by car between the two towns takes nearly two hours. The famous Black Bear Pass has become a destination in itself, a treacherous road that leads over the mountains between the towns and is only driven by the most skilled off-road and four-wheel drivers. The town of Ouray itself is quaint and historic, often entirely in the shade due to the high peaks surrounding it. Ouray boasts a bounty of fun activities, including museums, incredible hiking, and natural hot springs in the center of town!
Telluride is perhaps the most beautiful town in America. Tucked away at the end of a box canyon, the sandstone walls and Ajax mountain at the head of the valley hide Telluride from the rest of the world. The town continues to gain recognition as an international hotspot, thanks in part to the variety of restaurants; most serving local and farm sourced international cuisine. The Telluride Gondola, the only free public transportation of its type (powered entirely by green energy!), provides access between Telluride and the Mountain Village. The aptly named Mountain Village is the core of this exceptional ski resort. Telluride itself is considered a National Historic Landmark. As a result, virtually all buildings in the town must adhere to the town’s strict design guidelines and all renovated homes must maintain the original and distinct Victorian aesthetic. The history of Telluride is diverse, originally considered a holy place by local Native Americans, as well as hosting the heart of the rocky mountain gold rush.
Autumn hikes in Telluride are truly breathtaking, literally and figuratively, as the town sits at 8,750 feet and Mountain Village’s base is 9, 545 feet. The beauty of the surrounding massive red rock leading up to majestic granitic peaks paints a majestic pallet accented by the golden trees. Here the hiking is rugged but rewarding, with the three most challenging of the Rocky’s 54, Fourteeners looming a short distance from town.