There are many easy drives from Denver to surrounding parks and small towns that can provide beauty and wonder. This is a quick list of some fabulous stops along the way from Denver to Aspen.
Driving West from Denver in the Spring/Summer
Make sure the weather will allow for clear roads to get through the mountain passes. If you haven't been to Red Rocks in Morrison CO, take the time to make a quick stop and take in the beauty of this sacred space honored throughout the ages. Drive up to the top parking lot to take in all of the views from the top or park in one of the lower lots and get ready for a good workout.
Check out the Shrine pass hike, chances are it might be muddy from snow melt, but a wonderful hike. When I got to the top I felt like I was in the sound of music, surrounded by the snow capped peaks in the distance and wildflowers everywhere throughout the rolling "hills".
Vail Village is one of the ski towns with an actual village that's worthy of a stop in the summertime. Parking is free for summer starting at the end of April. Some restaurants/shops are closed for the season, but a lot of them stay in business through the summer and are open after memorial day.
- Yetis grind-coffee /juice
- Matsuhisa Vail-Sushi, only open for dinner
- Sweet Basil-lunch/dinner
- The Four Seasons Vail-grab a drink (food is horrible and over priced) splurge on the hot chocolate, it is quite the experience and the only reason I bring friends to the Four Seasons besides to check out the mountain views.
- Nudoru- West Vail. The best ramen I've ever had. In a strip mall outside the village absolutely worth the stop and more local vibes. One of the owners was a chef at le Bec fin in Philadelphia previously, foodie worthy and easy on your wallet.
- Frinje-unique boutique with great brands and fun shopping
A little further down the road and off the beaten path is Wolcott CO where I went glamping last summer. For a decadent summer splurge you can stop here for a night or two. There are also some activities you can book if you are the adventurer type, they offer horseback riding, zip lining and atving.
Search glampinghub.com for some glamping destinations in your neck of the woods.
Hanging lake hike: THIS IS THE MOUNTAIN MAGIC! This is by far one of the most beautiful hikes I've ever been on. Plan carefully if you want to hike here, the parking lot fills up in the summer especially on the weekends. Get there early to enjoy the beauty on your jaunt thru the mountains. Bring some snacks or a picnic to enjoy the incredible views.
Glenwood Springs is the next stop along this drive. The natural hot springs there are a tourist destination. There is the massive pool at Glenwood Hot Springs or the more intimate hot tubs of Iron mountain hot springs, both are built using the natural hot springs that are in this town.
If you want to soak in mineral hot springs this is your spot. *Warning they smell like sulphur and have the potential to discolor your swimsuit.
If you want to stay dry you could also explore the town of Glenwood Springs. Before your visit try and snag a ticket to a tasting at Casey brewing a local brewery renowned by beer enthusiasts for their small batch brewing genius. Visit local liquor stores in surrounding Aspen, Carbondale and Glenwood springs to purchase these famous and rare bottles from Casey Brewing to impress your micro brew friends.
We happened upon this this tiny town when my cousins and I planned a trip to Aspen AFTER closing weekend when apparently the entire town shuts down for at least a month to take a break until the summer tourist season. We were looking for a quiet trip to the mountains and a spa day. All of the major hotels and restaurants in Aspen were closed so we ventured back up towards Carbondale and we are so happy that we did!
The small town of Carbondale is beautifully scenic surrounded by ranches of rolling plains that lead to the rocky mountains. They are known for their dandelion festival and chill local vibes. The crown jewel we discovered there was the True Nature Healing Arts Center. What an incredible find! It is a spa, yoga studio, meditation sanctuary, zen gardens, cafe and shopping destination.
They have retreats and workshops. The founders of this sacred space left no stone unturned as every inch of this place was thoughtfully curated as a spiritually awakened, positive energy space, My cousin's and I were in absolute heaven. We spent the entire day there lounging in the cafe, journaling, reading, sipping turmeric lattes and tea, shopping for crystals and oils and simultaneously getting massages.
We did venture through the town at one point and were happy to find the rest of the businesses along main street shared the positive vibes that the True Nature Healing Arts center brings to this community. All of the business owners and employees were friendly and genuine. The town is full of sustainable shopping aka great thrift and secondhand stores. They even have a sustainable fashion show every spring.
- Carbondale Community Co-Op-healthy, local groceries
- Town-farm to table bakery cafe
- Tonic Juicery-cold pressed, organic juice in glass!
- Bonfire Coffee-local coffee shop
- Miser's Mercantile-sustainable shopping
- Back Door Consignment-sustainable shopping
- Sawyer's Closet-sustainable shopping
- Allegria-pasta and wine bar
- Phat Thai-Thai food
- Silo Culinary Productions-another great farm to table restaurant outside of the main town center
- Roaring Fork Beer Company-Brewery outside of main street
- Marble Distilling-main street distillery
- True Nature Healing Arts Center-the most magical man made space in Colorado. Spend time here.
This is just one of the many weekend getaways you can take from Denver to explore Colorado. I just want to have this trip on repeat, but I will have to explore more of these small towns and see what magic can be discovered in the next one.