Hit the open road the next time you’re in Aspen Snowmass! One of the memorable adventures waiting for you is a scenic driving tour on beautiful, winding mountain roads. Check out one or all of these driving tours below. Then, pack a picnic lunch, hop in your car, strap on your seat belt, and have a fun time exploring Aspen Snowmass by road!
Highway 82 to Independence Pass
Take a drive to the top of Independence Pass, located at 12,095 feet above sea level. Even on a sunny summer afternoon at this elevation, it can be chilly, so remember to bring a jacket for exploring the top of Independence Pass. The top of the Pass has a parking area, restrooms, and paths leading to scenic overlooks. Because the climate at 12,000 feet is harsh and challenging for plants and animals, take a moment to observe the lack of trees and minimal flora — you will be above the tree line.
During your drive, up the Pass, be sure to pull over to visit the ghost town of Independence, located four miles from the top. Back in the town’s heyday during the Colorado Silver Boom in the 1880s, 1,500 hardy people called Independence home. Other notable spots to explore on this drive include the Grottos or Weller Lake. Expect areas where the road narrows through tight turns, and take your time to pull over and photograph the gorgeous scenery.
Fun historical fact about Independence
According to the Aspen Historical Society, the winter of 1899 was a particularly brutal one for Independence residents, so much so that they took down their homes to make skis so they could ski down to Aspen for food!
Keep in mind that Highway 82 to Independence Pass is open to vehicular traffic seasonally, usually from May-November.
Maroon Creek Road
Maroon Creek Road is the portal to the magnificent Maroon Bells Wilderness Area. This is a lovely drive with views of Maroon Creek, Pyramid Peak, wildlife, and spectacular meadows. At around three miles past the Maroon Bells Welcome Station, you will take a slight bend in the road, and the Maroon Bells will come into view—this is a truly magical moment. The Maroon Bells Recreation Area has a parking lot and a nice, easy trail around the edge of Maroon Lake. More adventuresome hikers can continue to another small glacial lake about an hour up the trail.
Maroon Creek Road to the Maroon Bells is only open seasonally, usually from May-November. Vehicular traffic is restricted in the summer to before 8:00 AM and after 5:00 PM. If you plan to visit the Maroon Bells between 8:00 AM-5:00 PM, you will need to take the Maroon Bells bus, which you can catch from Aspen Highlands.
Castle Creek Road
Castle Creek Road takes you on a looping drive past the hospital, the Aspen Music School campus, private residences, and through thick groves of lush, green aspen trees and pine forests. Eleven miles up the winding road, you’ll come upon the ghost town of Ashcroft on your left and the Catto Center at Toklat.
Park here and take a tour of Ashcroft, a former mining town that was once bigger than Aspen during in the 1880s. At the Catto Center, you can view artwork by the current artist in residence. Afterwards, continue your drive up Castle Creek Road for lunch at Pine Creek Cookhouse, another mile up the road from Ashcroft and the Catto Center. The Pinecreek Cookhouse provides the best views in town, along with great food and drink.
Vacation Planning for Aspen Square Hotel Guests
If you stay with us at the Aspen Square Condominium Hotel, contact our concierge team for assistance with vacation planning. They can help with car rental reservations so you can go on a scenic driving tour during your Aspen Snowmass vacation. If you’re planning to stay with us at the Aspen Square, please call our concierge team for vacation planning assistance at (866) 285-7876 ext. 3515, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Non-guests can contact the Aspen Chamber at (970) 925-1940 for additional information about Aspen Snowmass scenic driving tours.