Jeff and I went to Aspen in early June to celebrate our anniversary, and I have been meaning to write a trip report at length here. I hope I still will, because I have to tell you all about the Hotel Jerome, where we stayed, which was unbelievably amazing. It’s recently undergone a remodel, and was a delicious combination of luxury and old west—and I’m NOT talking unoriginal elk antler chandeliers. We seriously did not want to leave the hotel, which is rare for us. Yum.
There’s no “best time” to visit Aspen, but autumn can be particularly good. That’s when the leaves on the region’s eponymous trees shimmer into a golden hue and when the locals come out of hiding after a summer besieged by tourists. Yes, it’s going to cost some money. It’s also going to be breathtakingly beautiful, memorable, and exciting. My advice? Go big. Here’s how.
If you venture beyond the Hotel Jerome (and you should), you might encounter the same dilemma I did: Aspen restaurants are spendy, and, unless you drop significant amounts of money, there’s a high likelihood you will be disappointed. That is unless you head to Hops Culture, which advertises craft beer, wine, and good eats. That was my experience with one of the restaurant’s “Huge Salads,” the Mediterranean Couscous ($14), which showcased cucumber, tomatoes, peas, cashews, mint and couscous with transformative vinaigrette. As for the beer, well, they feature 200 (that’s not a typo) “unique craft beers and ciders from around the world,” with roughly 30 poured fresh on the restaurant’s draft system. If you can’t find something that suits you, you’re way too hard to please.
I love a good campsite as much as the next person, but if I am going to Aspen, I will beg, borrow, or steal for a night or two at the Hotel Jerome. Built in 1889, this stately hotel recently underwent an extensive renovation that restored it to its grandeur of yore. I don’t say this lightly. This is original luxury, tastefully done and respectful of the hotel’s mining, cowboy, and western legacy. Past meets present in the hotel’s lobbies, restaurants, and guest rooms where contemporary artwork hangs alongside relics of the past, including original United States flags and ancient mining caps. The rooms have high ceilings and elegant touches like cashmere curtains and burnished-leather frames. The outdoor pool offers terrific views of Ajax mountain, the famous J-Bar serves a burger that should be illegal, and the gastronomic Prospect Restaurant’s breakfasts might convince you to do nothing but dine in the comfortable, cool room all day—to say nothing of their scrumptious dinner and lunches.
Whether your idea of a good time includes pounding out 13-plus miles in running shoes, shooting through stands of aspens on a mountain bike, or sampling early season snowfall from a craggy summit, it’s easy to get outside in Aspen. Two terrific local trails include the Government Trail, nine miles of extremely sweet single-track that feature prominently in the aptly-named Golden Leaf Half Marathon and the Sunnyside Trail, which is easily accessed from town. Both are open to pedestrians and mountain bikers.
Nearby Mt. Elbert, 14,440 feet, are Colorado’s highest mountain and a (relatively) easy walk up. For something more off the beaten path head to Grizzly Lake, a high alpine watering hole on Grizzly Peak, elevation 13,988.