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This family-friendly environmental center is an ideal sojourn for those who are outdoor-curious, but backcountry shy. Located in the Hallam Lake Nature Preserve, which is right in town, it is a perfect introduction to the great outdoors. A self-guided nature trail snakes around the preserve's 25 acres and is a favorite with bird-watchers. You can also check out its resident birds of prey, which include golden eagles and screech owls. The visitor center features an indoor trout stream swarming with native cutthroats, as well as an environmental library and a gift shop full of books, gifts and toys. For a true outdoor education, look for its weekly lecture series, which varies from season to season.
Formerly known as Castle Forks City, Ashcroft is a great place to visit, especially if you want to catch a glimpse of local history. Built in 1879 for mining of silver, and eventually ore deposits in the region, Ashcroft was a small town spread over 5 acres (2 hectares). At one point, the town population even reached to around 3500, larger than even nearby Aspen. However, the silver and ore deposits were meagre, and quickly ran out, leading to most town residents leaving Ashcroft. Used for mountaineering training in World War II and even in film shoots, Ashcroft was listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and is a must visit, especially if you are an history enthusiast.
Located just four miles below the Independence Pass Summit, this ghost town not only offers a hands-on look at history, but also spectacular mountain scenery. Formed in the summer of 1879, this former mining town hauled out almost 200 thousand dollars' worth of gold in a two-year span. By 1890, however, the rush was over and so was the town's future. Today five structures in standing and collapsed conditions serve as weathered reminders to the area's mining past. Admission is free and the surrounding mountain views are spectacular. Follow Highway 82 out of Aspen for 13.5 miles (21.7 kilometers). The ghost town, which is visible from the road, will be on your right. Please note that the highway closes during winter.
Galerie Maximillian is a newcomer to the Cooper Street gallery scene. But unlike many of Aspens elite galleries that can make even an established collector feel out of place, this intimate space manages to juggle an unpretentious air with serious art. Owner Albert Sanford's passion for art, shows in his eclectic displays. He is not afraid to place a budding talent next to an established master. This ultimately brings depth to the collection, and challenges the viewer to forget about conventions. The gallery specializes in Contemporary European Primitivism, but you will find a wealth of great painters on display, including Renoir and Miro.
The Aspen Art Museum is a non-collecting institution presenting the newest, most important evolutions in international contemporary art. Their innovative and timely exhibitions, education and public programs, immersion activities, and community happenings actively engage audiences in thought-provoking experiences of art, culture, and society. The museum is closed on major holidays.
If you want to summit a mountain, but do not want to huff-and-puff up a hiking trail to do so, this gondola ride provides a muscle-happy alternative. It silently glides above tall stands of pine and affords spectacular mountain views as it ascends to the summit of Ajax Mountain at 11,212 feet (3417 meters). The views from up top are stunning, especially during late July when the optic-amazing wildflowers bloom. Pack accordingly because the summit temperature will be cool.
The prominent and sharply defined peaks of the Maroon Bells are some of the most picturesque and photographed mountains in North America. Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak are separated by just one third of a mile, creating the border between Pitkin and Gunnison Counties. Both peaks reach heights over 14,000 feet (4267.2 meters), placing them in the top 50 highest mountains in the Rocky Mountain state. Popular activities include hiking the trail around Maroon Lake, which is easy and offers spectacular views of the mountains reflecting off in the shimmering water.
This is a great place to picnic if you want mountain solitude without having to hike six hours to find it. All three picnic spots are within a five minute walk from the trailhead. For true ooh-look-at-this beauty, cross the bridge and follow the Old Stage Road to a picnic spot that borders the Roaring Fork River and includes a fishing dock. Larger groups should follow the left path, just before the bridge, for 200 yards where it spills out upon a huge picnic site.
The jewel of Aspen's four ski mountains, Aspen Mountain spills right onto the streets, making it very convenient for in-town lodgers. Eight lifts, including the Silver Queen Gondola, traverse alongside winding trails, most of which cater to experts and intermediates. A wonderland for the intrepid hiker, this snow-cloaked, seemingly mystical mountain proudly stands guard over the charming town of Aspen. Peppered across the mountain's pinnacle are numerous restaurants, while its frigid, albescent terrain is enlivened by delightful drapes of alpine vegetation. The sweeping, snow-glazed expanse of this mountain has played host to many legendary tournaments, including the World Cup finals. Enveloped within the White River National Forest, Aspen Mountain is a fantastic, frosty wilderness par excellence. While winter weaves together a pristine white landscape, summers bring the warmth of bloom and a deep vibrancy.
This area is more of a spine than a mountain, yet it still offers 112 trails. It is a favorite of locals, for 47 percent of the trails are expert rated and many feature outstanding mogul runs that soften up nicely in the sun. Even if you are not up for trying an expert run, a chairlift ride to the summit is worth the stunning views of the Maroon Bells. Beginners and intermediates can find trails to their liking on the lower half of the mountain. The mountain is serviced by four lifts and three restaurants.
If you are looking for an adrenaline jolt of mountain adventure that will cause you to shout, "zingo, do I feel alive!" then call these outdoor-excitement pros. For 30 years, this touring-company has helped upgrade vacations from okay to memorable. It offers full- and half-day rafting trips, jeep tours, bike rides and hikes. All the trips, which range from beginner to expert, are piloted by qualified guides. Most include either a snack or lunch, and transportation to all trips is provided. Advanced reservations are encouraged.
In 1971, this outdoor center became the first self-sustaining cross-country ski area in the country. As one of the premier centers in the world, it offers 65 kilometers of groomed tracks that wisp through 600 acres of unmatched mountain scenery. It is one of the few areas where the scenery is almost more breathtaking than the skiing itself. Three warming huts along the trails provide fireplaces and hot chocolate. Ski and snowshoe rentals are available. Classes, as well as guided tours, are also offered.