Updated: May 4, 2020
Have you ever wondered where most of the Billionaires live or where they have their summer/winter houses? Well, the answer is Aspen.
What is so special about Aspen?
Aspen is an extremely expensive place with the astonishing beauty of nature; mountains, lush greenery, and fresh-water rivers. It is globally famous as skiing resorts and in fact, it is also renowned as America's most expensive skiing resort. Aspen is highly blessed in terms of nature, history, and geography and this is what it makes it so special.
History: Aspen has its roots from 1890 when it used to be a silver mining town with dirty streets. During the time of Panic of 1893, the American economy collapsed and it became a ghost town with only 700 people. In 1940, a Chicago Industrialist rejuvenated the town by giving it a shape of a skiing resort and since then its skiing business is flourishing. In the early years of 1940 and 1950, American celebrities, musicians, actors, sport-persons were drawn to this place due to its amazing outdoor and leisure activities, and later owning a house here became a trend for the rich and thus, today it is known as a playground for the celebrities.
Fun Fact: Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos owns a mansion on the red mountain of Aspen also known as 'Billionaire Mountain' (term first used by Forbes magazine in 2012).
Getting to Aspen
Getting to Aspen is easy from Denver.
Private transport: There are plenty of options for private transportation which provides door-to-door pick-up and drop off. The most famous is Epic Mountain express, one-way ticket for one person costs 120$. You have to book it in advance.
By flight: Even though most of the planes that lands at Aspen airport are private jets of billionaires but there are also flights for general commuters, though it might be little expensive according to 40 min flight (approx 150$ one-way per person). The airport in Aspen is called Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (ASE) and it is just 10 minutes away by car from Aspen downtown.
Public transport: There is no direct bus/train from Denver to Aspen but the easiest public transportation to reach Aspen is through town Glenwood Springs.
Denver ---> Glenwood Spring (GWS) ---> Aspen
By train: The only train which connects Glenwood Springs to Denver is known as California Zephyr Train operated by Amtrak between Chicago and San Fransisco. The trains run every day and leave the Denver Union Station at 8.05 AM. The one-way ride cost varies from 40$ to 150$ depending on the coach class.
By Bus: There are many buses running on this route from Denver. The most common and comfortable are as following:
(1) Bustang Bus Service: This is one of the fantastic buses you can take while traveling from Denver to Aspen. The route and time table of Bustang can be checked on the official website (WEST line). The bus runs every day (twice a day 6.45 AM and 5.15 PM from Denver Bus station )The one-way bus ride for one person costs (Denver to Glenwood Springs) only 28$ (it is fixed price) and trusts me, in this money the ride is super worth it, with extra leg space, super comfortable seat, heater/AC, big glass window for sightseeing on the way and wifi. The service is provided by CDOT (Colorado Department Of Transportation), so on some websites, the bus is also known as the CDOT bus. The ticket can only be purchased by using the Bustang app and it is valid for 60 days. The bus ride is about 3h 50 min.
(2) Greyhound Bus: This bus runs also on the same route from Denver (Denver Bus Station) to Glenwood Spring. It runs thrice a day (12.15 AM and 12.15 PM and 9.45 PM from Denver) and the one-way cost is approx 24$-50$ depending on weekdays, weekend, and busy hours (price is not fixed). The bus ride is 3h 35 min. It has fewer stops and it does not stop at Denver Union Station.
Glenwood Springs to Aspen:
It is pretty easy to travel from Glenwood Springs to Aspen. RFTA buses run every few minutes and costs about 6$ one-way.
Things to do in Aspen
(1) Maroon Bells: The origin of the "Maroon bells" comes from combining the lake "Maroon" and "bell" shaped mountain peaks. If you are in Colorado, then this place is worth a visit as it is renowned as Colorado's most photographed place.
From Aspen to Maroon bells:
Aspen -> Aspen Highlands -> Maroon Bells
Maroon bells is located 10 miles away from Aspen. You cannot ride by Car as it is a preserved forest area and the routes are prohibited to general commuters. A special bus runs for Maroon bells named specifically "Maroon Bells" operated by RFTA, which can be boarded from Aspen highlands (Aspen uptown).
From Aspen downtown, Aspen highlands can be reached by a free shuttle bus. (note: in Aspen, local short distances buses/shuttles are free of cost).
The ticket for Maroon bells can be purchased from Aspen highlands where the bus starts and covers the round trip to Maroon bells plus entry ticket.
(2) Snowmass Village: Snowmass is a beautiful village situated at a distance of 25 km from Aspen. It offers a handful of outdoor activities depending on the season and weather. As the name suggests, the place is famous for extraordinary skiing adventure which consist of about 100 trails. In summer, it provides its own kind of unique experience with in comfortable temperature and fresh mountain air to explore the nature on foot walking along with the river and witnessing the amazing spring beauty.
(3) Explore Nature: This entire region comes under "White River National Forest" situated in a beautiful valley surrounded by four mountains and a fresh-water "White" river. The natural beauty of this area is simply bewitching and many tourists prefer to go on a hike and explore breathtaking sights on their own.
(3) Hanging Lake: Hanging Lake is a lake located 11 km east of Glenwood Springs and is also a popular hiking destination. A paid permit is required to access the trailhead to Hanging Lake and access fees vary by season.
How to have a trip to a billionaire's town without burning a hole in your pocket? Generally, in Aspen, it is not surprising to find the accommodation starting from around 120$ per night. Don't worry and don't cancel your travel plans as we have some amazing budget accommodation recommendations for you.
Option A: Don't stay in Aspen but choose a nearby budget town (eg., Carbondale)
Carbondale lies on the route between Glenwood Springs and Aspen and it is a perfect budget location to visit both. The best thing about staying in Carbondale other than being economic is that it offers a plethora of budget hotels and restaurants. From Carbondale, Aspen is just about 40 min ride by RFTA bus.
Option B: Staying in a hostel or shared accommodation in Aspen
There are some hostels in Aspen that mainly targets the business from the student or young travelers. They provide private as well as shared accommodation relatively at a cheaper rate compared to other hotels or Airbnb apartments. One of such hostels you can find is st. Moritz hotel/hostels.
Bustang Bus Ride provides you a ticket to travel, doesn't guarantee a seat reservation, so be early. (the bus never gets full but still)
Aspen and nearby region are meant to be a hike, so wear appropriate clothes and hiking shoes.
Wildlife: In the forest area, it is likely to find Dear, bear, and other wildlife, so either hike in a group or always check there are people 100 m before you or after you on hiking trails. Sometimes, hiking trails go through isolated areas, be extremely careful in those points.
RFTA bus: It is expensive to purchase one-way bus tickets every-time you board a bus so it is better to buy a pass which is convenient and discounted but the drawback of having a pass is that you can't get refund for money left in the card unused so be wise when you recharge it.
Since there are not many cheaper accommodation options in Aspen, it is always a good idea to book in advance as such budget accommodations are generally booked quite quickly.
We hope that our tips will make your trip to Aspen more interesting.