Moments of peace in Aspen, Colorado

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So many places pale in comparison with their spruced up, photo-shopped counterparts. As much as I love it, Paris isn’t half as glamorous as it looks in the glossies; London is distinctly grey most of the time – and don’t even get me started on Thailand’s Maya Bay.

Then there are the places that blow everything you think you know about them out of the water. Colorado – with its yawning valleys and come-get-me mountains – is, unequivocally, one of the latter.

I recently spent an action-packed week in Aspen and Snowmass, hiking, mountain biking and white-water rafting my way around the region. But in between all the action there were brief moments of peace, giving me the chance to appreciate the sheer beauty of this outrageously scenic region.

These photos don’t do them justice of course… but hopefully you’ll get the gist.

Maroon Bells

Maroon_Bells_Emma_Sparks Maroon Bells in all their glory © Emma Sparks

Mirrored by a clear, cool lake, the Maroon Bells are the most photographed mountains in America. A quick search online will confirm that these peaks look good no matter the season – but you just can’t beat a burning blue sky.

If you can bear to turn away from the view, swivel 180° for more of Mother Nature’s bounty.

![Maroon_Bells_2Emma_Sparks](/assets/images/dsc_00531.jpg) _If you can bear to turn your back on the bells, this is the view © Emma Sparks

Plenty of hikes pass through this spot. The scenic trail hike takes 30 minutes and is ideal for those still acclimatising to the elevation.

Make it happen

Take the bus ($6) from Aspen Highlands, or cycle. Cars are prohibited between 8am and 5pm.

Stargazing

DSC_0096.jpg1 The sky is unbelievable clear in Colorado © Emma Sparks

On a cloudless night, it’s hard to beat a spot of stargazing from atop Aspen Mountain. Five-star hotel The Little Nell have enlisted local student, Anna Kate, to guide their luxury celestial spotting. After a bumpy twilight jeep ride, guests are treated to an astronomy lesson accompanied by charcuterie, local cheeses, and champagne.

Make it happen

Pay a visit to The Little Nell adventure concierge – hotel guests and non-guests are welcome. If you want to take pictures and would like to do better than yours truly, don’t forget the tripod.

Paragliding

IMG_0903 Prepare to take to the skies © Emma Sparks

Pair your bird’s eye view with a little adrenaline courtesy of Aspen Paragliding. If you’re not the skydiving kind, but are tempted to head for the skies, this is the gentler way to skim clouds.

Make it happen

Aspen Paragliding can be found at 426 South Spring St. Paragliding trips take a total of two hours and cost $250.

Aspen mountain

DSC_0146.jpg1 A ski slope in summer is still beautiful! © Emma Sparks

DSC_0290.jpg1 Aspen views are divine © Emma Sparks

Because this bad boy’s what you’re here for, right? Even in the summer, this mountain is your key to adventure.

Make it happen

Take the Silver Queen Gondola up ($20). The views alone are worth the trip, but since you’re here… why not take a free hike with ACES (Aspen Centre for Environmental Studies) or a free yoga class on the sundeck (summer only)? You can also hike here from the base and take the gondola back for free if you fancy a steep, sweaty climb.

John Denver Sanctuary

Tucked behind Rio Grande skatepark, John Denver Sanctuary sits at the opposite end of town to Aspen’s commanding mountain – offering nuggets of wisdom and timeless lyrics etched in stone, and fragrant flowers in peaceful surroundings. Oblivious as to who John Denver was, a quick Spotify search revealed that this Aspen local penned hits such as Annie’s Song, Take me Home, Country Roads, and Leaving, on a Jet Plane. They’ve been in my head ever since.

DSC_0135.jpg1 The sanctuary in bloom © Emma Sparks

DSC_0130.jpg1 Wise words © Emma Sparks

Make it happen

Aspen is an incredibly walkable city, so all you need to reach this spot are your own two feet. Donations to the maintenance of the sanctuary are also welcome.

Where to stay

The Gant

In a quiet corner of town, these condos are ideal for families and couples looking to relax in a secluded environment. Suites are plush and service is excellent.

Sky Hotel

This is the place to party after hitting the slopes. Communal spaces are designed for socialising and the pool area is basically ski-in.

The Timberline

If it’s good enough for Chris Froome, it’s good enough for me. These gorgeous condos – just a short, steep walk from Snowmass village – are a lovely place to rest your head after a day in the fresh mountain air, pro cyclist or not. The outdoor pool and hot tub seal the deal.

Plan your trip

There are no direct flights to Aspen’s tiny airport from the UK (unless, perhaps, you own one of the many private jets which land there every year). United Airlines offer connecting flights. Alternatively, you could fly to nearby Denver and make your way to Aspen from there by car (3 hours 15 mins) or plane (50 mins).

Further reading

Off-piste adventures: summertime activities in Aspen and Snowmass

10 places to eat in Aspen

[video] Adventures in Aspen and Snowmass

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