Adventure Activites in Aspen - Try if You Dare
1. Drive Over Independence Pass
The stretch of Colorado State Highway 82 from Twin Lakes to Aspen is one of the most scenic drives in the state of Colorado. It climbs up from Twin Lakes to the top of Independence Pass at 12,095 ft. Soaring above the pass is Mount Elbert - the highest peak in Colorado at 14,440 ft.
While the drive is scenic for most and counts as one of Colorado's fun activities, it leaves many first-timers white-knuckled on their first trip over. The first clue is the sign telling RV drivers that rigs longer than 35 ft are not allowed over the pass. The second clue is the first stretch of shelf road with no guardrail, no shoulder, and a drop of several hundred feet. It only gets better!
The road winds and climbs to the top of the pass. Many stop and breathe a sigh of relief not knowing what's to come. The first few miles are a gentle grade and then the road narrows. As the road descends, it keeps getting narrower and drivers start to notice the rock cliffs that come right up to the side of the road.
A few miles before the road reaches Aspen, Highway 82 starts twisting around blind curves beside those cliffs. As the road twists and winds, the road narrows to one lane. While the road is still marked for two lanes, each lane is only about three- feet wide. Vehicles must stop and take turns going through these narrow sections.
So, if you ever wonder why you can sometimes see the side of an RV hanging on the rock cliffs on the descent into Aspen, you now have your answer. To make it even more exciting, it's possible to witness a massive rockslide cross the road from your rearview mirror.
Colorado travel adventures don't come much better than Independence Pass. Note that it is closed in winter.
2. Whitewater Rafting on the Roaring Fork River
Colorado didn't need to build an amusement water park to provide its citizens with wild, wet adventure activities. Aspen's Roaring Fork River runs right through town. When the spring snow melts in Aspen, fun outdoor activities on the water abound.
A swirling, roaring river is a siren's call to the whitewater thrill-seekers in the city. Just five minutes away from downtown Aspen are the Class IV rapids fittingly named Entrance Exam, Slaughterhouse Falls, and Hell's Half Mile. Aspenites recovering from the previous evening's activities can be found on the tamer Class III rapids through Woody Creek and Snowmass Canyons. Down valley sections of the Roaring Fork River offer beginner Class II-III rapids.
On a hot summer day, splashing around in the river is the perfect way to cool down. After all, that water was probably snow the day before. The trees, mountains and river provide plenty of spectacular scenery. Pack a towel and check out one of the local rafting companies, such as Blazing Adventures. If the raft guide falls out of the boat, local tradition holds that he has to buy a keg of beer that night for the group.
3. Rock Climbing in Aspen
Since Aspenites can't get enough of skiing over rock cliffs and catching mandatory airtime in winter, they like to climb up the cliffs in summer. Fortunately, there are plenty of cliffs to climb around Maroon Bells and on Independence Pass. Drive around either place and you'll see climbers clinging like spiders to the sides of the cliffs.
To experience this popular adventure activity in Aspen, hire a local certified mountain guide and take lessons. Aspen Expeditions (http://www.aspenexpeditions.com) is one company that offers outdoor activities and travel adventures including rock climbing courses. They'll teach safe climbing techniques and then push your comfort limits in increments. Beginner to advanced climbing routes are scattered throughout the valley. Be sure to take a camera to photograph the climbing terrain and the surrounding mountains.
4. Paragliding in Aspen
If climbing up a cliff doesn't provide enough of a thrill, rest assured you can find more daring activities in Aspen: try paragliding over the city. Paragliding around mountains provides plenty of challenges, the least of which is actually crashing into the side of a mountain. Mountains produce unpredictable weather and wind patterns. The mountains surrounding Aspen are no different. Just ask any airplane pilot you happen to meet around town.
Paragliding does offer a bird's-eye view of the city of Aspen, and you may even see a few of those birds while soaring over town. If you feel the need to soar like an eagle over Aspen, Aspen Paragliding has a staff of experienced USHGA-certified tandem pilots. No prior experience is required. Visit them at 426 S Spring St, Aspen or call 970-925-6975.
You can choose to fly at Aspen or over at Snowmass in summer and winter, weather permitting. Tandem flights cost around $225 per person and children aged five and up are permitted to fly.
5. Skiing and Snowboarding in Aspen
In winter you'll still find plenty of adventure activities: Aspen doesn't shut down when the first snows fall like some adventure vacation resorts. The four ski resorts of Aspen Skiing Company provide plenty of in-bound thrills for the citizens of Aspen while the surrounding backcountry provides ascents of nearby 14,000 ft peaks.
Aspen and Snowmass ski resorts offer some of the most thrilling ski runs in Colorado. In-town Aspen Mountain has challenging glades and bumps while nearby Snowmass offers runs with mandatory airtime and pillow lines. To add to the mix, one of the resorts, Buttermilk hosts the annual Winter X Games, in which a number of local athletes have competed. If you don't qualify for the X Games, you can still watch them slope-side for free. For backcountry adventure, hire certified guides and take a multi-day 10th Mountain Division hut system trip.
The next time you find yourself passing through Aspen, come and experience one of its favorite thrill-seeking activities. It won't turn you into a famous celebrity, but completing at least one adventure activity in Aspen from the above list will make you feel alive.