Uncrowded slopes, a wealth of diverse terrain and more than 3,000 acres of glades, steeps and deeps make Snowmass a beloved winter destination — but Colorado’s second-largest ski resort is also known for its eye-catching landscapes. Add one of these photo-worthy spots to your summer itinerary.
The Elk Mountains
Unparalleled glimpses of Snowmass Ski Area, which becomes a hiker’s paradise in the summer months, and the snow-speckled Elk Mountains make the 8-mile Rim Trail’s steep climbs worthwhile. Once you reach the marble yin-yang platform at the top, spot the pointy summit of 14,131-foot Capitol Peak and the distinct diagonal stripe on 13,300-foot Mount Daly. The fast-rolling singletrack trail is also popular for mountain biking; rentals are readily available in town.
Snowmass Balloon Festival
There’s nothing more breathtaking than the image of more than two-dozen kaleidoscopic hot-air balloons floating across the Roaring Fork Valley’s blue skies.
One of the highest-altitude balloon events in the country, the Snowmass Balloon Festival in September includes a hot-air balloon distance race, evening balloon glow and a wide array of kid-pleasing activities. If you’re not visiting during the festival, book your own Snowmass sunrise balloon ride for 360-degree panoramas of the Elk Mountains and chances to spot elk, deer and foxes from the sky.
The crown jewels of Colorado views, the Maroon Bells are one of North America’s most photographed panoramas. Gain a unique perspective of the iconic twin darlings — named Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak — from the Top of the Elk Camp Gondola in the summer and winter. Several scenic hiking and biking trails are also available at the gondola’s apex, including the 3.5-mile Summit Trail, a route down the mountain that travels through pine woodlands and subalpine fields.
Ashcroft Ghost Town
Approximately 15 miles from Snowmass, Ashcroft was once inhabited by about 2,000 people and had 20 saloons and two newspapers in 1883. Prospectors flocked to the town to mine for silver, but the lack of discoveries led the population to dwindle to less than 100 by 1885. Ashcroft’s remains, which include a saloon, post office and jail, look uniquely captivating against the forest-clad peaks. To get there from Snowmass, drive toward Aspen on Hwy 82 and exit on Castle Creek Road at the roundabout. More Snowmass attractions >>
Colorful blooms blanket Snowmass’ meadows and mountainsides in July. Look for columbines, lupines and wild geraniums on the gentle 2-mile Snowmass Nature Trail, a route along Brush Creek that leads to ruins of a miner’s cabin, and the 2-mile Ditch Trail, which also offers incredible sights of Mount Daly and the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. More Snowmass hiking trails >>
Ancient Landscapes at Ice Age Discovery Center
Thousands of pristine ice age fossils, including more than 6,000 bones of ten large mammals and more than 30,000 small bones from 42 small vertebrate animals, were discovered in 2010 at Snowmass Village’s Ziegler Reservoir. Hailed as the finest alpine ice age fossil trove in the world, the excavation offers a rare peek into the landscapes and creatures that dominated Colorado 140,000 years ago. At the Snowmass Ice Age Discovery Center, view replicas of mammoth and mastodon teeth from the dig site, wonder at full size skull and femur fossil replicas, and chat with the on-site paleontologist.