I think I’ll never forget the moment I realized Aspen had it all. My wife and I would e-bike a 12-mile climb up the Elk Mountains to take a peek at the Maroon Bells, two 14,000-foot peaks whose red shale and paler siltstone give them their distinct purplish hue. As we took in the view of the bell-shaped mountains reflecting in a calm alpine lake, we began to understand why they are among the most photographed mountains in the country.
For a Texan, escaping the summer heat in favor of the fresh mountain air accompanied by numerous outdoor activities, luxury accommodation, fine cuisine and panoramic mountain views, is a respite from happiness. My wife and I stayed at Aspen Meadows, a Dolce by Wyndham resort. The 40-acre campus sits on the outskirts of town and integrates nature and art, providing both rest and inspiration.
The Bauhaus-style rooms and facilities are laid out like a small college campus, as the complex was originally built and still houses the Aspen Institute, an educational and political studies organization based in Washington, DC. years, the Colorado campus has hosted presidents, statesmen, diplomats and business leaders. It also houses a gallery with works by the influential Bauhaus artist Herbert Bayer.
Aspen’s free bike rental program came in handy throughout our stay. We made a 10 minute drive into town each day through neighborhoods full of quaint mountain homes to arrive at a bustling downtown area full of restaurants, shops, and galleries. We also decided to hike along Hunter Creek, down the mountains just north of town. Accompanied by a guide from the Center for Environmental Studies in Aspen, we took in the stunning views and learned about local flora, such as the fairy slipper, a pink and purple mountain orchid.
Aspen is great for burning calories, and luckily for us, it may be even better as a replacement for them. We sampled hearty and warm Italian fare at L’Hostaria Ristorante, where the spinach fettuccini and bolognese stood out, and we ended with a colorful mountain of gelato, meringues and berries.
In Aspen Meadows, one can enjoy the view at Plato’s, where chef Rachel Koppelman’s summer menu was fresh and delicious. Snake River Farms’ Wagyu tenderloin, with potatoes, fennel, wild sorrel and lemon ash, was exceptional. We also enjoyed sitting in the Town Square at BOSQ, where Chef Barclay Dodge’s summer tasting menu was both art and food. The dishes were as varied as the Peking duck with Chinese pancakes, the duck liver mousse on black bread, and the blackberries and beets with pistachios and lemon verbena.
The artistically presented dishes at BOSQ restaurant were as good as they looked.
Courtesy of Nick Trininenko
The Roaring Fork River and other waterways provide plenty of fly fishing options.
Courtesy of Matt Power
Our trip also included an in-depth look at the mountain streams with an afternoon of fly fishing on the Roaring Fork with Aspen Outfitting Co. The shallow stream was moving quickly, but the cold, clear water and the advice of experts helped us wrap some brown trout. The views and the chase were unbeatable. That afternoon we took the e-bikes to the mountains again, with the cool breeze and breathtaking views reminding us why Aspen is one of the best vacation spots America has to offer .