Car camping time! Chances are you have probably gone car camping at some point in your life or another.
Maybe it was in your younger days, but I am sure you have slept in your car at one point in time!
But, have you ever flown somewhere and car-camped? Well, this is always an option!
And this is what my husband and I did when we visited Aspen in August of 2020.
In this post, I am giving you a complete 4 day Aspen itinerary breakdown focused on the outdoors!
Aspen is located in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. It is a small ski town known for its year-long outdoor adventures. It is a quaint little town also known for its upscale shopping and healthy living.
I will also be sharing some general car camping tips and bear safety tips!
So, let’s get started!
THE ULTIMATE FOUR DAY ASPEN ITINERARY
CAR CAMPING PREPARATION
Going into this trip, my husband and I knew we wanted to try to save some money as it was already expensive to fly to Aspen itself. So, we decided the best way to save money on this trip would be by car camping.
There were quite a few things to do in preparation for this trip. Actually, a lot more than I was expecting. So, I figured I would share my tips with you!
First off! Of course, we needed to make sure we got a car big enough for both of us to sleep in. We decided to get the ultimate adventure car!
A Jeep Wrangler!
This car was the same price as any other car that would allow us to sleep in it, so we figured why not get the super cool adventure car!
(And let’s just say I now am trying to convince my husband to buy us a Jeep Wrangler as our next car).
There are a few things you should be packing when preparing to go car camping.
Since we were trying to make this trip as cost-effective as possible we also decided that we were going to cook our own meals for the most part.
So, of course that meant we had to bring our cooking gear too.
Here is a list of items that we packed in our suitcase specifically for car camping:
-1 extra blanket
-Blow up camping pillows
-Burner and Stove
-Bear canister for our food
Tip: If you are traveling with a second person and plan to car camp, try sharing a suitcase. It will save space in the car.
You are going to be more than likely “roughing it,” so there are a few extra things that I made sure to bring to help me feel clean!
-Eco Friendly Wet wipes to wipe my body off with
-Hand sanitizer that had aloe vera in it to keep my hands from feeling super dry
-Face wipes by Neutrogena
ASPEN CAR CAMPING TIPS
Car camping can be daunting at first, especially if you don’t know where to park and sleep safely at night.
I wrote a whole blog on how to properly and safely car camp with lots of tips!
If you are looking for remote and free car camping spots like we did there are a few options.
Some apps/websites that I love and are free to use are:
Any BLM land
A paid app would be the Dyrt. However, I find that a lot of these resources have overlapping results. They tend to show all the same places where you can legally sleep for free.
The nice thing about the Pro version of the Dyrt is that it has offline browsing.
Pro tip: Once you leave the small town of Aspen the service becomes minimal, so make sure to download your google map sleeping location while you have service!
Car camping not your thing but still want to visit Aspen? Then check out these best hotels and Airbnb in Aspen!
DAY 1: FLY INTO ASPEN, GONDOLA, & HOT SPRINGS
This is your first day in Aspen, so once you land you will need to pick up your rental car.
This was super simple. The Aspen airport is extremely tiny and the rental car parking lot is right across the street. I do recommend booking your car ahead of time though. There were only about 20 rental cars in the whole parking lot.
Pro tip: If you plan to go anywhere outside of Aspen you will need a car. There is a free shuttle that does take you around town but will not get you to the more remote places.
If you are looking to save money then plan to do your grocery shopping after you land. All the restaurants in Aspen are quite expensive.
There is a City Market (grocery store) right in downtown Aspen and this is where we picked up all our groceries. We then headed over to their local outdoors gear store, called Ute Mountaineer, to grab gas for our stove and some bear spray as well as some freeze dried meals.
If you are looking for a cute place to eat and have coffee as soon as you land then check out The Local Coffee House.
Our coffee was now in hand and we were ready to enjoy the day. Unfortunately, the rain kind of took over, but we still decided to head up the Silver Queen Gondola.
There are two package options. We chose the cheaper of the two. It was $29/person.
It is a beautiful ride up. Once we reached the top we headed to the dining area and enjoyed some epic views. It was freezing out, so we got some chili at the top. This would also be a great place to enjoy a glass of wine.
We went on a small hike, but it didn’t last long as it was raining out and we were not appropriately dressed.
Some hikes you can do from the top of the Gondola:
- Aspen Mountain Nature Trail: 1 mile RT
- Richmond Ridge trail: 2.2 miles one way
You can purchase your ticket here ahead of time or there is a booth at the base of the Gondola to purchase tickets.
Once the rain cleared we headed to Penny Hot Springs.
This place is literally right off the right. Just type in Penny Hot Springs into google maps and it will direct you there. Make sure to do so while you have service, because you will lose service on your way there.
There is a dirt path down to the hot springs! Sit and soak in multiple different pools.
After you enjoy your time at the top of the Gondal head back down and finish your night off by enjoying a beer and Pizza from the Aspen Brewing Company.
If you are looking to car camp at night this is where we stayed.
***Note we drove up the mountain like it said to and there was no camping spot at the top, so we ended up driving down and parking at the base of the mountain to sleep.
RECAP OF DAY 1
- Pick up your rental car
- Do some grocery shopping
- Ride up the Silver Queen Gondola
- Do a hike once you get off the Gondola
- Walk around downtown Aspen
- Penny Hot Springs
Places to eat:
- The Local Coffee House for Breakfast
- Sundeck at the top of Aspen Gondola
- Aspen Brewing Company for Pizza and Beers
DAY 2: SUNRISE AT MAROON BELLS & INDEPENDENCE PASS
We had planned to watch the sunrise for multiple days at Maroon Bells and we did, but we had a few hiccups along the way.
So, note that this day was planned to be spent at Maroon Bells, but went a little differently.
Maroon Bells now requires permits to see the iconic mountain and the permits sell out fast. So, make sure to book way in advance. You can book them here.
Insider’s tip! We booked a 60 hour overnight permit. This is the way to go. It allowed us the opportunity to come and go multiple times, which was great because of the rain.
After we saw the sunrise at Maroon Bells it began to pour. So, we decided to head back into town.
We decided to enjoy a second breakfast at Poppycock’s. This is a very popular breakfast location in downtown Aspen. The food and service were both great!
We took it pretty easy this day because of the rain. Aka we watched TV and slept in the back of our car.
Butttt if it is not raining here are some hikes I was looking forward to doing:
- American Lake
- Old Crystal Mill
- Crater Lake
Other fun day activities near Aspen:
- Mountain bike
- Alpine Coaster
- Ski in the winter
The rain cleared around 3pm, so we actually were able to do a few more activities. We did the Grotto Trail and then drove up to the peak of Independence Pass for sunset.
I highly recommend catching the sunset at the top of Independence Pass! It is gorgeous!
Insider tips: It is freezing at the top of the pass, so pack warm clothes, there are bathrooms at the top, and the road is windy and steep on the way up.
We got a great last minute deal on Priceline! Another great option to steal a last minute deal is HotelTonight.
DAY 3: MAROON BELLS HIKING
Ahhh back to the iconic Maroon Bells. This whole Aspen itinerary is built around the iconic Maroon Bells.
Maroon Bells is located just 10 miles west of Aspen. It takes about 30 minutes to get from downtown Aspen to the parking lot of Maroon Bells.
Thankfully this day was sunny, so we woke up for sunrise again.
The iconic photo/screensaver shot of Maroon Bells is from the Fall when the leaves are yellow and the mountains are snow-capped.
But it is still absolutely stunning in the summer!
There is a popular backpacking route here called the Four Pass loop or you can just do day hikes.
Popular day hikes that begin at Maroon Bells Lake:
- Maroon Lake Scenic Trail
- Maroon Creek Trail
- Crater Lake Trail
- Willow Lake Trail
Pro tip: Sunrise is the best time to see Maroon Bells.
-The sun rises and lites up the Maroon Bells mountain a beautiful pinkish/orange color
-It is quiet and peaceful
-Not too many people out
-Makes for the best photos
-It is very cold out (make some coffee ahead of time and bring it with you)
For sleeping purposes, again we got the 60 hour overnight permit and slept in the overnight parking lot in our car.
***Make sure to put your food in a bear canister even when sleeping in the car as you are in bear territory.
DAY 4: RELAX AND FLY HOME
Well this day turned out to be a little unexpected.
We woke up for sunrise at Maroon Bells Lake one more time and found the most perfect spot to take photos.
Our flight was supposed to leave at 1130am, but apparently they changed it to 920am so we missed it. Haha
So, we ended up having a relaxing day in downtown Aspen.
Non-tourist things to do in Aspen:
- Do a workout in the Aspen Ruggerfest park
- Do a drop in workout class at O2 Aspen
- Grab a green smoothie and wrap from JUS Aspen
- Hike the Smuggler Mountain Trailhead
- Head to the Aspen recreation center for swimming and rock climbing
- Go shopping!
ITEMS I DID NOT BRING ENOUGH OF:
The mornings were extremely cold and I did not pack appropriately and neither did my husband. I wish I brought more of the following:
-Deck of cards for the rainy days
FINAL THOUGHTS FROM YOUR OUTDOOR LOVING GIRL
I hope this detailed Aspen itinerary was helpful for you. I know I kind of gave you the background of how each day went for us personally, but I like to be thorough and tell you about our full experience.
Tell me in the comments below if you have ever been to Aspen!