What to do in Aspen’s “Off Season”

Little Nell Head Concierge Carol Hooper hears this question a lot this time of year:

“What do you do in Aspen during the ‘off season’ before skiing starts?”

“Yes, there are fewer people and events going on in, but it’s also a really wonderful, quiet time to experience Aspen,” she says. “From hiking through fall colors to dining in Aspen restaurants for less, there’s a lot of benefits to being in town right now. Chances are if you sit at a bar, the person next to you is a local. Town is taking a collective breath, and the pace is downright calming.”

Carol has a few tips for those looking for ideas to spend fall days in Aspen, but if you still need some direction, you can find her at the Concierge Desk of The Little Nell.

The Great Outdoors

If you dress properly, this is a great time of year to enjoy the great outdoors. I recommend heading to the scenic Maroon Bells or up Castle Creek. Both have excellent trails and are perfect for road biking as well. (The Little Nell has bikes for rent and for borrowing.) Cruising (or walking) down the Rio Grande Trail is another favorite spot. It’s always fun to take a ride to the Woody Creek Tavern for margaritas and nachos. A quick hike up Smuggler or Hunter Creek trails are a great way to get outside for just an hour or two.

Also, fly fishing is an excellent fall activity. We’re still booking trips through our Little Nell Adventure Shop, and they can get you outfitted and fishing in no time.  


There are nearly 40 art galleries in the Aspen area, so you won’t have to go far to get a dose of art. Many are located right in the heart of downtown Aspen on the Cooper and Hyman pedestrian malls.  Truly, just wander the downtown. You won’t go far without finding a gallery to explore.

Be sure to venture down Mill Street and across the river to the Aspen Art Museum. Housed in what was originally the first hydroelectric plant west of the Mississippi, this cutting edge museum now features free rotating exhibitions of contemporary art and lectures by acclaimed artists, curators, museum directors and exhibitors.

I also like to recommend guests take a walk or bike ride through the historic West End neighborhood. The Aspen Institute is home to Andy Goldsworthy’s “Stone River,” a rock wall that undulates across the campus through a reflective pool and through a building to the Roaring Fork River below. Artists’ work is also on display in buildings throughout the stunning campus.

Relax and Pamper Yourself

“Off season” can often mean sale season in Aspen, so it’s a great time to enjoy local and international luxury brand shopping. Some stores have reduced hours, but the majority are open for business and ready to welcome you.

Take the opportunity to enjoy lunch or an afternoon snack outside (Ajax Tavern patio is a favorite). On a warm fall day, there’s nothing better.

This is also a great time to pamper yourself a bit! Indulge in a spa service and relax.

Get a Dose of History

Head over to the Aspen Historical Society for a recap of Aspen’s past. This museum is in a Victorian home at 620 W. Bleeker. Another less-known site that is perfect for a fall walk (and a bit spooky for Halloween) is the Aspen Grove Cemetery. Located on the east edge of town, you must travel east on Cooper Ave., take a left on McSkimming and then a right onto Aspen Grove Rd. There’s little signage, so this is a bit of a secret spot. Shhhh!

There’s also a historic walking tour that focuses on the “Dark Side” of Aspen, perfect for a fall evening.  

Of course there’s also events at The Wheeler Opera House and around town… really I could keep going! Fall is one of my favorite times in Aspen, and I hope you get to come and enjoy it at The Little Nell.