24 Hours from Aspen to Vail: A One-Day Hiking and Dining Odyssey

One can drive between Aspen and Vail Colorado in two hours. But why would you want to? If you have time, you should take a more leisurely route. In fact, you have a choice of two such routes:

  • The “express route”, northwest along Route 82 to the spa city of Glenwood Springs, and then east on I-70 to Vail; or
  • The “scenic route”, southeast on Route 82, down through the 12,095-foot Independence Pass, north on Route 24 through the historic mining town of Leadville, and then up Route 82, and then Route 70 west to Vail.

Although we have taken both routes and have partaken in each of these activities during previous trips, this year we took the Glenwood Canyon route, admiring the drive through the canyon and taking a two-hour stop to hike up to the beautiful Hanging Lake. Both routes, however, are more than worth taking, and offer plenty of opportunities for hiking, exploring or even overnight stays (in Glenwood Springs and Leadville). You should take each of these routes at least once.

While the journey between Aspen and Vail may be more than worth taking for its own sake, there is, as discussed in our blogs on each of these cities, also plenty to see, do and eat in each of them. Consider, for example, the 24-hour period that we spent between dinner in Aspen one night, and a return to Vail on the second.

Too hectic? Want to slow the process to smell the Aspens and the Columbines? Both trips, that via Glenwood Springs and that via Leadville, provide ample opportunities for detours. For example:

  • Glenwood Springs, in addition to its hot springs mineral baths, offers opportunities for exploring and spelunking through Glenwood Caverns and hikes up to Hanging Lakes. And if you don’t have the time or energy for these activities, a drive through the incredible Glenwood Canyon is a treat in and of itself.
  • Leadville offers walking tours of its historic downtown and opportunities to explore the interesting National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum. Independence Pass, meanwhile, is a beautiful, albeit demanding drive.

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