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Paddles up on the Roaring Fork River with Aspen Whitewater Rafting


An Aspen Bucket List for Summer

By Tess Weaver Strokes

Trout photo by Tamara Susa from BTX Productions in Snowmass, courtesy of Aspen Outfitting Co. | Rafting photo courtesy of Aspen Whitewater Rafting | Hot springs photo courtesy of Dunton Hot Springs


Your summer guide to fishing and rafting the Aspen outdoors.


Classic: Rafting the Roaring Fork River
Blazing Adventures, Elk Mountain Expeditions and Aspen Whitewater Rafting all offer a combination of rafting trips down the Roaring Fork River, but Class IV Slaughterhouse Falls (for experienced rafters ages 14 and older) near Aspen and the Class III Upper Roaring Fork are the ultimate in action-packed spring runs.

Alternative: Paddleboarding North Star Nature Preserve
Two miles east of town, North Star Nature Preserve meanders from Wildwood Lane to a bridge at mile marker 42, offering a flat-water dream. The area protects 10 vegetation communities and more than 140 species, so float like a local—quietly and respectfully.

Upgrade: Private raft trip to Glenwood Springs
Book a private trip with Elk Mountain Expeditions down the Class II Lower Roaring Fork from Carbondale to Glenwood Springs to experience the abundant wildlife (think bald eagles and river otters) on this calm stretch of water. Prices vary 

The stretch of Fryingpan River between Ruedi Reservoir and Basalt is known for its healthy and sizeable trout.


Classic: Catch a brown trout on the Fryingpan
Brown trout dominate the Gold Medal waters of the Fryingpan River as it flows northwest from the Hunter Fryingpan Wilderness, through Ruedi Reservoir and down to Basalt. Some 8 ½ miles of riverfront provide roadside access to fishermen and guide Ian McLendon knows where and when to find access. Rates vary

Alternative: Float-fish the Roaring Fork River
Summer means float-fishing on the Fork for more experienced anglers. It’s also prime time for exploring the miles of high-country streams in search of cutthroats and brookies inhabiting some of the most spectacular mountain scenery anywhere, which can be done without a guide. Full-day float trip $600, half-day floats available

Upgrade: Fish private water
When it seems that fishing can’t get any better, Aspen Outfitting Company holds exclusive leases on the area’s largest selection of private water. Two people for $645 for four hours

Dunton Hot Springs’ six pools range in temperature from 85 to 106 degrees.


Classic: Hiking Conundrum Hot Springs
Hike 8 ½ miles one way to Conundrum Hot Springs to find arguably the most scenic geothermal waters in the state. At the end of a valley, above the tree line, the springs reach 102 degrees, drawing hundreds of soakers and campers on summer weekends. Plan ahead: Overnight visitors now require a permit.

Alternative: Mount Sopris and Avalanche Ranch soak
Though Mount Sopris sits just shy of 13,000 feet, the 13-mile round-trip trek to its summit is tougher than many 14ers. At the base of Sopris, in between Carbondale and Redstone, Avalanche Ranch offers cascading natural hot springs to sooth tired legs. Reservations required, midweek tickets $15, weekends $18

Upgrade: Dunton Hot Springs
The creme de la creme of hot-water therapy, Dunton Hot Springs’ perfectly restored ghost town of handhewn luxury log cabins and natural hot springs in the San Juan Mountains (about a six-hour drive from Aspen) offers one of the world’s most memorable soaks. From $945 per night