These awesome ski towns are also great to explore in the off season, especially in the fall. The aspen trees give this area phenomenal color and there is great weather for hiking, biking, off-roading, and so much more.
Don’t be fooled by this small town of less than 3,000, Leadville has more character and adventure than most places could dream. This old miners town has many options including AirBnb’s, cute hotels, and camping spots nearby. We stayed in an Airbnb and loved the homey feels while experiencing this small town to it’s fullest.
City on a Hill Coffee & Espresso – This spacious coffee shop has drinks that will warm your heart and belly. The walls are covered with art and the seats are filled with welcoming people. Definitely a spot to put on your list.
Hike Clinton Gulch Reservoir Loop – ~2.5 mile loop, easy.
This trail has so much bang for it’s buck. It’s mostly flat, loops around a breathtaking blue lake, with luscious mountains surrounding you, and is around 15 minutes from downtown Leadville.
There are two parking lots on the same road and you can begin the trail from either one. There are many small side trails that you can take, although I do strongly encourage you to stay on the main trail and to respect the ecosystem as it exists.
Explore downtown Leadville: Harrison street is where you can find anything you need (for the most part). Coffee shops, thrift stores, street art, bars, etc. These are the best kind of small town local shops worth exploring. One of my favorite shops was Mule Kick, an adorable thrift shop with endless vintage mountain clothing.
Check out The Mule Kick: This vintage shop will take you back in time as you browse old ski/snowboarding clothes and gear. If you are lucky you will find an awesome item to take home that has not only style, but history. (I found the pink vest pictured below at Turquoise Lake)
Hike or fish at Turquoise Lake: 11 mile loop, easy.
This trail is one that is mostly flat and circles around this picturesque lake. If you’re looking for a nice evening walk after dinner then this spot is perfect and only 10 minutes from downtown Leadville.
Drive Independence Pass: Drive Southwest out of Leadville on 82W and you’ll take Independence Pass towards Aspen. This drive is phenomenal and is filled with ever-changing views around each twist and turn down this road. Be sure to drive slow and be aware, it gets very narrow and follows along a steep ridge line for a large portion. There are many pull-offs that make for great photo opportunities. Along the highest elevation of the drive you will also find the continental divide. Just make sure to check whether the road is open or not, often in the winter months it is closed for safety.
Watch the sunrise at Maroon Bells: After you drive across Independence Pass head to Maroon Bells Recreation Area. I’d suggest going early in the morning and trying to catch the sunrise. Photographers line up to capture the moment the sun kisses the tops of the mountains and turning them shades of pink. This area has trails all around for a great early morning hike around the lake, or if you are up to the challenge you can venture along a portion of a 28 mile loop around the area.
Eat and shop in Aspen: After enjoying the Maroon Bells, head into downtown Aspen for a brunch/lunch and some shopping.
Indulge at the Spring Cafe: This cute cafe has options for everyone, including gluten free, vegan, or nut allergies. Their tofu scramble is amazing, and both of my parents found options that they loved. I HIGHLY recommend this for an after hike bite, or early morning coffee.
Support the local Aspen Thrift Shop: Aspen has many stores that are worth checking out, but you will fall in love with this welcoming thrift shop and the interesting items it offers.
Go off-roading on the surrounding mountains: If you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle that can double as an off-roading vehicle, or if you can rent one then this is a great addition to your trip. There are miles and miles of trails you can take to explore the mountainside from a different experience. We used Mountain High Jeep Rentals and they supplied us with trail maps, detailed books, exploration of historical mines, and a great time in the backcountry.
Enjoy some PERFECT pizza at Piante: Okay okay… I can’t express enough how you HAVE to go here. This pizza parlor serves only plant-based food and it is all made in house. Don’t read plant based and skip past this restaurant, my father and mother who are not vegan or vegetarian LOVED this restaurant and we almost ordered a second pizza just because it was so good!
Explore downtown Breckenridge: Breckenridge is filled with shops and restaurants worth checking out. This area has so much character and history, from buildings from the late 1800s to galleries and museums, there is a lot to learn here.
Hike the Rockies: Breckenridge has access to so many trailheads and hikes from just a short drive. A few popular ones are Hoosier Pass loop, Mohawk Lakes, and Quandary Peak.
Tip: Stay open minded to the culture in this state. If you are from a state where marijuana is not legal, then just be prepared to smell it, see it, and be open to possibly trying it if that feels right to you.