The Perfect Day Trip Out of Aspen (Yes, We’re Asking You to Leave)

·Managing Editor

Most visitors to Aspen never leave manage to leave the slopes or the fancy bars that nuzzle up to them. Why would they? The quaint downtown and Aspen mountain have more than enough terrain, attractions and people watching to entertain anyone for a week.

For better or worse, I catch wanderlust just about everywhere I go. So, on a recent trip to the mountain town, when the opportunity arose to leave Aspen and head into the Rocky mountains, while getting a chance to test drive the new 2017 Audi Q7, I asked for the keys and got out of dodge.


The Audi Q7′s new GPS ensures you will never get lost, even when you are a person who is prone to getting lost. (Photo: Jo Piazza)

It was so worth it. In good conditions the alpine roads around Aspen are some of the most beautiful in the world. And the new Q7 , a slick three-row sport utility vehicle, lives up to the hype and really showed off its stuff hugging the curvy mountain paths.


Sneak peak of the brand new model. (Photo: Nick Aster)

Need a perfect mini-break from downtown Aspen? Here’s your ideal winter itinerary for eating, drinking and getting close to nature:

Go to the end of the road. Literally. Take Castle Creek road all the way to where the asphalt ceases. The new Q7′s optional air suspension can raise the vehicle up to 9.6 inches in off-road mode, a useful trick to deliver passengers to the start of some tricky trailheads like this one.


We’ve reached the end of the road. (Photo: Nick Aster)

Here you can explore 35 kilometers of groomed trails skirting the Elk Mountain Range on classic cross-country skis, skate skis, or snowshoes (all available for rent at the Adventure Lodge here).

Take a sleigh ride in the snow. Take a break from driving to let draft horses Bert and Ernie give you a leisurely ride in the sub-alpine valley surrounding the Ghost Town of Ashcroft, a turn-of-the-century mining town.


Meet your chauffeurs for the day—Bert and Ernie. (Photo: Nick Aster)

Get offline for lunch. You can only reach the Pine Creek Cookhouse by foot or hoof! The regular horse drawn sleigh rides bring visitors to this adorably rustic cabin for a remote scenic lunch (there are two daily seatings, 11:45 and 1:45, and reservations are strongly encouraged).

Related: Why Road Trips Are Better Now Than When You Were a Kid


A cabin so adorable you won’t want to leave. (Photo: Nick Aster)

Warning - there is absolutely no cell service or wifi here. It’s amazing. Start your meal with a hot toddy. You can’t go wrong with the Colorado Elk Bratwurst on a pretzel roll smothered in homemade pepper relish or the Wagyu Beef Sherpa Stew.


All ingredients are locally-sourced and responsibly raised and the seasonal menus are inspired by mountain traditions from all over the world. (Photo: Nick Aster)

Have a drink. But only if you aren’t the one driving. But even if you are the designated driver a visit to the Woody Creek Distillers Tasting Room in Basalt is a must. Started in 2012 Woody Creek creates truly farm to bottle spirits. The potatoes that make their vodka and gin are grown right next door in Woody Creek, the Colorado town made famous by writer Hunter S. Thompson.


A very fancy flight of spirits at Woody Creek. (Photo: Nick Aster)

Those potatoes are picked and turned into liquor the very same day they come out of the ground. How’s that for local and sustainable and awesome? The tasting room serves up all kinds of drinks and sells special batches of vodka, gin, rye and apple brandy that you won’t find anywhere else.


Get a behind the scenes look at the coolest farm-to-bottle liquor you’ll ever drink. (Photo: Nick Aster)

Channel your inner Hunter S. Thompson. The Woody Creek Tavern is something of an institution here in the mountains. Once the favorite haunt of Thompson (legend is they used to keep the bar open as long as the “Fear and Loathing” writer wanted) and now a true local institution, this spot has legendary tamales and burgers. Woody Creek doesn’t take credit cards, reservations or pretension. So leave you fur in the car.

Related: I Drove Cross-Country and Didn’t Eat Fast Food Once

Go dog sledding. Indulge in a back country adventure on dog sled with Krabloonik’s mountain dining and dog sled company. Their hour-long twilight ride allows you to truly enjoy the Alpenglow against Mt. Daly and Capitol Peak. Dinner ride guests must be at the restaurant at 4:00 p.m. After the ride enjoy a gourmet dinner of elk, pheasant and wild boar at the log cabin restaurant in the heart of the Snowmass mountains.

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