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1 May 2024
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Summer in Aspen

With its world-class ski resorts and epic snowboarding trails, most people think of Aspen as a winter vacation destination, and they're not wrong. What you may not know is the city is a prime location in the summertime as well. Aspen in summer is a haven for water lovers, providing a wide range of activities that let visitors fully engage with the stunning natural beauty of this mountain paradise. 

From the gentle ripples of the Roaring Fork River to the pristine stillness of the Maroon Lake, Aspen’s waterways beckon adventurers and leisure-seekers alike. Whether you're paddling through serene lakes, rafting down vibrant rivers, or simply soaking up the scenic splendor from a peaceful riverbank, the refreshing waters of Aspen provide the perfect escape from the summer heat.

Read on for the top ways to enjoy the water in Aspen this summer!

Hiking Trails

Aspen is most famous for its gorgeous mountains, so of course hiking is on our list. Summer is the perfect season to get out on the trails and enjoy them free of snow and mud from spring rainstorms. June through September is generally considered the best time of year to hike in Aspen. One of the best parts about hiking in the summer months is enjoying Aspen's many lakes! You can traverse these trails and even take a dip if it gets too toasty out there.

There are trails for every level of hike you can think of, from multiple-day backpacking loops to .5-mile treks. Don't forget to pack your river shoes in case you'd like to wade in Aspen's clear waters! Here are some of our favorite hikes in and around the lakes of Aspen:

Crater Lake

One of the best beginner Aspen hikes. This route runs between Crater Lake and Maroon Lake, so you get to enjoy views of both!

  • Length: 3.5 Miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 688 ft.
  • Route Type: Out & back
  • Dogs: Yes, on leash.

Cathedral Lake

One of the most popular lake trails in Colorado. Though it offers stunning views, Cathedral Lake is generally not recommended for beginner hikers.

  • Length: 5.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Elevation Gain: 2,070 feet
  • Route Type: Out & back
  • Dogs: Yes (if leashed), if they can handle the steep incline!

American Lake Trail

American Lake Trail can be a bit challenging for beginner hikers, but as long as you take your time and mind the elevation, the trail is manageable for beginner/moderate hikers. The hike has different types of terrain throughout, with beautiful wooded areas followed by stunning views of American Lake once you’ve reached the end.

  • Length: 6.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 2,043 ft.
  • Route Type: Out & back
  • Dogs: Yes, on leash.

Fly Fishing

With all of the beautiful nature surrounding you, fly fishing in Aspen is as picturesque as it is exhilarating! Take in the awe-inspiring surroundings as you await  your next catch. The clear, cold waters of Aspen are teeming with trout, providing both beginners and seasoned anglers ample opportunity to test their skills.

The rhymthic flow of fly fishing combined with the anticipation of the hunt make fly fishing not just a water sport, but a way to connect with nature around you. Many people find fly-fishing quite meditative, taking trips to reconnect with close friends, or even with themselves.

Several companies offer guided tours to float or wade the various rivers and lakes. The fly-fishing experience in Aspen is world-class at any skill level, from first-timers to experienced anglers. You may want to hire a guide if you haven’t fly fished before, but if you’re looking to explore on your own, here are some areas to consider (some of which we included in our hiking section above).

White Water Rafting

For those seeking a thrill of adventure during their summertime stay in Aspen, whitewater rafting is the perfect solution. Imagine yourself holding on for dear life as the rapids rush by, carrying your boat down an adventurous river trail with exciting twists and turns.

While navigating the rapids, you’ll experience an adrenaline rush like no other, realize the power of teamwork, and get to enjoy picturesque landscapes. In order to get the full (and safe) white water rafting experience, you’ll want to go on a guided trip. Options for companies to utilize include Elk Mountain ExpeditionsAspen Whitewater Rafting, and so many others. These reputable companies in the area will help you pick the best route for your specific rafting needs!


Standup Paddleboarding, or SUP, is a more laid-back alternative to white water rafting. Picture yourself on a calm summer day, gently gliding through Aspen's beautiful rivers and lakes and letting your troubles melt away. Paddleboarding is quite popular in Aspen, offering a unique outdoor experience that combines adventure with the area's stunning natural beauty.  Paddleboarding is relatively easy to learn, making it accessible to all ages and fitness levels.

If you're looking to get out and try paddleboarding, North Star Nature ReserveTwin Lakes, and Ruedi Reservoir are some popular spots. If you need rental equipment or lessons, check out Aspen Bikes or Aspen Whitewater Rafting. Several Aspen companies would be happy to help you along on your paddleboarding expedition and offer insight and guidance along the way.

Book Your Summertime Aspen Stay Today!

Aspen is an exciting place to visit year-round. Now that you’re equipped with the best ways to enjoy the water in Aspen this summer, it’s time to book your trip! McCartney Properties is here to ensure your stay in Aspen is everything you’ve dreamed. We offer pet-friendly rentals, private home rentals, long-term rentals, and more.  Discover our Aspen vacation rentals and book your stay directly with us today!