How To Visit Aspen, Colorado On A Budget, According To Travelers

Within Colorado's Rocky Mountains, visitors will find all the makings of a memorable vacation. Known as a premier skiing destination, Aspen, Colorado also has countless activities — not just outdoor adventures, either — that travelers of any budget can enjoy.

If you are looking to enjoy this destination without breaking the bank, fear not; there are plenty of options for where to stay, dine, and explore. While Aspen has many luxury options, by planning ahead, you can enjoy this destination while sticking to your budget. These recommendations come from personal experiences, reviews, and travel websites.

During the winter and early spring, skiing and snowboarding are common activities for visitors. Summer and fall can be filled with hiking, biking, thrilling swimming adventures, and festivals in this picturesque town and the surrounding areas. It's easy to fill your days with good food, beautiful scenery, and even a little adventure when you visit Aspen, Colorado.

Affordable places to stay in Aspen, Colorado

Perhaps one of the biggest expenses for any vacation is paying for a place to stay, and Aspen is no stranger to housing the budget-friendly traveler. You can consider staying at a hostel (with included breakfast!), camping when the weather allows, or even staying outside of the main city for cheaper accommodations.

If you are looking to stay within the city, St. Moritz Lodge is a highly rated and affordable option (with a rating of 8.6 out of 10 on Kayak). While you may have to share a bathroom with other guests, you will get a free continental breakfast and be within walking distance of the town. Another great option is the Mountain Chalet, which is located in the heart of Aspen. Their rates are cheapest when you book directly through this locally owned hotel and during the off-season in early and late summer.

Some of the surrounding towns have more affordable accommodations available, especially during peak ski season. Comfort Inn & Suites Carbondale On The Roaring Fork is located around 30 miles from Aspen, has reasonable rates, and raving reviews on Tripadvisor. During the warmer months, you may want to consider camping instead of booking a hotel. With sites starting at $15 a night, Silver Bell Campground in White River National Forest is ideal for those looking to hike Maroon Bells. It is also around 6 miles from Aspen. Use the reservation system at to book your site.

Shopping in Aspen on a budget

While Aspen is home to many luxury brands — and shopping at the local boutiques is sure to cost you a pretty penny — you can still walk away from your vacation with some new accessories for a fraction of the cost. Consider checking out the local consignment and thrift stores when in town. Add a luxury item to your closet for a discounted price with a trip to Susie's Aspen. This consignment shop is known for its fair pricing on high-quality goods, and both visitors and locals enjoy searching through the inventory for their next statement piece.

Visitors can also make a stop at the volunteer-run Aspen Thrift Shop, which is a three-story shop in the heart of Aspen. It's been called a "must do" in Aspen with "great quality clothes for reasonable prices," according to one happy shopper via Google reviews. All items in the store have been donated, and their proceeds go towards making grants for non-profit organizations and providing scholarships for high school graduates. Within Aspen, there are many shops ranging from local artisan shops to gear stores. Find some unique and reasonably-priced gifts at the Aspen Emporium or perhaps browse the sale rack at Aspen Outfitting Shop for any forgotten gear to complete your mountain vacation.

Visit the Maroon Bells

The Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area is a highly visited area, and for good reason. The best time to visit (when trailheads aren't closed due to snow) is between July and September — and an overnight permit fee during that period is only $10 per person each night. This wilderness area, positioned about 10 miles from downtown Aspen, offers exceptional hiking and backpacking trails that are among the best in the region.

Maroon Bells, named for two peaks in the Elk Mountains in Colorado, is a photographer's paradise with its striking landscapes. The hiking trail surrounding Maroon Lake allows visitors to escape into the wilderness. As previously stated, the best time to hike this area is late July through September, but wildflowers are most prominent on the trails from late May through August.

When planning to visit this area, you will likely need to secure a reservation, depending on the exact area and dates you plan to visit. Information about what kinds of permits and reservations your hiking, biking, or camping adventure in White River National Forest may need can be found on the Forest Service website. To enter the area, you will need to secure a reservation spot on the park shuttle, but for $10 to $16, you will buy yourself a day filled with adventure and spectacular views.

Spend the afternoon at a museum

If you are looking to enjoy some art while in the area, the Aspen Art Museum is free to visit. In addition to rotating exhibitions, this museum features other contemporary pieces of art. However, the most notable aspect of this museum might just be the building itself. This 33,000-square-foot Kunsthalle-style museum is located in the heart of Aspen and surely makes a statement with its unique design.

Within the museum, guests will find contemporary art from many artists. According to one guest's review on Google, "Each of the four floors before the rooftop features a different artist ... Whether you visit Aspen in winter or summer, carve out at least two hours and visit this gem."  While contemporary art is not everyone's cup of tea, with its mix of sculpture and dynamically interacting art on display, the Aspen Art Museum is rich with uniqueness.

Once guests have viewed the art inside the building, they can head to the rooftop terrace of the museum to take in views of the surrounding area. This museum is a great, budget-friendly sanctuary for visitors looking to get out of the cold or find some quiet during their travels.

Aspen Saturday Market and picnic

Typically open from summer to fall, the Aspen Saturday Market is bustling with local goods for sale. Beginning at the corner of Galena and Hopkins Avenue, the market forms a U-shape east towards Hunter Street and then back to Hyman and Galena Street.

Since 1998, this market has been home to Colorado agricultural vendors. Later, artisans were allowed to sell their unique goods at the market. The City Council only allows Colorado-made, grown, and produced items to be sold at the market. This means you are supporting local vendors when you purchase items from here.

While you are wandering through the market, pick up a few items for a picnic in the park. There are ample green spaces located within walking distance of the market. Wagner Park is just a 10-minute walk away and has views of Aspen Mountain. Since the market is open early in the day, consider bringing along a blanket or camping chairs and enjoy snacking on some local pastries or produce for a breakfast picnic.

Go to the John Denver Sanctuary

Nestled along the banks of the Roaring Fork River, the John Denver Sanctuary provides a tranquil retreat, allowing visitors to escape the city streets. It's open from dawn to dusk for visitors to roam for free. Within the park, you will find boulders engraved with John Denver lyrics and access to several trails in the area.

Whether you are a devoted fan or a casual listener, the sanctuary offers a space to appreciate the profound impact Denver had on the music industry and its enduring influence in advocating for environmental awareness. Perhaps you will put in some headphones and listen to John Denver's song "Starwood in Aspen" while strolling through the sanctuary.

Beyond its calming ambiance, the John Denver Sanctuary frequently hosts free live music events, providing a platform for local artists and enhancing the overall visitor experience. For those seeking a peaceful escape intertwined with musical inspiration, the John Denver Sanctuary stands as a must-visit destination.

Getting around Aspen on a budget

It's easy to get around the city and see the sights with Aspen's free shuttle system. Whether you are going to the slopes, the trailhead, or the shops, these shuttles will get you where you need to go. The updated schedules can be found on the City of Aspen website.

If you are looking to get a closer view of the city, use the WE-cycle bikes. Choose between an electronic or petal bike for your 30-minute free ride. Walking is another viable and budget-friendly option, particularly if your accommodations are centrally located or in close proximity to the areas you plan to visit in town. The pedestrian-friendly layout of Aspen makes it easy to stroll through the charming streets and discover its unique shops and attractions.

However, depending on your specific accommodations and plans, renting a car or driving yourself to Aspen may be necessary. This is especially true if you are planning to venture into the surrounding forests for activities like camping, where public transportation may not be available. You can even combine some of these various transportation options and explore Aspen on a budget without compromising on experiencing all the city has to offer.

Visit during the shoulder seasons

In the spring, as the snow gracefully melts away, and in the fall, before the chill of winter sets in, Aspen unveils a different charm. Unlike the bustling summer and winter months, the off-peak seasons offer a more cost-effective experience, allowing budget-conscious visitors to explore Aspen.

During these times, accommodation costs tend to be more reasonable, offering a prime opportunity for budget travelers to enjoy the city's attractions without the premium price tag. Also, when you choose to visit in the spring or fall, the weather is often more agreeable for camping. This means that even if you don't camp the entire trip, you can still save on accommodation expenses for a few nights and immerse yourself in the natural beauty that surrounds Aspen.

As an added bonus, these shoulder seasons also bring a quieter and more laid-back atmosphere, providing a chance to relish the charm of the city without the crowds. Local events and festivals are often taking place during this time, allowing you to live like a local and embrace the mountain-town lifestyle.

Tips for saving money while hitting the slopes

When the Rocky Mountains get covered in snow, masses flock to Aspen to ski or snowboard, meaning the price for a daily lift ticket can get pretty expensive. However, there are a few tricks to getting your lift tickets at a discounted rate.

One big perk to skiing at Aspen is that you have access to four mountains in the area. However, you should still expect to spend heavily on the cost of lift tickets and gear rentals. During the weekdays, lift tickets via Aspen Snowmass are slightly cheaper, and when purchased at least seven days ahead of time, you will be able to get the best pricing. And when you purchase more tickets, the daily cost will decrease.

For the avid skier, a season pass might make sense depending on how much time you plan to spend on the mountainside. The Ikon Pass will cost you significantly more upfront, but with this flat rate, you will have access to other ski resorts across the country, not just Aspen's four mountains. The Mountain Collective pass is also an option. Passholders are provided two days to ski in Aspen, half-off price for any additional days, and up to 20% on Aspen Snowmass lodging. To be kinder to your wallet, try to buy your passes, single-day tickets, and season passes as early as possible since prices increase later in the season.

Sticking to a dining budget

While it won't be hard to find a fine dining experience in Aspen, you may need to do a little more research before sitting down for dinner on a budget. If your lodging has a kitchen or you have the necessary equipment to cook while camping, consider cooking a few meals to save money. By cooking breakfast yourself and packing some snacks and a lunch to go, you will have some more financial wiggle room when you want to indulge in a fancy dinner. Selecting where you want to eat ahead of time will also help you determine when you will splurge and when you will save.

If you do choose to dine out when visiting Aspen, there are plenty of budget-friendly options. When you are in a rush to get to the top of the slopes or just walk around the town, a filling and well-priced meal is sure to hit the spot. Big Wrap is known for its $10 lunches. While there is not a ton of indoor seating, previous guests recommend taking your to-go order up the Silver Queen gondola up the mountain for a meal and a view. For vegetarian and gluten-free options, check out the Silverpeak Grill (formally known as 520 Grill), where meal prices start at around $12. One review of this location on Google says it has "Great prices for Aspen."

Take advantage of happy hour

With countless après-ski options to choose from, scooping out a deal can also help you narrow down when and where to enjoy an after-ski brew. Take advantage of the local happy hour options to get the most bang for your buck. Aspen Brewing Company is a must-hit spot of locally crafted beers with happy hours daily. Monday through Friday happy hour specials are served 4-7 p.m. and all day Saturday and Sunday. Their outdoor patio and $5 beers are a great way to break up the day and take in the views. You can even bring along your furry friend, as dogs are allowed here.

Another option is the locally owned and operated restaurant is Mezzaluna Aspen, which has a daily happy hour from 3-5 p.m. with discounts on drinks and pizza. Finally, if you are looking for a deal on drinks and food, Clark's Oyster Bar is the place to be. Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 3-5 p.m. and includes half-price burgers and martinis, 50 cents off oysters, and $5 oyster shooters. Clark's is a very popular spot to make sure to get a reservation ahead of time in order to score these deals.

Come prepared

One of the best ways to save money when traveling — no matter where you're headed off to — is by coming prepared. Packing with the weather in mind, bringing your own gear to avoid rental costs, and driving your own car to Aspen are all ways to stick to the budget.

Visitors looking to partake in Aspen's favorite snowy pastimes should pack for their ski trip accordingly and come prepared with their equipment. Renting equipment outside of Aspen will help decrease your spending. Similar to many Colorado mountain towns, Aspen can upcharge for your gear rentals since many people prefer the convenience. However, renting from an off-resort shop could save you as much as $30 a day.

Camping gear will also be required for those looking to truly embrace the wilderness while visiting Aspen. A quick way to avoid any unexpected costs is to double-check your packing list so you are not forced to buy new gear on the trip. Aspen weather varies season-to-season but packing light layers and a raincoat is never a bad idea. Remember, these mountain towns experience shifting weather daily, so what you wear in the morning might not keep you warm or dry in the evening.