Nestled among the Rockies in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, Aspen is a small, easy-to-navigate mountain town with lots to see and do. Since outdoor recreation is king here, you’ll see many people riding their bikes, walking, hiking and, sometimes, even skiing or snowshoeing around town. This eco-friendly community, which deeply values sustainability, also has a robust bike-share program and many free bus routes to help ease traffic congestion, reduce pollution and preserve Aspen’s historic character.

Wondering how to navigate Aspen, Colorado? Here’s what you need to know about getting around this scenic city by car, bike, bus or on foot.

Catching the bus

Best to get around town

Getting around Aspen via bus is a breeze, thanks to the expansive Roaring Fork Transit Authority bus system (it’s RFTA for short, and Aspenites call it “Rafta”). All of the bus routes in the city of Aspen are free (plus the routes to and from Snowmass Village and Woody Creek); others in the region range from $1 to $10, depending on the length of the trip. Children under the age of 5 and seniors over the age of 65 always ride free.

Buses are equipped with bike racks that can hold two to four bikes at a time, though there’s an extra $2 fee for bikes on the bus. Many buses also have racks for skis and snowboards.

Vendors selling vintage bicycles at stall stand in farmers market with people walking in outdoor summer street
Vintage bicycles for sale at a stall at the farmers market in Aspen © iStock Editorial / Getty Images

Riding a bike

Best for quick trips

Aspen — and the entire Roaring Fork Valley region — is incredibly bike-friendly. Whether the sun is shining or a winter storm is dumping snow, people ride their bikes year-round here (some cyclists even attach special ski racks to their bikes for heading to the slopes!). 

Bike lanes, paved paths and trails are abundant in Aspen, which makes it easy to get around on two wheels. In the downtown core, there are designated pedestrian/bikeway streets that limit vehicle travel, making it safer and more pleasant to walk or bike. The 42-mile Rio Grande Trail is also handy for connecting to various trail systems and other towns in the region.

For quick, point-to-point trips around town during the spring, summer and fall, check out a bike from WE-Cycle, Aspen’s bike-share program. Trips are free if they’re 30 minutes or less. After that, rates go up to $0.50 per minute for pedal bikes and $5 per minute for e-bikes (the rates are meant to encourage people to only use the bikes for quick, commuter-style trips, not longer day trips). There are 50 docking stations throughout Aspen, Basalt and Snowmass, so it’s easy to hop-on and hop-off throughout the day.

For longer adventures and day trips, there are many bike rental shops in Aspen, including Four Mountain Sports, Aspen Bikes and Aspen Sports. Some Aspen hotels also offer complimentary bikes for guests, including Limelight Hotel Aspen and Aspen Meadows.

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Walking the pedestrian mall

Best for a leisurely pace

Walking is one of the best ways to peruse the shops, art galleries, museums, restaurants, bars and trails in Aspen. The entire city is walkable, thanks to wide sidewalks, slow vehicle speeds and high-tech crosswalks with flashing lights to help keep pedestrians safe.

The Aspen Pedestrian Mall downtown is completely closed off to cars, which makes strolling the historic brick-paved streets a relaxing experience.

There are also many Aspen hiking trails within walking distance of downtown, including Smuggler Mountain and Hunter Creek.

Colorado road in autumn with mountains in the background
Driving the mountain roads of Aspen Colorado surrounded by autumn colors ©peghaz/Budget Travel

Driving a car

Best for getting to trailheads

Though you can walk or bike everywhere in downtown Aspen, you may need a car to reach some of the off-the-beaten-path trailheads, campgrounds and other outdoorsy destinations in the region.

The main route through Aspen is Colorado 82, a highway that connects all of the communities in the broader Roaring Fork Valley. Downtown, the highway jogs to become Main Street and East Cooper Avenue.

Where to park

The ease of parking in Aspen varies greatly depending on the season. During the winter months, when the city is full of skiers and snowboarders from around the world, parking is in short supply. It’s more abundant during the spring, summer and fall, but can still be a challenge, so the city encourages all visitors to take public transportation, walk or bike when possible. 

There are pay stations for street parking in Aspen, with rates ranging from $2 to $6 per hour depending on the season and the time of day (you can also pay via the WayToPark or PayBy Phone parking apps). There is one public parking garage in Aspen called Rio Grande Parking Plaza with rates starting at $2 per hour or $12 per day. Parking in residential areas is free for two hours per day (no re-parking allowed), after that you’ll have to buy an $8 parking pass.

If you’re heading to Aspen for a ski vacation, you’ll find several parking lots and garages near the base of Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass ski areas, but it’s important to get to the slopes early, as these lots tend to fill up quickly, especially on powder days. You can download the Aspen Snowmass parking app to check the status of ski area parking lots and garages each morning. Free parking in Aspen can be hard to come by, but some of the ski area lots and garages offer options – parking may be free in the evening, during the summer, for carpoolers or for the first 15 minutes, for example. 

Many Aspen hotels also have parking garages, though you’ll likely need to pay to valet your vehicle. Once your car is tucked away, though, you can typically get around town via your hotel’s free shuttle — many Aspen hotels offer these.

Renting a car

To rent a car, head to the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, which is home to several rental car companies: Enterprise, Hertz, Budget and Avis. Aspen also has several limo and taxi companies, including High Mountain Taxi, Aspen Limo Services, Corporation Transportation Specialists and Nomi Limo. Uber and Lyft also have drivers in Aspen.

Beautiful colorful landscape in Snowmass - a ski resort with a background of a small residential area (small huts) surrounded by trees (HDR image) in Aspen Colorado
Aspen is working on its accessibility with ramps and audio announcements © The World in HDR / Shutterstock

Accessible transportation in Aspen

Aspen has a handful of accessible transportation options. Aspen’s buses are equipped with lifts or ramps for people with mobility devices like wheelchairs and scooters, and bus drivers are trained to help secure the devices inside the bus. Onboard, there are also visual and audio stop announcements.

People with disabilities can also schedule transportation in advance through the Roaring Fork Valley Transit Authority’s complimentary paratransit services and Pitkin County Senior Services.

Most service animals are also welcome on the Aspen Mountain Gondola and the Elk Camp Gondola at Snowmass (miniature horses are not allowed because of their size and weight). Aspen is also home to several organizations that offer adaptive skiing and snowboarding programs, including Challenge Aspen and Ascendigo.

Aspen is working to make more of its trails accessible. For now, there are just a handful of accessible trails and paths in Aspen, including the Braille Nature Trail and the Rio Grande Trail.

For more information on accessible travel check out Lonely Planet’s accessible travel resources.

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