Aspen, Crested Butte, and Durango

Leadville to Aspen

Riding a train through the Rockies has been a much talked about highlight for this trip. Earlier in the summer, Vacation Bible School’s Rocky Railway theme song “Your Power Will Pull Us Through” echoed in our household. The opportunity was perfect to end our summer with a trip through these mountains.

Leaving Avon, we snake through Leadville and check out the old train station. We then cross over the Continental Divide at Independence Pass to arrive at the St. Regis Aspen. Ironically, the most luxurious hotel on this trip is named after the saint and father of the poor. We are upgraded to a suite, which makes this stay even more lavish.

The aspen groves at Maroon Lake are striking. While Rocky Mountain National Park had some hints of fall color, here, we are engulfed in golden quaking aspens. We stroll along the lake until sunset and meet a Chinese family planning to take Milky Way pictures. I consider coming back as well, but after consulting my app, I realize that the galaxy center will not be in the ideal position, and the moon will likely wash out most of the stars. Instead, I head back for an early morning shot while the lake is still a mirror. Soon, a mean ranger arrives and chases everyone off the lakeshore; luckily, I’m on the main trail.

Since we’re on a luxury stay at the St. Regis, I splurge and order room service brunch. Then, we lounge by the pool before heading off to Crested Butte.

Crested Butte

We decide to approach Crested Butte via the scenic route. Along the way, we scout for lunch spots, and finally, I see a turnout to the left. It turns out to be a picturesque spot along Anthracite Creek. We enjoy our picnic lunch on one of the tables. Further along, around a hairpin bend, there’s a moose with her calf wading out of the small pond that sits on the inner curve of the road. I shoot pictures from a safe distance.

Before checking in at Elevation Spa, I ask the bellman about the best fall color around down. He directs me to Washington Gulch, which is only a few blocks away. There, swathes of golden aspens appear, like brushstrokes painted on a green canvas. We take some of my favorite fall color pictures here.

Leaving the aspen groves the next day, we make quick stops at several overlooks at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We traverse the town of Ouray and meander along the Million Dollar Highway, stopping at scenic overlooks.


With so much to do in Aspen, we plan two nights here. The first scenic stop is to the Durango Fish Hatchery and Wildlife Museum. Because of COVID-19, the museum is closed, but the kids really enjoy the hatchery portion. For lunch, we join Mark and Sarah at the Vallecito Reservoir. The kids’ favorite part is climbing the large boulders.

We leave the lake and make it to Rockwood Depot with time to spare. Daphney and Jayden didn’t get much sleep after lunch, because they are too excited for the train. This is the part that they have been talking about the most, especially since Vacation Bible School’s theme was called Rocky Railway.

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