How to Get from Denver to Aspen

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Wondering how to get from Denver to Aspen CO this year? You’re in luck! As Denver locals, we’ve made this trip ourselves many times.

Famous for having some of the best skiing in the world, Aspen is also a destination for summer art and music festivals, fantastic shopping, and high-end dining, no matter what time of year.

If you’re planning a trip from Denver to Aspen and wondering about the best way to get there, we can help. Whether you’re seeking a scenic drive through the Rockies or a time-saving route to the slopes, we’ve got you covered.

We will explore various options and provide you with valuable insights on how to get from Denver to Aspen by plane, train, and automobile!

Denver to Aspen by Car

View of a small mountain town lit up at at sunset.

The eternal question of how long to drive from Denver to Aspen depends on the time of year and which route you take. There are three well-known ways to get from Denver to Aspen, depending on your preferences. 

The first option is to take I-70 to Highway 91, which is the Copper Mountain exit.  Follow Highway 91 down to Highway 24, which is in Leadville. This is a good place to stop for a break.

From Leadville, you’ll go South on Highway 24 to Highway 82, which will take you through Twin Lakes and around Mt. Elbert, which is one of Colorado’s most popular fourteeners. The 82 will lead you directly into Aspen.

This is one of our favorite routes to take in the fall, as it brings you through the large swaths of beautiful aspen trees. You will, however, be going over a mountain pass on this route, and will encounter some steep drop-offs, which can be off-putting for first-timers.

One of the pros of this route is that you bypass Vail Pass, where traffic tends to bog down. This first way to get from Denver to Aspen is probably the most scenic and off-the-beaten path.

On average, this 159-mile drive takes about 3 ½ hours. It’s important to note that Independence Pass closes in the winter (usually November-April).

The cost of driving this route varies depending on fuel prices and how efficiently you are driving. 

Total Time (on average): 3 ½-4 hours │Total Cost (on average): $28-$43

A river cutting through the mountains with a road on one side and train tracks on the other.

For the novice mountain driver, (and anyone traveling in the “winter” months of November through April) the next way to get from Denver to Aspen is to take I-70 West to Glenwood Springs, and then take Highway 82 South to Aspen.

It is longer than some routes, but Highway 82 on the North side of Aspen tends to be flatter and easier to navigate, because it will follow the valley up into Snowmass and Aspen.  It’s roughly a 4-4 ½ hour drive, and close to 200 miles.

Some people like to stop at Doc Holliday’s grave, which is located in Glenwood Springs. 

Total Time (on average): 4-4 ½ hours │Total Cost (on average): $34-$51

View of a fall colored mountain range with snowy mountains behind.

For the more technical driver, another scenic route is to head West on Highway 285 out of Denver. This route will take you through Conifer, Bailey, and Fairplay.

You will turn right on Highway 24 in Buena Vista, which is really pretty. You’ll then go up to Highway 82 and turn left, which will take you through Twin Lakes and Mount Elbert.

This offers you the chance to see part of Rocky Mountain National Park, Gunnison National Forest, and several other national parks. It is not the shortest route, but not the longest either.

It will take you at least 4 hours, probably closer to 5, depending on traffic, even though it is only around 185 miles. Remember, as with the first route, this one goes over Independence Pass, which is typically only open between May and October. 

Total Time (on average): 4-4 ½ hours Total Cost (on average): $31-$37

If you’re looking to rent a car, there are lots of Denver car rental agencies to choose from. A car can be picked up from the airport or a Denver rental location and sometimes delivered to you for an additional fee.

With an average cost of $70-$120/per day for an economy car, based on a 3-day rental, it may not be the cheapest option.

One alternative to the traditional rental car agencies like Thrifty, Hertz, Enterprise, Alamo, and Budget is Turo. Download the Turo app, and find dozens of cars for rent from locals.

It’s like Airbnb but for cars. Fees are low, insurance is included, and you can often find cars available for contactless pick-up, or delivery to your location.

Finally, Zipcar is another great option if you need a car for a few days for a Denver to Aspen drive. Operating on a membership model (starting at only $7/month or $70/year with insurance included) along with an hourly or daily rental rate.

Daily rental costs start at just $68, so you can plan on multiple mountain trips throughout the year! How far from Denver to Aspen depends on the route you take, of course, but Zipcar usually includes up to 180 miles before additional charges kick in. 

Plane from Denver to Aspen

Sign for a mountain airport that reads "Airport. Aspen/Pitkin County Sardy Field".
Editorial credit: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

When you ponder how to get from Denver to Aspen, it is worth considering one of the quickest options – flying. While certainly not the greenest choice of the bunch, if you want to avoid the hassle of a Denver to Aspen drive, it is the most expedient option.

Not including time spent getting to the airport and going through security, the flight to Aspen takes an average of 50 minutes, with the flight back clocking in at a slightly longer 1 hour and 10 minutes.

United and American Airlines both offer direct flights between Denver International Airport (DEN) and Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (ASE). Delta has been known to offer seasonal routes as well.

In addition to your regular luggage, you’ll want to account for the cost of checking your skis/snowboard if you’re headed up to enjoy the slopes. Fees range from $30-$150. 

Total Time (on average): 1 hour flight time Total Cost (on average): $200-$400 one way

Denver to Aspen by Shuttle

A large field in a town at the base of a mountain.

If you are looking for how to get from Denver to Aspen via shuttle, there is an express shuttle offered by CO West Transportation.

The Roaring Fork Express goes straight from Denver International Airport (DIA) and takes around 4 hours. You will catch it on Level 5, island 1 by door 513, look for columns saying Mountain Carrier.

Like most shuttles, this is of course shared with others, but saves you from having to make all the time-consuming stops that a bus does.  The shuttle cost ranges from $95-$130 per person, one way, depending on time of year.

Guests are permitted to bring pets, as long as they are restrained. Luggage is limited to 2 bags per person, plus one personal item. Bikes or other large items incur a fee of $35. Other than skis/boards, oversized items are not allowed.

Shuttles tend to be in good conditions, often offering superior comfort when compared to buses. There is the added benefit that they are less crowded as well. Next to driving yourself, or private transfer, this is one of the quicker ways to get from Denver to Aspen. 

Total Time (on average): 4 hours Total Cost (on average): $95-$130

Train Ride to Get From Denver to Aspen

A close up view of the California Zephyr Sliver Lariat train line.
Editorial credit: Let Go Media / Shutterstock.com

Is there a train from Denver to Aspen? Yes and no – you can take a train on your way to Aspen, but it is not a direct route.

One of the most fun ways to get from Denver to Aspen is to check out the Amtrak’s California Zephyr route, which originates in Chicago, with stops in Denver and Glenwood before heading on towards San Francisco.

Once you arrive in Glenwood Springs, you’ll hop off at the West Glenwood Park & Ride, and catch the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) L bus, which will take you to Main Street in Aspen.

While the ticket on the L bus will only run you around $7, Amtrak rates are highly variable, depending on how far in advance you book. (The cheap seats go fast, especially during the high demand ski season.)

On average, one way coach tickets run anywhere from $60-$120 or more each way. This is the slowest route, with the Amtrak from Denver to Glenwood taking 5-6 hours, and the bus from Glenwood taking 1 ½ – 2 hours.

However, Amtrak offers snacks and drinks on board, as well as chargers. Seats are plush and roomy, with tray tables so you can work on a laptop if needed.

Bringing luggage doesn’t cost any extra, and you have the ability to get up and wander the train, instead of sitting in the same seat for hours on end.

There are quiet cars if you want to take a nap, regular cars where you can chat with friends, and cute booths situated in the dining cars if you want to enjoy the nostalgic joy of dining in a train car while taking in views of the Rocky Mountains. 

Total Time (on average): 6 ½ -8 hours │Total Cost (on average): $67-$127

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    Denver to Aspen Bus

    A road leading through a small town at the foot of the mountains.
    Editorial credit: Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

    The cheapest way to get from Denver to Aspen is to head to Union Station and take Bustang’s West line to the West Glenwood Park & Ride. Rates range from $28 for adults to only $14 for kids.

    From there, you’ll hop on the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) L bus for around $7, which will take you to Main Street in Aspen.

    This route takes 6-6 ½ hours and saves you the stress of driving, with the Bustang bus ride lasting approximately 5 hours, and the bus from Glenwood taking 1 ½ – 2 hours.

    It doesn’t top the list of how to get from Denver to Aspen quickly, but the low cost certainly makes up for it!

    Bustang buses are known for being clean and generally attract a crowd of like minded day trippers hoping to enjoy some fresh mountain air. Who knows, you may even make some new friends onboard!

    If you’re wondering how to get from Aspen to Denver, you can simply reverse this route, hopping on the L bus back towards Glenwood, followed by the Bustang eastbound. 

    Total Time (on average): 6 ½-7 hours Total Cost (on average): $35

    Private Transfer from Denver to Aspen

    Want to get there quick, without driving your own car? If time is of the essence, private transfer options for a Denver to Aspen drive offer door-to-door service and the fastest way to get from Denver to Aspen.

    Professional chauffeur-driven transport is not the cheapest way to get from Denver to Aspen, a professional driver will know how to get from Denver to Aspen while avoiding heavy traffic areas, and exactly which scenic overlooks to stop at for photos.

    A private transfer allows you to lay back, relax, and enjoy the view in style. Choose from 4×4 SUVs with snowboard racks, luxury sedans, limos or mini coaches, or even full-size buses for you and your family or friends.

    Summit Express offers rates for 5, 10 or 13+ passengers starting at $1,400 to $2,000. Royal Express Limo Transportation, Aspen Transportation Co., and Cameron James Mountain Transportation are some of the other companies offering private transfer. 

    Total Time (on average): 3 ½-4  hours │Total Cost (on average): $1400+

    Final Thoughts: How to Get from Denver to Aspen, Colorado

    Aspen, nestled amidst the breathtaking beauty of the Rockies, awaits your arrival. Now that you know the different ways to travel from Denver to Aspen, you can choose the option that suits your preferences and needs.

    Whether you opt for a picturesque road trip, a quick flight, a comfortable shuttle ride, a relaxing train journey, or an affordable bus adventure, each mode of transportation has its own charm and advantages.

    So, go ahead and plan your trip with confidence, knowing that you have the tools to make an informed decision on how to get from Denver to Aspen. Don’t forget to grab some photos at the Maroon Bells!

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    2 Comments

    1. Hello KP & Jessie,

      I want to commend you for your thorough research on the different ways to travel from Denver to Aspen. Your detailed analysis of the routes, costs, and travel times, while taking into account seasonal variations, is extremely helpful for those planning this trip.

      I have a deep admiration for the scenic drive as it offers me a chance to connect with nature and relax during road trips. Its remote location makes it even more alluring. The heads up about Independence Pass being closed during winter is definitely something that everyone needs to be aware of; thanks for bringing that up!
      Your advice will undoubtedly help countless travelers on their journeys.

      Keep up the good work!

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