John Denver Sanctuary: A Peaceful Place to Escape Summer Heat

“Rocky Mountain High” is an Andersen family favorite

Colorado is the perfect place to escape the Texas summer heat, and one of our favorite spots is the Snowmass-Aspen area in the Roaring Fork Valley. John Denver’s songs have always been a part of my family’s life, as I remember listening to “Country Roads”, “Rocky Mountain High”, and “The Eagle and the Hawk” playing from our family’s blue and white Chevy Bronco’s 8-Track cassette tape in the 1970s. In 1983, “Wild Montana Skies” was released and quickly became another family favorite.

Now that we have children of our own, we try to visit Colorado as often as possible, especially in July and August! Colorado is known as an outdoor playground, and one can find endless possibilities for getting outside: hiking, camping, biking, rafting/kayaking, rock climbing, and more.

Main entrance to the John Denver Sanctuary in Aspen, Colorado.
Released in 1969 “Rhymes and Reasons” speaks to a new generation.
A lesser known song by John Denver (and Joe Henry)

But if you’re looking for a less active escape within the Roaring Fork Valley, check out the beautiful John Denver Sanctuary (470 Rio Grande Place) in Aspen, CO. Close to the Roaring Fork River and next to Rio Grande Park, this serene meditation garden invites visitors (John Denver fans or not) to stroll along the creek under the aspens and evergreens and linger on the cool green grass, while Aspen/Snowmass mountains rise in the distance.

Clear water creek flowing along John Denver Sanctuary to Roaring Fork River.
Paths intertwine in John Denver Sanctuary, along creek and under aspens and evergreens.
Open space for field sports is adjacent to John Denver Sanctuary.

Grab some food and drinks at the nearby City Market on 711 E. Cooper Ave., walk a few blocks to the Sanctuary, and set up a picnic on the cool grass or aspen shaded picnic tables.

Sturdy picnic tables along John Denver Sanctuary trail.
Pausing for lunch on one of the large timber picnic tables throughout the Sanctuary.

Dr. David Slawson was instrumental in designing the John Denver Sanctuary and grounds of the Aspen Institute, which purpose is “to drive change through dialog, leadership, and action to help solve the greatest challenges of our time” ( . The sanctuary and Institute grounds are connected, and make for a good day’s stroll along the river.

An open area, carpeted with emerald green grass, and embedded with large granite rocks, slopes down to boulders chiseled with Denver’s song lyrics. This natural amphitheater welcomes visitors to sunbath on the grass or sit on the rocks to read or enjoy live music.

Natural amphitheater slopes down to John Denver Sanctuary paths.

To find out more about how the sanctuary was created visit the City of Aspen Guide to the John Denver Sanctuary. He was a conservationist at heart and his music promoted protection of our lands. Long may his music inspire present and future generations to preserve and protect our shared wildlife, air, waterways, and landscapes.

Soaring vocals and acoustic guitar combine to make “The Eagle and the Hawk” a heavenly song.
Does this song always make you cry…? Me, too.
My parents, Pete and Margo Heinzelmann, also had David Slawson design their backyard Japanese garden.
Rock steps lead through the Lyric stones.

John Denver’s legacy as a song writer and nature conservationist have benefitted all people who cherish the natural world. May his Spirit continue to inspire people to enjoy and protect the great outdoors.

Near the top of the Rocky Mountain High run at Snowmass ski resort is a brass plaque dedicated to John Denver.

Rocky Mountain High brass dedication plaque.
His Spirit surely lingers in the Rocky Mountains.
John Denver Sanctuary surrounds people with his inspirational lyrics and his wildlife/nature advocacy.

Share your favorite John Denver song(s) and favorite summer spots.

Sending you and your family some cool breezes this summer,

Sarah Heinzelmann Andersen

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