There is an endless array of things to do and events to enjoy year round in Carbondale, Colorado. You can enjoy a laid back experience of just viewing Mount Sopris to moving on a hiking trail, or casting a line to experience Colorado fly fishing, dancing at the Mountain Fair, biking, shopping, soaking at the Penny Hot Springs, mountain climbing, golfing, and eating! I’m sure I’ve missed somethings, but those may be more winter orientated like cross-country skiing.
This truly great place to play and live is nestled at the base of the majestic Mount Sopris (over 12,000 feet). The mountain has a lot of spiritual background, mainly from the Ute Indians, and of course, those of us who just feel so grateful to live nearby. Many years ago I recall reading that there is a “safe” triangle from Carbondale to Ruedi Reservoir to Maroon Creek (national forest area). Safe from evil world events that is. That may still hold true as a legend around here. It is certainly got to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. Carbondale is about 170 miles east of Denver. The turn-off from Hwy I-70 onto Hwy 82 runs along the Roaring Fork Valley, named for the Roaring Fork River which runs along the Hwy. Around 12 miles up-valley from Glenwood Springs is the turn-off to Carbondale. Aspen is about 30 miles farther up-valley. Mount Sopris dominates the town as far as views go. Carbondale is located at 6,000 feet plus above sea-level.
The mountain and river give big clues as to the outdoor activities here. Horseback riding is huge, and there are a few working ranches still around, too. A visitor is able to choose from numerous outfitters for an Old West riding experience to day trips or overnight pack trips. Breakfast or sunset rides, and pony rides for kids. There are abundant mountain meadows filled with lovely flowers during the summer to enjoy a guided trip from May through September (weather permitting). I mention that because heavy snowfall makes way for flooding, and this spring 2011, downhill skiing is still available on the weekends up in Aspen. It is June now and Mount Sopris is laden with snow, so it will be an interesting time in Carbondale for hiking that fabulous bit of rock.
There are many hiking trails in Carbondale, and they all vary to different levels and whether they are hiking and biking.
- Red Hill/Mushroom Rock is really popular. It does wind uphill, and can be considered steep, however mountain bikers as well as hikers love it. The scent is wonderful through pinon and juniper forest, up to the outcropping known as mushroom rock. From the top, the view of the Roaring Fork valley is wonderful. One vista is of the Crystal Valley which shows the confluence of the Roaring Fork River and the Crystal River.
- Rio Grande Bike Trail is a stunning 44 miles of trail from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. There are numerous access points so if you are visiting in one of the towns in the valley (Basalt, El Jebel, Carbondale, Aspen, etc.) you can easily get on the trail and ride to another town for lunch, or to visit a friend. Often in the Fall you have to be aware of bear poop on the trail!
- Mount Sopris is thee hike, and, yes, mountain bikers tackle it too. It is roughly 13 miles of gorgeous. Lakes, views, rock fields, wildflowers, views - pure magic. It is mostly accessed by the Dinkle Lake trail, yet just hiking to Dinkle Lake can be a nice short destination to enjoy.
- The Hay Park Trail is mostly cited for mountain biking, and horseback riding, yet I have hiked it with other hikers, and I do believe many people hike it, so don’t be scared off by any trails that don’t mention just hiking. There are 2 ways to get to it, either from the Thomas Lakes trailhead or from the BLM parking lot off Capital Creek Road. This too is a lovely hike to experience, no matter how far you wish to travel.
These are only a few of the numerous trails available. Remember if you need a massage after a day of hiking or biking, you can get a free treat at the Penny Hot Springs. I consider the soak in these awesome mineral pools a massage for a weary body. The natural hot springs are located in the Crystal Valley just past mile marker 55 off of Hwy 133. There is no fee, just knowledge of how to get there! Of course there are many fine massage therapists in Carbondale as well.
Carbondale Mountain Fair
This is the creme de la creme of mountain festivals, and people come from far and wide to enjoy the week-end event. This summer on July 29th, 30th and 31st the fair will be celebrated for 40 years of fun. The arts and crafts displayed, live music with great artists jammin’, international cuisine to tempt anyone, and fabulous vendors make for a most attractive time in Sopris Park in downtown Carbondale. Fair goers are encouraged to wear hat, sunscreen, bring a chair or blanket to comfortably listen to musicand of course, get up and dance by all means. If you’ve had your fill of food, shopping at the booths, and watching the crowd, you can get your palms read or have a tarot card reading. There are also short massages available.
The fair spills onto main street so you can visit some of the great Carbondale shops or restaurants if the crowds seem too oerwwhelming. Besides, Carbondale has thrift and consignment stores that really rock, so be sure to check them out. The Roaring Fork Valley is a bit pricey and many great deals are available from the ritzy Aspen dwellers. In short, the consignment and thrift stores are nothing to sneer at. The finds are amazing. Recently I purchased a pair of DKNY jeans ($4.00), a Patagonia shirt ($1.00) and a new sweater ($12.00) at the Thrift Shop in Aspen, but many of those deals end up in Carbondale stores, too. So, be sure to check them out. There is even a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Carbondale - located across Hwy 82 (not in downtown).
This has mainly been about the outdoor activities in Carbondale. You can be assured that there are more offerings in this mountain town.
Resources: Carbondale, Colorado, Trails.com