Carbondale: Class IV Rapids, Hot Springs, and Seasonal Beers

Climbing in Carbondale, CO, on Mount Sopris in the summertime
Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock

Set along the Roaring Fork River, where it meets the Crystal River, Carbondale is a Rocky Mountain oasis, just 30 miles from tony Aspen but surrounded by working ranches, fishing streams, rushing waters, and majestic peaks. If you want to ski, snowboard, bike, hike, kayak, fly fish, rock climb, raft, horseback ride, or kick back in hot springs, this should be your go-to mountain bedroom community. And there’s no need to leave, as you’ll find farm-to-table dining, hip breweries and distilleries, and super down-to-earth locals.

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You’ll likely have to wait in line, but you can’t start your day without hitting the Village Smithy, which has been feeding people for four decades. It won’t be easy to narrow your focus, but the McHuevos (two eggs with mushroom, green onion, homemade salsa, cheddar cheese, and sour cream piled over a bed of hash browns) or blueberry corncakes are a good place to start. The Goat Kitchen & Bar can quell your Mediterranean cravings or just satisfy your American bar scene appetite; the restaurant specializes in gyros and falafel platters as much as it does filet mignon and halibut dishes.

Chef Mark Fischer brought haute cuisine to Carbondale 20 years ago and continues to dazzle with Town, a daytime bakery and cafe that morphs into lunch and dinner service for crispy pig ears with blue cheese; roasted bone marrow with oxtail; spinach cavatelli in beef tenderloin Bolognese; and Colorado lamb osso bucco. Fischer flies to the other end of the spectrum with Phat Thai. Don’t miss the Korean sliders with kewpie mayo; five-spice barbecue pork shoulder; and the red duck curry with kaffir lime and thai basil. And don’t skip the simple, American farm-to-table fare at SILO, where you can get duck eggs over easy for breakfast and a Cubano for lunch.

Aspen/Snowmass ski resort in Colorado
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You have access to skiing at Aspen-Snowmass’ four mountains—enough to keep you occupied for well over a week in winter or summer. Trailheads abound, but a local favorite is to hike up to Mushroom Rock at Red Hill, where you can also do some badass mountain biking. Speaking of biking, don’t miss the 42-mile Rio Grande Trail that runs from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. Gold Medal fly fishing is everywhere, Class IV rapids await you, and, of course, Mount Sopris beckons from everywhere you look. After the day’s activities, you’ll need to settle in with a beer. Lucky for you Roaring Fork Beer Company brews a range of seasonal beers like the AMF Amber, Tangelo IPA, or the Steed Creed Imperial Red.

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Carbondale has plenty of midrange chain hotels to choose from, but if you want a supercool experience, book in advance at the Distillery Inn. Set atop the Marble Distilling Company, the inn only has five rooms, but each has a fireplace, a balcony or private courtyard, and views of the 12,966-foot Mount Sopris. Did we mention you’re sleeping at a distillery? If you want to get out of town, Avalanche Ranch is just 10 miles south and has access to the adjacent Penny Hot Springs (free for guests pretty much 24 hours a day). Book a rustic cabin, a tricked out former wagon, or get a fully equipped cottage or house about 5 miles away.

Insider Tip

Book early to come see the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo. Every Thursday from early June to mid-August, you can see what life was like in the wild Roaring Fork Valley.

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