Finding Carbondale

Where exactly is Carbondale? Those were my exact sentiments as we traveled up I-70 on our way there last month. In the past, all I remember of Carbondale, was watching it fly by my window on the way to Aspen. However, after a few days visiting Colorado’s “Base Camp of Adventure”, I am a convert and will gladly head back for a another visit.


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Specifically, Carbondale is located about a twenty-minute drive from Glenwood Springs, in the Roaring Fork Valley, just North of Aspen. It is also a stone’s throw from just about any winter activity you could dream of doing. Whether you fancy ice climbing, snowshoeing, downhill, backcountry or nordic skiing, Carbondale offers a variety of terrain within an hour in all directions. And among the numerous outdoor activities, sits a lively downtown with good food, good friends, and a little bit of CO history. Here are my recommendations for the full Carbondale experience.

Where to play?

We all know the snow this year has been lacking so why not try something new? I recommend heading to Rifle for some Ice Climbing or up to Spring Gulch for some Nordic Skiing. Both provide excellent outdoor relief independent of the lousy pow pow factor. If you are set on downhill, Snowmass is only a half hour drive and offers classic resort skiing.

Where to Eat?

Carbondale is booming with new and old restaurants, all good and all different. For classic and delicious pub food, we recommend the Pour House. Enjoy chatting up the locals at the bar and be sure to ask them about the floor! Thai food is a must at Phat Thai but be weary of their spice index…yowzah! For some good old fashioned Steak-and-Potatoes, head to Russets; fine dining in a casual atmosphere. And finally, to jump-start your morning, visit Bonfire Coffee, offering “big city coffee in a small town”, complete with hipster dudebras to pour your latte.

Where to stay?

While there are a few choices in town, I recommend staying at Avalanche Ranch for some quiet, country charm. The ranch is 20 minutes outside of the town center and well worth the extra trip. It offers a variety of Cabins that are rustic (think Paul Bunyan meets your crafty grandma) and very comfortable, in a completely “off the grid” environment. The showstopper at the Ranch is definitely the collection of natural Hot Springs. A far cry from the public pools at Glenwood Springs, these hot springs are nearly private and quite the luxury under a stunning blanket of Colorado stars.

Finally, don’t pass up meeting some of the locals. Carbondale pride runs thick and it was refreshing to visit a place where the locals play as much as the visitors!

So, next time you are looking for a vacation that is easier on the ol’ pocketbook, give Carbondale a try and discover what many have been missing.

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