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Treat Yourself to the Most Incredible Fly Fishing Lodge in Colorado All Year Long

For some time, I struggled to sit down and put into words what my short stay at Taylor River Lodge last fall meant to me. Of the countless properties I have stayed at over the years, it seems that there was always something I would change: perhaps better customer service, clearer signage, higher quality f&b, amenities that aren’t run down, broken or dirty (especially since the pandemic)…you get the idea. But at Taylor River Lodge, I literally couldn’t think of anything they could do to improve. From cocktails in the billiards room to espresso in the dining lodge, the spa facilities, personalized service, carefully stocked refrigerators in the cabins, meticulously maintained grounds, bathhouse replete with saltwater pool, hot tub and steam room—they get it. 

But I didn’t want to write just another boring travel story, or something that came off as promotional. There’s enough content out there to fit that bill. My experience at Taylor River Lodge felt different because it left me wanting more — needing more. The taste of perfection that it offered, after a year plus of isolation and bunkering down, actually got me excited about travel writing again.

What is Eleven Experience exactly? Consider it an expertly curated conglomeration of lodges found in some of the most special places on the planet — from the Bahamas to Iceland — combined with a global wellness program called Eleven Life, an offering of “simple and sustainable” solutions for ongoing daily health and wellbeing.

Taylor River Lodge has been known as the brand’s home base for fly fishing, but by both genius and demand they opened the venue two winters ago mid-December, and now run winter bookings through early April. From here, you can of course fish (and climb) right out the back door (literally a gravel path right to the river, and a bridge across it leading to the crag) — but you have easy access to the Gunnison and other tributaries where Eleven holds permits.

I’d long been fascinated by the Taylor River Canyon where the lodge lies inconspicuously behind a foreboding wooden fence at mile marker 11, having driven the canyon numerous times on the way from Crested Butte to the Front Range, but I’d never made the time to stop for long. I also had built up a serious itch to finally get out and fish and ski with Eleven after years of trying, so I jumped on the chance without a second thought. Spending time at the Taylor River Lodge simply opened the floodgates on those desires. A trip to an Eleven Experience outpost feels like stepping beyond yourself and into a dream world you didn’t know how badly you needed. A world where individuals actually matter and the finer things in life — the special details that many can only imagine — are right in front of you to be cherished. No matter how long you’re able to stay, the magic will end too quickly. 

The concept for this unique high-end adventure travel brand started with Chad and Blake Pike, who dreamed of creating a hospitality brand in line with their idea of ideal family travel – an immersive experience based on outdoor recreation, tucked away in off-the-beaten-path locations. The name “Eleven” as you might have guessed came from a quote in the cult classic This Is Spinal Tap about turning up the amp “to an Eleven” as opposed to a mere ten. Cheesy or not, it’s accurate.

The company has grown over the past decade of operation, fueled by interest in the bespoke offerings of guided experiences, privacy, and overall sense of enjoyment that an experience with Eleven offers to all skill levels. Eleven’s flagship property is Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, which opened in 2011. The brand is expanding into new regions including Cedar Lodge in New Zealand (projected for 2023), alongside partnership experiences like the Kingfisher Heli Experience in BC.

Occasionally a property or outfitter comes along that just delivers on every level, from quality cuisine on time every morning, comfortable safe shuttles, landing big fish with friendly guides, to a cooler full of beer and cold bevies on hand at the end of each day. The devil is in the details, as they say, and in no industry does this hold more true than in hospitality. Constantly refreshed fridges, coolers, and snack trays is just one of the ways that Eleven takes good care. From cooking classes and wellness experiences, to snow shoeing, ski shuttles into Crested Butte, soaking in the pools, every moment at Taylor River Lodge holds value for discerning guests.

Taylor River Lodge amenities include:

  • Six private queen cabins (8 total) with en suite bathrooms and steam showers – three with twin bedded lofts, three without
  • Single family home with two king suites, a bunkroom and a full kitchen
  • Single family home with two king suites and a lofted bunkroom
  • Main lodge offering communal dining space, bar, fireplace, lounge and river front seating
  • Bathhouse including saltwater pool, steam room, sauna and hot tub
  • Gym and spa facility equipped with two treatment rooms
  • Media and game cabin with pool table, foosball and a dartboard
  • Marksmen’s range
  • Teepee lounge
  • Private ice skating rink

The Gear We Loved

When you get the opportunity to stay at one of the top fly fishing lodges in the world, it’s a good idea to enlist some of the top brands to support the trip as well. The combination creates nothing short of a dream trip for any angler. Bring the whole gang along, because the lodge is shockingly family friendly to boot. 

Voormi Access NXT Pullover

This pullover is constructed with Voormi’s unique Surface Hardened Technology, built with 4-way stretch woven wool, and finished with a durable water repellent finish to make sure you stay warm, dry, and comfortable whether you are chucking streamers or shoveling snow.

Voormi River Run Hoodie

The River Run Hoodie is designed for anyone who spends a copious amount of time outdoors and needs a modern and complete protection from the sun, ie., river guides and anglers. Thanks to advanced Merino technology, it is one of the lightest full-coverage wool hoodies on the market and simultaneously blocks sun and wicks sweat off your skin to keep you protected and dry all day, every day. 

Kate’s Real Food

At this point a portable-food icon, Kate’s produces delicious energy bars in seven different flavors, each made with real, premium, whole ingredients and no artificial sweeteners. Each flavor is USDA-certified organic, gluten free, non-GMO, and sweetened with organic honey. Check out the new Dark Chocolate Mint Bar

Patagonia Danner Wading Boots

Danner and Patagonia, two companies with rock-solid reputations throughout all aspects of the outdoor industry, came together to create the leather Foot Tractor Wading Boots for reliable comfort in the water, and I finally got my hands on a pair. Three different traction options – felt, sticky rubber, and aluminum – offer specialized construction to fit the unique needs of different fishing areas and anglers. 

Patagonia Middle Fork Packable Waders

These ultralight waders stuff down tight to help lighten the load on your next global fishing trip. And that compact yet durable design means you don’t have to sacrifice space or weight in your bag for protection on the river. Make sure you never miss an opportunity to cast a line while on the road with these packable waders in tow. 

Dragon Meridien LL H20 Polar Sunglasses

The Meridien line of sunglasses from Dragon fit the bill for all scenarios around the river and other bodies of water.  Features like floatation, polarization, hydrophobic coating, waterproof materials, and lightweight construction make them your best companion on the water and keep them attached and looking fresh for time back on the shore. 

Breckenridge Distillery

Breckenridge has you covered with some of the best craft spirits you could hope for on a trip like this. The Breckenridge Distillery holds the title for the 2021 Visitor Attraction of the Year from the Whisky Icons of America, and uses Rocky Mountain snowmelt to create unique takes on whiskey, rum, gin, and vodka.

Definitely Wild is a column by EO Contributing Editor Aaron Bible. He has been writing for Elevation Outdoors and Blue Ridge Outdoors, among other outdoor publications, for more than a decade, covering cycling, skiing, gear and mountain life. Any opinions expressed here are his own. Follow him on Instagram at @DefinitelyWild.

–Photos courtesy of Mountain Hardwear and Clayton Herrmann (@ClaytonHerrmann on Instagram).

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