Carbondale travel, Carbondale Colorado travel, Colorado travel

Fall Getaway: Carbondale, Colorado

November 26, 2010
by Sarah Amandolare
The adventurous city of Carbondale, Colorado, presents an enviable array of outdoor pursuits, but with a lower profile than neighboring Aspen. Laid-back but high-energy Carbondale offers skiing at Mount Sopris, lauded organic food restaurants, and snowy Rocky Mountain scenery.

Carbondale: Quietly Up-and-Coming

Carbondale was recognized by the magazine National Geographic Adventure (NGA) in September 2008 for being one of The Fifty Next Great Adventure Towns in the U.S. It’s a smallish city, 30 miles from Aspen, and while “still partly in the shadow” of its celebrity-soaked neighbor, Carbondale is “forging its own identity,” according to NGA. The city is home to wealthy, outdoorsy types, but any skier would enjoy the scenery in Carbondale; surrounded by the White River National Forest with stoic Mount Sopris looming in the background. NGA suggests mountain biking or hiking to Mushroom Rock, where you’ll find views of downtown Carbondale and Roaring Fork Valley. Not surprisingly, the city is quite eco-friendly: morning commuters travel by bike, and many work at one of the new “local environmental companies.”

The city makes a good jumping-off point for some of Colorado’s best ski destinations. The Carbondale Chamber of Commerce suggests nearby resorts, including McClure Pass and Aspen/Snowmass, and links to detailed information about ski trails provided by the U.S. Forest Service for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.

Colorado Cruising

To rest your legs after hitting the slopes, go for a long drive along the scenic West Elk Loop, a 205-mile byway combining “geological, historical, recreational and scenic features,” according to Gorp. You’ll pass through the Crested Butte ski area, which also affords opportunities for fishing, mountain biking, hiking and horse trails. Gorp suggests driving “from Carbondale, over McClure Pass and Kebler Pass to Crested Butte.” To ensure that all roads are open, call the Paonia Ranger District before you go.

Skiing and Climbing Mount Sopris

An entry on, Lou Dawson's Backcountry Skiing Blog & Website, contains many photos of snowy Mount Sopris, with a play-by-play of a group ascent of the massive, white-capped mountain near Carbondale.

To find a mountaineering tour operator, learn how to safely participate in Colorado mountain climbing and other outdoor pursuits, and for resources that will help you prepare for a trek up Mount Sopris, visit the findingDulcinea Adventure Travel Web guide.

Cabins in Carbondale

National Geographic Adventure recommends staying at Avalanche Ranch, which advertises itself as a “Rocky Mountain Picture Post Card in the Heart of Colorado.” The ranch has 13 log cabins and a larger Ranch House that accommodates 60 people, all overlooking Crystal River and Mt. Sopris. With more than 30 acres crisscrossed by hiking and biking trails, and boasting a waterfront area for fishing and strolling, the ranch is quintessentially Colorado.

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