36 Hours in Carbondale

Aspen’s “little sister” makes for a perfect weekend getaway


The view from Mushroom Rock. Photo by Eric Rubens

Ever wish you could head up to the mountains in one quick, uncrowded swoop and still feel like you got away somewhere special? Carbondale is the place where that dream can come true. With gorgeous views anchored by Mount Sopris, and touting a variety of great sports, this I-70 town is just up valley from Aspen and only a three-hour drive from the Mile High City. Here’s one way to spend a Saturday and Sunday in Carbondale; you’ll get back home with weekend to spare.

Start with breakfast at The Village Smithy. This local favorite is known for its homemade salsas and preserves as well as its bloody marys. If you’ve got room for a little something sweet, stop by the baked goods counter for a large cookie to go.

Next: Tour a farm. Farm-to-table may seem like a trend, but in Carbondale, it’s a way of life. At the Sustainable Settings 244-acre ranch, a nonprofit that’s been working to inspire people to embrace sustainable living since 1997, you’ll find greenhouses, a sophisticated growing system, a learning center, grazing fields for the animals and very happy people. It’s famous for its yearly Harvest Festival each September, where local organic farmers are honored and there’s a big cookout. Stay the night camp-style for even more of an Old MacDonald experience.

A second option: the family-owned Cedar Ridge Ranch, which features a pet zebu cow named Babe, an overnight yurt that can be rented by the night, pigs, organic vegetables and herbs and more. Word on the street is that the ranch’s ethically raised pork is some of the yummiest around.

Now that you’re hungry, stop at Silo for lunch. This modern but rustic eatery focuses on simple farm-to-table American cuisine (soup, salad, flatbread pizza) that’s locally sourced. Accompany your meal with something from the full bar or coffee and espresso station.

Work off those calories as you paddleboard the Roaring Fork River. Under the afternoon sun, with a beautiful backdrop of Mount Sopris, paddleboarders can enjoy a slow tour of waterfront homes. Shaboomee, the valley’s leading stand-up paddleboarding outfitter, offers gear and guides.

In the evening, head to Allegria for dinner. Created by Andreas Fischbacher, the chef behind the legendary Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, Allegria serves locally sourced, Italian home cooking. Fischbacher’s ever-changing menu is determined by what he finds in the mountains and at local farmers’ markets.


Lasagna from Allegria. Photo by Bedo Photography

After dinner on Fridays, come with a six-pack (or wine bottle or cocktail shaker—it’s BYOD) to Steve’s Guitars, a speakeasy-style concert venue that hosts live bands, from bluegrass to folk to rock.

Or, celebrate cinema at the 10th annual 5Point Adventure Film Festival to be held April 20-23. The weekend event will screen more than 50 films, host filmmakers and athletes from around the world and offer panel discussions, podcasts, surprise guests and more.

Rest your head at The Distillery Inn at the Marble Distilling Co., the only inn in the world housed within a working distillery. The luxury rooms in downtown Carbondale come with fireplaces and private balconies—plus the Marble Bar is just steps away should the need for a nightcap arise. The distillery, which creates smooth spirits using soft, creamy quarry-filtered water, recently received the Masters Medal for green initiatives from the Global Distillery Masters 2017.


The bar at Marble Distilling Co. Courtesy Marble Distilling Co.

Breathe deep at True Nature Healing Arts, a wellness sanctuary featuring yoga, an Ayurvedic spa, a tea room (with snacks) and an eco-friendly boutique. After that morning yoga class, make your way to the tea counter for a fresh green, black or herbal steep and small breakfast, and relax on the patio of the expansive Peace Garden, where a 5 Elements Reflexology Path, yoga spiral, labyrinth and direct access to the Rio Grande Trail are all free to use.

Next, get inspired at The Powers Art Center. Sitting amid ranchland and using solar electronic generation and geothermal heating and cooling, this art museum is currently showing Jasper Johns’ and Robert Rauschenberg’s works on paper and Takashi Nakazato’s ceramics.

Refuel with a quick bite at Fatbelly Burgers. Owned and operated by local ranching company Crystal River Meats, Fatbelly features burgers made of local beef and produce. Soak up the sun on the farmhouse-style Main Street patio while you’re digging in.

Finally, finish with a hike up Red Hill’s Mushroom Rock Trail. On your way out of town, at the intersection of Highways 133 and 82, this 2.9-mile loop tops out at Mushroom Rock, where you’ll get great views of Mount Sopris, the Crystal and Roaring Fork Valleys and the entire town of Carbondale. It’s a perfect ending to a sweet weekend.

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