October 21, 2022
HOW AND WHERE TO ROAM THE ROCKIES
Carbondale is quite possibly the pearl of the Colorado Rockies
The Rocky Mountains are near the top of everybody’s Bucket List for places to roam. What is there not to love about this glorious stretch of high peaks, idyllic valleys and solitude so vast that you’re miles away from even one-bar cell reception?
Within this shangri-la for outdoors-loving roamers, the Colorado hamlet of Carbondale may be the ultimate launching pad. This town of 6,600 roamers, dreamers and adventurers is nestled in the central Rockies of Colorado, perfectly distant from the most major regional hubs (170 miles west of Denver and a six-hour drive from Salt Lake City, Utah). There are countless reasons why Carbondale is a no-brainer on many Best Places to Live lists (Outside Magazine, Men’s Journal, and Travel+Leisure magazines have all heralded the town), and why so many choose to visit, live and retire here.
When Sportiqe went looking for an area that would showcase our Fall 2022 Collection, we chose Carbondale as well. This was the jumping-off point for three fun-filled days of overlanding, hiking, fly-fishing, coffee drinking, spelunking, camping, s’mores savoring and more.
If you’re lucky enough to have a few free days to roam through this heavenly area, here’s our list of stops and spots that you need to hit:
Camp the Crown
A few thousand vertical feet above the valley floor, where Carbondale rests, is an area affectionately known by locals as “The Crown”. It’s a flat-topped ridge that affords an expansive view of the surrounding splendor – including a canvas-worthy vista of Mount Sopris, the 13,000-foot peak that towers over everything. Make your way up the labyrinth of dirt roads and sagebrush to reach the top, where you will have earned one of the best sunset camping views of your life. For bonus points, and to earn the campfire s’mores later, bring your mountain bikes and get gloriously lost on the surrounding network of groovy singletrack.
Marvel at the Ice Caves
Carbondale shares this valley with Aspen (although Aspenites think it’s the other way around), and frequently ventures upriver to get to higher peaks and, in winter, the ski slopes. Aspen is a worthwhile stopping point for camping supplies and coffee – or if you’re simply curious to see a different income bracket – but the real treasures are to be found uphill from there. Keep driving east on Highway 82, up toward Independence Pass, you’ll see a pull-off about nine miles out for the Grottos. Park here and hit the trail, keeping an eye out on the left for a side trail and downward scramble into a series of a remarkable set of caverns that have been carved by millennia of roaring rapids and waterfalls. This will help to put time into perspective for you – and motivate you to make the most of your magical time in this place.
Tease a Trout
The Roaring Fork River, as well as other neighboring streams like the Crystal and the Frying Pan, are home to world-class fly fishing. One has not lived until you’ve waded into the shallow waters of a Rocky Mountain stream at sunrise while listening to the zing-zing of a fly fishing line. If you’re a newbie, not to worry: there are fly fishing outfitters in the valley who live to help people experience the magic of holding a freshly-caught rainbow trout in their cradled hands (before releasing it back into the waters, of course).
Traipse the Trails
Nowadays, you can find trail networks to roam anywhere – fortunately more areas have realized the value of providing healthy outlets to nature’s wonders to their visitors and locals alike. But the area around Carbondale takes it to the next level. These are trail systems on steroids. Many trails weave tens of miles into the vast, surrounding wilderness areas: try the Avalanche Creek Trail south of town along the Crystal River or the Snowmass Creek Trail up-valley 25 minutes. For epic roamers, a once-in-a-lifetime experience is the Four-Pass-Loop circuit, which ushers hikers over a quartet of thin-air mountain passes and backcountry valleys. The most common staging site is Maroon Lake. Many Carbondale folks hit the Red Hill Trail System, right on the edge of town, with parking at the intersection of Highways 82 and 133. This local favorite features bright red dirt, ancient pinyon junipers, fragrant sage meadows and Mushroom Rock, a rock formation perched more than one thousand feet above town.
Every good roam deserves a burrito or beverage afterward. After your Carbondale adventure, refill your tank at Dos Gringos Burritos, just off Highway 133. While there, you’re likely to hear many others swapping war stories from their nearby adventures – and planning the next one!
Author Garett Graubins is Marketing Director at Sportiqe and a former Carbondale local. He still tries to get back to Carbondale to roam every few years.