By Hayden Gamble By Hayden Gamble | November 6, 2019 | Lifestyle Feature Features
This tiny mountain town boasts big offerings in all things art, culture, community and outdoors.
Mount Sopris stands 12,953 feet tall.
Located 30 miles downvalley and connected via Highway 82 or the Rio Grande Trail, Carbondale can best be described as a tightknit, artsy, down-to-earth mountain enclave with a burgeoning dining and entertainment scene. You’ll likely be in awe upon entering town limits and gazing up at Carbondale’s 12,953-foot crown jewel “mother mountain,” Mount Sopris.
The valley’s original inhabitants were the Ute Indians. They were eventually displaced by by settlers and miners searching for gold and silver near Aspen in the late 1800s. Near Carbondale, hunters and farmers started cattle and sheep ranches, and began growing potatoes (which were the mainstay crop of Carbondale’s economy for more than 50 years) to feed the mining boom towns. Then, in the late 1880s, potato farming took off, and the community stabilized and prospered. A celebration of the potato harvest in 1909 has given way to the longest-standing annual community event, Potato Day.
On top of the abundant outdoor recreational opportunities the town and its nearby lands offer, Carbondale’s Creative District—one of 23 in the state, and the only one in the valley—is home to more than 200 creative organizations, businesses, artists and artisans. The local public radio station, KDNK, is robust in its programming, music and news coverage, and the community-supported weekly newspaper, The Sopris Sun, continually succeeds in informing, inspiring and building the Carbondale community through in-depth reporting on issues and stories not covered by other local newspapers.
The town’s rebellious, individual spirit permeates everything that happens here. Carbondale’s festivities are one-of-a-kind in vitality and spunk. The biggest annual summer event, Mountain Fair, features over 145 vendors from across the country, plus live music, performing arts, creative children’s activities, delicious food, pie-baking competitions and wood-splitting contests. Other vibrant events include the Festival Las Americas, Carbondale Arts’ Fashion Extravaganza and Thursday summer rodeos.
Main Street Carbondale comes alive the first Friday of every month.
A quintessential day in Carbondale
Bike to breakfast at the Village Smithy (we recommend the Santiago skillet or the McHuevos) or Roosters (breakfast served all day with delicious smoothies, freshly squeezed juices and eggs Benedict served six ways). Then head to True Nature for a yoga class and a stroll through the Peace Garden, where you can practice mindful meditation at the Zen Garden, moving meditation winding through the labyrinth or walk along the reflexology path. Silo serves up a tasty lunch (and breakfast) featuring sandwiches with local produce and artisan bread baked in-house, along with flatbread pizzas. Work off your lunch with a hike up Red Hill, where you’ll be greeted with a stellar view of Mount Sopris, the Crystal River Valley, the Roaring Fork Valley and downtown Carbondale, plus a funky mushroom-shaped rock. Afterward, enjoy an early evening stroll along Main Street and peruse the boutiques and art galleries. Dine for dinner at Izakaya, if you’re in the mood for sushi and sashimi; or Venetian-style bistro Allegria for seasonal Italian dishes. Toast the day with a locally made nightcap at Marble Distilling Co., or try Pour House for a more rugged Western towny vibe.
Photography by: Hal Williams/Courtesy of Carbondale Chamber