Travel After 50: Exploring creative Carbondale

Awash with artists, musicians and artisans of all kinds, picture-perfect Carbondale is known for its creative spirit as much as its Rocky Mountain views.

Its array of artsy pursuits is ideal for the creative at heart. Do it as a daytrip from nearby Aspen or Glenwood Springs or love it on its own. From gallery and museum hopping to sustainable farm lunches and meandering hikes, you’re sure to enjoy this tucked-away mountain hamlet with these insider tips:


Whether you’re in the mood to shop, stroll or do a craft, activities are plentiful in beautiful Carbondale. Mark your calendars for monthly First Friday events that celebrate local arts businesses, shopping and dining.

First, head to The Launchpad for gallery viewing and spirited live performances in the heart of downtown. An artistic and cultural hub for local makers, the community arts space doubles as a working studio spot for local dancers and musicians.

Walking historic Main Street means you’ll enjoy Carbondale’s refurbished Wild West structures and variety of boutique shopping. Pop into Carbondale Clay Center on the east end of Main Street for handmade gifts, plus its rotating exhibitions and ceramics workshops. Across the street, Marble Distilling Co. offers hands-on fun, like bottling and signing a souvenir craft spirit. Belly up to its yule-quarry marble bar for some après drinks, then stay for entertainment like live music and karaoke. With a huge commitment to sustainability — they recapture 100 percent of their process water and reuse energy harvested from the distillation process to heat their facility — Marble Distilling Co. is also the world’s only distillery inn, so make plans to spend the night.


You don’t need to stay downtown to experience Carbondale’s ample creativity. Seven minutes northeast (by car) is the uber-modern Powers Art Center. It was founded in 2014 as a memorial to John G. Powers, a Roaring Fork Valley arts pioneer who — with his wife Kimiko — collected numerous contemporary works. Go here for an impressive Jasper John prints collection (a favorite artist of Powers), as well as for rotating exhibits, free of charge.

Adventure farther out of town for farm stays, tours and locally grown food. Kiss a fluffy llama at Cedar Ridge Ranch, then glamp overnight in its luxe private yurts. Or join Sustainable Settings, a working ranch, for its by-appointment tours, tasty ranch lunches and early Sunday suppers.


Sleepy Carbondale may be far from city lights, but its diverse food and drink scene is truly cosmopolitan. Whether you want an aromatic beer or spicy ramen, there’s something for every taste in this neck of the woods.

Landmark Cafe at The Way Home offers breakfast indulgences like syrupy French toast, savory egg dishes and a sourdough cinnamon roll with lemon-cream icing. Or start the day at local roaster Bonfire Coffee to sip on something caffeinated.

Sate your noontime hungries with fresh, from-scratch tacos and oh-so-creamy guac at Senor Taco Show. Then, for dinner, head to Phat Thai for reimagined (yet still classic) Asian fare made by local food pioneer chef Mark Fischer.

Finish the day sampling Colorado wines, sparkling kombuchas and crisp ciders like a local at Batch, a new speakeasy and part of The Roaring Fork Beer Company; or try Carbondale Beer Works’ easy-sippin’ suds.


All those sumptuous calories mean some good, old-fashioned exercise is in order. Do it outside to enjoy Carbondale’s awe-inspiring beauty.

Hike Avalanche Creek Trail for its burbling creek and crystalline lake, kaleidoscope of wildflowers and panoramic peaks. Or wind along the Rio Grande ARTway — a stretch of trail beautified with integrated art — by foot or bicycle.

Come winter, strap on skinny skis to explore the silvered trails of five nearby cross-country ski areas: Avalanche Creek, McClure Pass, Rio Grande Trail, Spring Gulch or Sunlight Mountain. There you’ll skate through adventure-worthy snowscapes with wonderland views.

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