Just thirty miles downstream from Aspen sits the lesser known, just as scenic town of Carbondale, CO. Blanketed by spectacular views of Mount Sopris, the area is home to some of the best extreme athletes in the state: mountain bikers, ultra runners, rock climbers, skiers, you name it. But don’t be fooled, this place sure knows how to kick back and relax. We spent the weekend camping alongside of the Crystal River and soaking in the nearby hot springs, sharing stories and beverages with locals!
From Denver, you have two options to get there, depending on the time of year. The more scenic route over Independence pass is typically open from Memorial Day until about mid-November. Be sure to check the Colorado DOT on openings, as backtracking from the pass will create a 2 hour plus detour. The second option is to head west on I-70 and turn off at Glenwood Springs.
Free dispersed camping is available all over the area (www.freecampsites.net is a great resource), but we’re on a KOA kick lately so we took the easy option of reserving a tent site in advance. Makes the meal prep on Friday night a little easier knowing you’ll have a bit of daylight left! For those who saw our Instagram posts, we had site TB, and it was perfect. Just enough shade and close to the water, making Saturday and Sunday pleasant to read and draw by the river.
The next morning, we drove into town and walked around Main Street before stopping at Bonfire Coffee for a quick pick me up and breakfast sandwich. Highly recommend! The atmosphere was quaint, and the baristas were super friendly. One of our favorite parts about traveling around Colorado is meeting the people and learning about the town’s history and culture. Everyone has a story, and most are worth a listen. They often inspire us to one day pack our bags and do the same!
Caffeinated and ready for an adventure we went back towards Redstone on HWY 133 to find the local watering hole (aka Hippie Dip). While we won’t give away the exact location, they are easily findable with a little research on google. Among The Wild was founded to create community and eliminate the idea of exclusivity, but at the same time we strongly believe it’s important to preserve these places. So, please pack it in, pack it out and do your part to keep these beautiful hot springs just that, beautiful!
We spent a few hours soaking in the various pools talking to people as they came and went before heading back to cook by the campfire while the sun set over the Elk Mountains! Pro tip: if you have a bike, bring it! The Crystal Valley Trail goes right into downtown Carbondale and connects to the Rio Grande Trail. If you can time it right, the first Friday of every month is a celebration of the arts, shopping, dining and music!
Sunday morning we hit the hot springs again (of course) before meandering back to Denver, with stops at Vail Brewing Co and West Bound & Down Brewing. Both have fantastic beers and WB&D has a great menu, particularly the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich and Falafel Wrap. We probably walked less than 10,000 steps the entire weekend, but we were content. We’ll be back again later this year for some higher heartrate activities, but sometimes a weekend of R&R is just what the doctor ordered!