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Carbondale, Colorado
(Population 5,500)
The Ultimate Rocky Mountain Hideout By Melissa Wagenberg


Photo: a bike on top of a car
CARBONDALE CRUISING
All racked up in town.

Home both to ranchers in white cowboy hats and sporto types in fleece, quaint Carbondale is set at the confluence of the Crystal and Roaring Fork Rivers and is anchored to the south by 12,953-foot (3,948-meter) Mount Sopris. The classic Rockies town is also home to new-school cool: A 13,000-square-foot (1,208-square-meter) skateboard park just opened, and a white-water park is in the works.

Sopris, towering 6,783 feet (2,067 meters) above Main Street, claims what is perhaps Colorado's greatest continuous vertical gain. Hike it via the Mount Sopris Trail, stopping to swim en route (14 miles round-trip; White River National Forest; +1 970 963 2266), or explore the peak by bike on the Hay Park Trail (30 miles, or 48 kilometers, round-trip). Ajax Bike and Sports has rentals ($40 a day; +1 970 963 0128).

Around now, the last of the season's real white water is flowing on the Class III-IV Shoshone stretch of the Colorado River (Blazing Adventures; $85 for a full-day float trip with lunch; +1 970 923 4544; www.blazingadventures.com). Climbing season runs through October an hour northwest in Rifle Mountain Park, which claims one of the nation's most challenging collections of limestone sport climbing routes. For more information and directions, stop by Glendale rock shop Summit Canyon Mountaineering, 15 miles (24 kilometers) from Carbondale (800 360 6994 [U.S. and Canada only]; www.summitcanyon.com), or simply follow the traffic out of town on Saturday morning. Anglers should splurge on a fly-fishing float trip down the Roaring Fork River with Alpine Angling ($395; 800 781 8120 [U.S. and Canada only]; www.alpineangling.com), or just join the locals casting for trout on the Roaring Fork under the Highway 133 bridge.

Visitor Vitals: Carbondale is three and a half hours from Denver, under an hour from Vail's Eagle Airport, and 45 minutes from Aspen. Stay at the Thunder River Lodge ($48 and up; +1 970 963 2543; www.thunderriverlodge.biz) and rise early for breakfast at the Village Smithy (+1 970 963 9990; www.villagesmithyrestaurant.com). Mi Casita (+1 970 963 5866) is one of the town's many authentic Mexican joints. Six89 (+1 970 963 6890; www.six89.com) serves a raved-about ahi tuna carpaccio. (There's an abbreviated menu on powder days, when the staff hits the hill and races back in time for dinner service.)

Relocation Plan
Why Stay? Carbondale exudes the unpretentious, outdoors-centric vibe that fueled Aspen, its up-valley neighbor, in its pre-fur, pre-Hummer days. Plus, the town gets 295 days of sunshine a year.
$300,000 Buys: A new, three-bedroom, two-bath single-family home with views of the Crystal River—and $75,000 left over.
Job Market: Bootlicking in Aspen, or hammer swinging right here in town, thanks to the local real estate boom.
Meet the Locals: Writer and adventurer Jonathan Waterman, and Lou Dawson, the first person to ski all 54 of Colorado's fourteeners.
Know Before You Go: The demographics lead to involuntary celibacy. "Bring a significant other, especially if you're male," says local Jeff Achey. "It's a small community, and some of the single people that have come here to work have had a terrible time getting a date."

Nine other tempting towns await inside the September issue of Adventure. Pick it up and discover your own adventure oasis.

Photograph by Gregg Adams

For the complete guide to America's best adventure getaways, pick up the September issue of Adventure.


Additional Excerpts
From the print edition, September 2004

Where to Live and Play Now: Spend a week in these enticing base-camp burgs and you may never go home.
- Carbondale, Colorado: The Ultimate Rockies Hideout
Pelton's World: Surviving a foreign fleecing
The River Wilder: Maine's classic American river trip
K2 at 50: The controversy surrounding the world's most vicious mountain


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September 2004



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