GPS: 39°23'N 107°12'W
Carbondale’s urban expats take their town's name as an eco-challenge. In the morning, commuters line the bike paths on their way to a growing pack of local environmental companies, like Solar Energy International, GreenSpot, and InPower Systems. A new rec center and the police and fire departments are all solar powered. The occasional cattle drive still passes down Main Street, but it’s clear that the town’s ranching days are mostly gone. While still partly in the shadow of Aspen, 30 miles (48 kilometers) up the road, Carbondale is forging its own identity as a self-sustained base for Patagonia-clad Ph.D.’s happy to stay close to home in the White River National Forest, beneath the 12,953-foot (3,948-meter) twin peaks of Mount Sopris.
The Rio Grande Trail bike path from Aspen to Glenwood Springs starts in the heart of downtown Aspen and is a great ride on summer days. Rent a bike from Ajax Bike and Sports Bicycle Shop ($35 for 8 hours; www.ajaxbikeandsport.com). In the winter, the town's proximity to Aspen and Vail is a dream, but there are plenty of Nordic and backcountry ski tracks in the surrounding area, too: Just seven miles west, you'll find the 12-mile (19-kilometer) Spring Gulch Nordic Trail System
The Six89 restaurant in Carbondale is a quintessential, delicious, Rocky Mountain restaurant. The menu is seasonal and local—including a variety of wines from Western Colorado’s wine growing region—and the atmosphere is unpretentious and comfortable (www.six89.com).
The Lodge on the Roaring Fork, just one mile out of town, is the perfect adventure hub. Situated just under Mt. Sopris, the location is stunning and the staff is tops at arranging local adventures (doubles from $150; www.thelodgeontheroaringfork.com).