Living in Carbondale: Things to Do and See in Carbondale, Colorado

Carbondale—Cutting Edge Sports, Art and Food Served with a Dash of Old West Charm

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Everything You Wanted to Know About Living in Carbondale, Colorado

Carbondale has been called “Aspen’s feisty little sister,” an apt description for the esprit de corps, ferocious devotion to outdoor living, and unfettered creativity in both the applied and culinary arts. Perfectly situated in a lovely valley in the shadow of Mount Sopris and at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Crystal rivers, decades-long residents, working ranchers and farmers seamlessly intermingle with the influx of the high-octane mountain athletes and cutting-edge artists who have relocated here.

What to Do and See in Carbondale?

Carbondale is synonymous with extreme mountain sports. Outdoor publications consistently rank Carbondale at the top as one of the best places in the nation to live for those who seek the endorphin rush—bikers, trail runners, extreme skiers and whitewater paddlers. Even on the most challenging trails and routes, you are likely to pass your next-door neighbor, your dentist, your banker, even your local coffee-house barista. Everyone, it seems, lives outside in Carbondale. Less extreme athletes have plenty of low-octane options, too. There is blue-ribbon fishing, stand up paddle boarding on the Roaring Fork’s calmer waters, meandering hikes, plenty of blue ski runs nearby come winter, and most exquisitely, the paved 42-mile Rio Grande Trail, an enchanting pedal, which runs from Aspen through Snowmass and then Carbondale, ending in Glenwood. This nationally recognized multi-use trail, once the rail bed for the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, wends through Colorado’s rugged landscape of sages, brush oak and Ponderosa pines along the banks of the Roaring Fork. It is an enchanting coast (or grind, if preferred), with rarely a car in sight and public transport pick-up in place so bikers can choose to tackle manageable segments. A crushed gravel shoulder alongside the pavement for a good 18 miles offers softer footing for horses and joggers. In the winter, sections are groomed for cross-country skiing.


Art is big in this small town.

The Powers Art Center is the nation’s preeminent tribute to lithographs on paper by Jasper Johns. The former president of international printing giant Prentice-Hall, John G. Powers, retired to the Aspen area with his wife, Kimiko, and they became voracious collectors of Johns’ limited edition works-on-paper – a creative process Johns explored in tandem with his painting. The center, a newly constructed minimalist architectural wonder by Japanese architect Hiroshi Nanamori, fittingly enough for Carbondale, is located off the grid in a pasture that Powers once owned with the mountain backdrop on full display. At the entrance of the center, a portrait by Andy Warhol depicts Powers with the saxophone that helped him pay his way through law school.

Each year since 2003, the Carbondale Public Arts Commission sponsors a new display of outdoor sculptures around town. No bronzes of long-gone generals on rearing steeds in this installation; all the pieces are modern and contemporary, reflecting the town’s emerging attitude. The First Friday Art Walks attract residents and visitors across all of Pitkin County when the streets are closed to traffic and the art appreciation party spills into the streets.

Applied arts are also celebrated in the town with the S.A.W Studio for Arts and Works, a rowdy collaborative space opened in a repurposed automotive shop. The Carbondale Clay Center pays homage to the ceramic arts with displays and classes while the Third Street Center, a converted elementary school fully retrofitted to operate on solar, features free weekly music and dance performances as well as a contemporary art gallery.

Where to Eat in Carbondale?

The town is also recognized for its creativity in the culinary arts. Top chefs who sharpened their knives in Aspen’s finest establishments are moving on down the road to Carbondale and creating works of art on plates, instead of paper. Inspired by the area’s bounty of produce and organic meats, the dining is divine. The ambiance is anything but pretentious: some of the best dining in town is in a tree house or next to a horse paddock.

Carbondale still sponsors a huge community sit-down potluck dinner each summer and the Village Smithy restaurant has been serving breakfast and lunch by the same family since 1975. The Potato Festival, an ode to Carbondale’s modest early roots, has been running since 1909, a friendly community gathering which includes a parade, potato sack races, a Tater Tot run, and some 500 pounds of roasted Colorado-grown potatoes to plate with the pit-fired barbecue.

How Many People Live in Carbondale?

Population: 6,403 (2010 figures)

What Languages Are Spoken in Carbondale?

Language: English

What is the Currency in Carbondale?

Currency: USD

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