Blogged by Jackie Mansfield
Many people consider The Roaring Fork Valley to be the jewel of Colorado’s Western Slope. It stretches approximately 42 miles in a southeasterly direction from the laidback Glenwood Springs end, all the way to glitzy-glamorous Aspen.
However, it’s rumored that some Aspen-ites and visiting Aspen-philes don’t venture much outside of Aspen’s city limits which is a great pity, because each town in the valley has its own unique charm and character – and from the other end of the valley, I’ve heard Glenwood Springlies proclaim that they never visit Aspen.
Well that doesn’t seem right so to put the record straight, here’s a description of each town in the Roaring Fork Valley because ultimately, we’d like the entire valley to become everyone’s favorite year-round playground, regardless of whether you live here or plan to visit.
In August 2015, ‘Outside‘ magazine voted Glenwood the 5th best US town to live in, and Glenwood residents would agree, although they might have preferred keeping this a secret.
Glenwood Springs is rugged, outdoorsy and famous for many things; for instance, Doc Holliday lived and died here and it was a favorite haunt for the likes of Al Capone.
Today, Glenwood’s main attractions are the steamy subterranean vapor caves and the US’s largest natural hot springs pool, coupled with the recently opened Iron Mountain Hot Springs resort. Located just up the road from the original hot springs, the Iron Mountain Hot Springs resort has become very popular, not just because they serve cocktails and pizza to guests while they’re soaking but their multiple, intimate-sized pools overlooking the Colorado River are total bliss after a rugged, outdoorsy type of day.
Then there’s the mighty Colorado River that slices through majestic Glenwood Canyon, running parallel to I-70 and Amtrak; the only way in from Denver, 180 miles to the east. Hiking trails ascend the north side of the canyon, alongside rushing creeks that feed the river from scenic mountain lakes. A bike path follows the river for 12 miles and whitewater rafting challenges even the most intrepid adventurer in spring and early summer.
Glenwood is the largest town in the Roaring Fork Valley and has a casual, laid-back atmosphere. What with its cool brewpubs, trendy bistros, restaurants, coffee shops, hip little hole-in-the-wall eateries, charming boutiques, specialty shops – and not forgetting Sunlight Mountain (Glenwood’s very own ski resort), an Adventure Park and two area airports; this mountain town is rapidly evolving, in fact Glenwood is positively booming!
Mt Sopris from The Crystal River, Carbondale
The historic town of Carbondale has really come into its own over the last 20 years and it regularly makes top 10 lists of the most desirable small towns to live in the US.
Nestled near the base of magnificent Mt Sopris where the Crystal and Roaring Fork rivers converge, Carbondale is a small mountain town with a vibrant, youthful energy and hip downtown area. Lots of great shops, restaurants, art galleries, live music venues, a historic movie theater dating back to the 1930’s – a pottery studio, mystical yoga retreat, brewpub and a recreational park that hosts the super-artsy Carbondale Mountain Fair each summer…the list is endless.
Main Street, Carbondale
And then there’s downtown Carbondale’s ‘First Fridays’ when on the first Friday of each month, local shops and galleries stay open until late, offering complimentary cocktails, canapés and happiness-inducing discounts. Regardless of the season, Main Street comes alive, restaurants are filled to capacity and the town brims with infectious goodwill.
Rural Carbondale encompasses a very large area in each direction. The tiny historic town of Redstone is just a few miles south on Highway 133, a scenic highway that snakes along the Crystal River towards McLure Pass. The Historic Redstone Inn is a popular year round destination – and don’t forget to soak in the Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs on your way back, especially after a long day of cross-country skiing, hiking, biking, or just driving around admiring the scenery, because the views are spectacular 12 months of the year.
Just outside of downtown Carbondale are two of the best golf courses in the entire area, Aspen Glen and River Valley Ranch. Why are they considered the best? Well, it’s not just because of their respective Jack Nicklaus and Jay Morrish designed courses, it’s also due to the fact that the mid-valley area – fondly referred to as ‘The Banana Belt’ by locals, thanks to its warmer climate and lower altitude than Aspen – enjoys the longest golfing season. And then of course there’s the breathtaking scenery with Mt Sopris proudly dominating the southeastern landscape.
Mt Sopris from the 8th hole at Aspen Glen
‘River Valley Ranch’ a Jay Morrish-designed championship course
The River Valley Ranch Golf Club is an award-winning, Jay Morrish-designed, 18-hole championship public golf course that boasts a spectacular setting, located on the perimeter of downtown Carbondale.
RVR is family-friendly with a beautifully landscaped recreation area and pool, and a clubhouse that boasts enviable views overlooking the golf course and Mt Sopris.
Fancy casting a fly? The Crystal River runs right through it and the golf course is designed to keep all levels of golfers happy; even a bad game becomes a good memory because who could remain grumpy with views like this?
Located about 1.5 miles from downtown Carbondale is Aspen Glen a private, gated golfing community with a Jack Nicklaus-Nicklaus II-designed championship golf course, 4.5 miles of Roaring Fork River Gold Medal Fly Fishing, breathtaking 360-degree views, lush landscaping and enough wildlife to make Aspen Glen seem like a nature preserve. Deer, foxes and bald eagles make this their home and elk regularly migrate through. Aspen Glen prides itself on protecting and respecting it’s wildlife and closes certain trails during the bald eagles’ nesting season. Last but by no means least, Aspen Glen is part of the ClubCorp group and the Clubhouse is famous for its world-class amenities and spectacular views.
North rural Carbondale is a big spread that stretches northwest to southeast from El Jebel to Glenwood Springs. Exit Highway 82 on the north side and you’ll be climbing up to Missouri Heights, a vast plateau and magnificent horse-ranch neighborhood that goes on for miles, yet still enjoys easy access to all the mid-valley’s amenities. The views from Missouri Heights are considered some of the best in the region, especially by it’s residents. Homes come with land, dogs run free and deer, elk, fox, eagles, wild turkeys and the occasional bear and mountain lion sightings, all make Missouri Heights a nature lover’s dream – although the entire valley is just that – and of course, we know all the best places!
It’s said that Basalt is what Aspen used to be but we know that Basalt has a character all of its own. It sits 18 miles north-west of Aspen, where the Frying Pan River meets the Roaring Fork.
Basalt Old Town
It’s true that like Aspen, many of Basalt’s historic buildings that date back to early mining days, have been lovingly restored and now pose as boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and coffee shops. For instance, the main bank in town is situated in what used to be the old railroad station and the rather lovely building next to it, now a restaurant, was once the town’s only hotel and saloon, where a weary miner could let off steam and visit one of the upstairs rooms with a ‘special lady’.
But that’s where the similarity ends. Apart from keen fly-fishermen who flock to Basalt from around the world to fish in the famous Frying Pan, Basalt attracts fewer tourists than Aspen – consequently, Basalt has maintained its small-town community feel.
Live music is played in cozy restaurants, a weekend farmers market and regular art gallery openings add to the quaint small town feel and the people who live in Basalt want to keep it that way.
You can find beautiful riverfront property on the banks of the Frying Pan all the way up to the Reudi Reservoir, so whether you’re into sailing, water sports or fly fishing, Basalt has plenty of water.
Want to perch high above it all? Basalt Mountain has spectacular views of the Elk Mountain range, from Mt Sopris all the way to Independence Pass, over the great continental divide, rising high above the town of Aspen.
The Willits Town Center
Incorporated into the Town of Basalt is the new Willits Town Center – a lively, modern development where the valley’s only Whole Foods market finally landed. With its array of specialty shops, excellent casual eateries and live music events in Triangle Park, Willits is a welcome addition to the mid-valley neighborhood. A development of beautiful single family homes, townhomes and cool lofts complete the picture.
Adjacent to Willits is the small, more established community of El Jebel, still part of greater Basalt. El Jebel has the best movie theater in the whole valley; a bowling alley, some great restaurants – and Crown Mountain Park is a huge playground for 12 months of the year, with soccer in summer and cross country skiing in winter – and of course, happy dogs play here all year round.
It’s easy to see why mid-valley is an increasingly popular choice for people who want to be 30 minutes from world class skiing yet long for that small, Colorado mountain-town lifestyle that has culture, nightlife, great shopping, fabulous scenery and a real sense of community.
Basalt is an absolute gem and we know every inch of it.
Snowmass Ski Resort
Voted one of the top ski resorts in the US with a vertical drop of 5.3 miles from top to bottom, you can see why Snowmass attracts skiers from all over the world. And it’s family-friendly.
Learn to ski here and we guarantee you’ll take to it like a duck to water. Fancy yourself as an extreme skier or boarder of Olympic proportions? There are steeps, bowls, bumps and trees that will make you shiver with anticipation.
Snowmass Ski Mountain is huge. So huge in fact that even at the height of the season, the lift lines are rarely slow-moving and you’ll invariably find a hidden stash of fresh powder somewhere.
But there’s so much more to Snowmass than skiing. First of all, the ski resort is referred to as Snowmass Village but the area of Snowmass extends for miles, incorporating high mesas, hidden valleys with their own micro-climates and incredible stretches of wilderness and protected forest land.
Snowmass also incorporates Woody Creek, famous for its iconic Woody Creek Tavern and former home to that infamous character Hunter S. Thompson, until he chose to leave our planet and his ashes were subsequently zoomed skyward in a rocket (in celebration of a life well lived). Woody Creek sits on the Roaring Fork River and stretches all the way through picturesque Snowmass Canyon with its towering red cliffs.
The Annual Snowmass Balloon Festival
Snowmass isn’t just about skiing; in summer it’s famous for its scenic biking and hiking trails and if you don’t mind rising before dawn, a hot air balloon ride over the valley will take your breath away.
Music lovers are drawn to Snowmass in the summer months with free rock concerts at the bottom of the ski hill every week and Jazz Aspen’s Labor Day concerts pulling in crowds from all over the US.
So, whether you’re looking for a ski-in ski-out property, some peaceful riverfront with gold medal fly-fishing, or you love the idea of owning or building a remote retreat that’s still airport-accessible, we’ll help you find it.
‘Ajax’ Ski Mountain, Aspen
Aspen, Colorado. Two words that conjure up visions of jet-setters; world class skiing, fine dining, designer shopping, glitz, glamor and of course a fascinating history, dating back to when those first silver miners arrived in the summer of 1879.
Those early pioneers had no idea that Aspen was one day going to become a world class ski resort and a diversely rich center of culture, drawing visitors from around the globe.
Presidents, former Presidents and senior statesmen hold court here; best-selling authors share their secrets with us; top chefs from around the world make our mouths water ever summer at the Aspen Food & Wine Festival – and then we have live music. The very best classical, jazz, rock and indy music performers are an event, year-round. Take your pick.
Yes, Aspen has its fair share of high-profile people, high-end shops and many fine-dining restaurants and its hotels are world famous – but you can also enjoy one of Colorado’s small-brewery designer beers, a veggie-stuffed wrap, burger or pizza after a hard days skiing in winter – and if you visit Aspen in the summer, we promise you’ll never want to leave!
Woodbridge Realty of Colorado’s offices are located just within the gates of beautiful Aspen Glen.
We know Aspen Glen like the back of our hand – from the many available riverfront and golf course lots, to a wide selection of spectacular single family homes, duplexes and townhomes that are currently for sale.
Our offices are open 6 days a week and we just love it when folks drop by to say ‘hello’ and ask us about property or the lifestyle in our beautiful Roaring Fork Valley.
So, whether you’re looking to buy or sell, regardless of your preference or price range, you’ll be impressed by our local knowledge and expertise – and by the way, on Fridays we serve delicious gourmet muffins – and of course our coffee is always hot and fresh!
We look forward to meeting you…
The Woodbridge Realty of Colorado Team