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Colorado Roadtrip: Roaring Fork Valley

Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley is one of the most affluent areas in the state. It is also one of the most beautiful. The stretch from Glenwood Springs to Redstone is home to everything from a ski resort to hot springs, historic hotels and beautiful boutiques as well as distilleries and awesome restaurants.  

Being less than an hour apart, this mini-road trip is consummate with the hot springs in that it is completely stress free meaning that after you have soaked your stresses away, you will arrive back at your hotel totally blissed out. 

Day 1: Glenwood Springs

Perfectly located just off I-70, Glenwood Springs is easily accessible from around the state, especially from Denver and Grand Junction. With a population of around 10,000, Glenwood has enough options to keep most people busy for a few days while remaining quite quaint. There is also an Amtrak station in the center of town and is the most leisurely way to get to and from Glenwood.

Photo: Glenwood Hot Springs

Morning: Ski at Sunlight Mountain

A 30-minute drive from Glenwood Springs, Sunlight Mountain Resort has more than 680 acres of skiable terrain with a nice mix of beginner, intermediate, and expert runs. Home to both one of the steepest runs in the state, The Heathen with a 52 degree pitch, and one of the longest, Ute, a beginner slope that is more than two miles from summit to base, Sunlight is also one of the more affordable resorts with adult lift tickets starting at $68.

Lunch: Slope and Hatch

Back in Glenwood Springs, Slope and Hatch is a tiny shop on 7th Street that offers an interesting combination of tacos and hot dogs. As vibrant as they are delicious, Slope and Hatch will put their tacos up against any in the state. In addition to dogs and tacos, they also have tortas, soups, chowders, and desserts with a full bar.

Afternoon: Iron Mountain Hot Springs

After a morning skiing or snowboarding, you will have earned a soak. Sitting practically on the banks of the Colorado River, Iron Mountain Hot Springs has sixteen mineral hot springs pools, each heated to a different temperature ranging from 98 to 108 degrees, that are refreshed every two hours. There are some great views from some of the pools, especially in winter when the surrounding hillsides are coated in snow. 

Dinner: CO Ranch House

Refined yet rustic, CO Ranch House evokes the ranching and agricultural tradition of Colorado and offers elevated home cooking. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, you can expect to see Western-inspired dishes such as Buffalo Ravioli, Rocky Mountain Ruby Red Trout, and Field & Stream, a combination of grilled elk loin and pan-seared trout served with mashed potatoes, sautéed green beans with mushroom sauce and crispy onions.

Evening: Post-dinner Soak

After dinner, return to Iron Mountain for an evening soak (your ticket acts as a day pass).

Stay: Hotel Colorado

The Hotel Colorado (which is currently undergoing a renovation) is one of the most famous and historic hotels in the state. Originally built back in 1893 by silver baron Walter Devereux, the recent renovation has maintained the property’s historic roots. The 130-room property has hosted notable and infamous figures over the years including Presidents Taft and Teddy Roosevelt, as well as the Unsinkable Molly Brown and all manner of Chicago mobsters including Al Capone.

Day 2: Carbondale

A short drive from Glenwood Springs, Carbondale was settled by hunters and farmers thanks to its rich and fertile river-bottom land who would end up supplying food to towns in the area that sprang up as a result of the mining boom. Today, Carbondale has a vibrant arts community, some truly excellent places to eat and drink and has a wide range of community gatherings and events.

Morning: Spring into the Day 

Before setting off from Glenwood Springs, enjoy your second hot springs of the trip at Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. Curing ailments and relaxing aching muscles for over 130 years, Glenwood Hot Springs has the world’s largest hot springs pool at 1,071,000 gallons as well as a full-service spa. There are water slides, but unfortunately they have closed for the season. 

Treat yourself to breakfast at Sweet Coloradough on your way out of town. One of the state’s best places to get a donut (they also serve a range of sandwiches as well as beer, wine and spirits), Sweet Coloradough has a daily happy hour where patrons are offered a free drink depending on the day. On your way there, you’ll pretty much pass by the grave of legendary gunslinger and dentist Doc Holliday (it’s a short hike to Linwood Cemetery from Grand Avenue). 

Afternoon: Nordic Ski 

A beautiful area with plenty of things to do outdoors, Nordic skiing on the 13 miles of free, groomed trails at Spring Gulch is a popular activity and spot with locals. 

Lunch: Silo 

Silo is a very popular place with the locals. A few minutes drive north of downtown, it offers a pared back menu of salads, soups and sandwiches for lunch as well as serving breakfast all day. Silo is also good for brunch, especially on the weekend when you may feel inclined to have a cocktail.

Evening: Explore the Arts

Carbondale has a thriving arts scene with the Thunder River Theatre Company and the Carbondale Arts R2 to name but two creative outlets. Check their event calendars to see what’s on. 

Dinner: Carbondale Beer Works

Carbondale Beer Works is a neighborhood bar and comes with everything that entails- nachos, wings and tacos, but they also have a few items for the more health conscious including Blasted Broccoli (oven roasted with garlic, Parmesan and a lemon wedge), a Buddha Bowl (broccoli, kale, cucumber, green apple slices, sesame seeds and a miso vinaigrette); and the Veggie Brewben which is like a Reuben but with “pastramied” mushrooms. They also offer tofu bites if you don’t like the idea of chicken wings.  

Stay: The Way Home or The Distillery Inn

The pair of rooms at The Way Home are beautiful, but Carbondale is home to another boutique hotel, and if you enjoyed a few delicious cocktails at the Marble Bar you might like how close by it is. The Distillery Inn is the only inn in the world housed within a working distillery. The five luxury suites are beautiful as they are sustainable - which is very.  

Day 3: Redstone

Easily one of the most idyllic little mountain towns in Colorado, Redstone was founded by industrialist John Osgood back in the late 19th century for workers at his coal mining enterprise. Osgood also built nearby Redstone Castle (which was originally called Cleveholm Manor), a 42-room Tudor-style mansion that Osgood built for his second wife. The castle recently reopened to the public for tours and overnight stays. In town is the Redstone Inn, a historic property that offers on-site dining and an outdoor hot tub. 

The drive from Carbondale is short but beautiful (it is in fact part of the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway) and takes you past the imposing Mount Sopris and along the Crystal River. 

Morning: More Hot Springs

Spend the morning soaking at Avalanche Ranch Cabins and Hot Springs. Just over halfway between Carbondale and Redstone, the ranch has three hot springs on the property, and while they are primarily for cabin guests, they are accessible to the public via reservation. 

Lunch: Redstone Inn

The restaurant at the Redstone Inn has a sizeable menu with pastas, salads and entrees that range from grilled ribeye and herb-roasted chicken to homemade meatloaf. 

Afternoon: Ice skating

Redstone has a very small but very quaint ice skating rink in town with free rentals at the warming hut. For something more adrenaline inducing, there is some excellent ice climbing in the area including Avocado Gully which is a 200-foot climb that is accessed directly off Highway 133. 

Dinner: A Piece of Pie

The newest addition to town, Propaganda Pie wouldn’t be out of place in Denver, so it is quite a coup for little Redstone to get something so … cool. Offering Detroit-style pizza, they also have specials during the week as well as a happy hour every day between 3 - 6 pm. Propaganda Pie is closed every Tuesday and Wednesday during winter.   


Evening: Penny Hot Springs

Located just five minutes north, in between mile markers 56 and 55, is Penny Hot Springs. A natural hot spring that spews hot water straight into the Crystal River at 130 degrees. There are no facilities at all, so come prepared. 

Stay: Castle or Inn

Redstone isn’t exactly awash with accommodation options, but the Redstone Inn at the end of town offers rooms with a more historic feel, while Redstone Castle is more luxurious.  


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