Carbondale has retained its much sought after friendly and casual reality.
Carbondale is not just another small Colorado mountain community located in a beautiful setting perfect for an active outdoor lifestyle and conducive to creative endeavors. It is ranked as one of the best towns in the country in which to work and play. The downtown area boasts of independent merchants, excellent restaurants, a first-rate theater-in-the-round, several arts organizations, a popular small-town movie theater, coffee shops, craft breweries, yoga studios, and more.
There are modest houses and townhomes within easy walking distance of Main Street and, in spite of nearby luxury developments outside the town, Carbondale has retained its much sought after friendly and casual reality.
Early homesteaders settled in the area that would become Carbondale just a few years after Colorado achieved statehood on August 1, 1876. Situated at the base of the majestic 12,953-foot Mount Sopris (named for politician and prospector Captain Richard Sopris, who first explored the area in 1860), the region was rich in wildlife, silver, and coal. Hunting, ranching, farming, and mining presented abundant opportunities to those with a pioneering spirit.
By 1881, 20 families had established themselves in the fertile valley at the Roaring Fork and Crystal Rivers’ confluence. The area’s natural resources not only supported the local population but also created a base of commerce by providing food and supplies to a growing number of communities in the Roaring Fork Valley.
By 1887, Carbondale was a railroad depot with multiple railroad companies laying new tracks throughout the region, which led to steady population growth. In 1888, the town was officially incorporated. By then, it had a newspaper, a commercial core with a general store, a bank, several saloons, and additional building sites.
Carbondale didn’t escape the economic downturn that followed the silver panic of 1893. Potato farming saved Carbondale’s economy since the soil on the vast high mesa north of the town was perfect for producing an abundance of high-quality potatoes. The area attracted immigrants from many lands — Ireland, Nova Scotia, Italy, and France — and those who came from Missouri named it “Missouri Heights” after their home state.
In the decades following the Great Depression, ranching and mining took a larger part in Carbondale’s economy. By the 1960s, the growth of Aspen’s ski industry further diversified Carbondale’s economic life, and the impact of tourism and the resulting demand for goods and services was felt throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.
Facts: Population 6,600; elevation 6,181 feet; land area 2.0 square miles.
Carbondale isn’t just another small Colorado mountain community in a beautiful setting. It’s also been called one of the best towns to work and play in the U.S. Outdoor recreational activities abound, including cycling, fly-fishing, golfing, hiking, skateboarding, kayaking, rafting, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and more. Alpine skiing and snowboarding can be found just 30 miles away at Aspen/Snowmass’s four-mountain winter playground.
Carbondale marches to the beat of its own drum. It has maintained its unique character defined by a sense of social democracy in a valley that has witnessed a tidal wave of upscale development. This diverse, environmentally conscious town fosters all creative art forms and maintains a strong sense of community. Excellent restaurants, a variety of locally-owned shops, several galleries, an array of public art and performance venues line the downtown streets.
The people of Carbondale keep several long-standing traditions alive, including the annual Mountain Fair in July, which started in 1972, and Potato Days, a festival that pays homage to the banner crop of 1909. Many other local events take place throughout the year, including a weekly summer rodeo.
Modest homes and condominiums are within a short walking distance of downtown. Within a few miles lie two extensive residential golf communities, Aspen Glen and River Valley Ranch, each featuring luxury homes with access to a variety of on-site amenities. Beyond those houses, Missouri Heights lies on the north side of Highway 82 and several miles above Carbondale, overlooking the majestic Mt. Sopris.
Many Missouri Heights properties are a haven for horse lovers who seek wide-open spaces and a more tranquil rural environment with easy access to city life.
What was once home to ranches and farms is now mostly land subdivided into several developments of large homes with generous acreage and spectacular views of the entire Elk Mountain Range.
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