Driving the American West: Western Colorado

A wintry slice of the Rocky Mountains, between Carbondale and Basalt, Colorado


Continued from
Driving the American West: Moab to Arches

By the time I cruised up from southeastern Utah into Western Colorado, I was worried I might have had my fill of beauty and could see no more. But it turns out that my eyes were well prepared for another onslaught.

In the late afternoon light, I followed the icy blue Colorado River into lilac light, its banks rimmed with dark red grasses and winter-orange trees. Yellow trains chugged through towering passes and signs warned of road-roaming elk. Snow-draped mountains gave shelter to fir trees, cabins and twinkling lights, a stateside Switzerland in a Christmas snow globe.

I said aloud: “I can’t believe my friend gets to LIVE here!”

My friend and fellow travel writer Kara Williams lives up yonder mountain way with her delightful husband and two huggable kids, and happily for me, she invited me to hang out at her home for a few days. Between the laughing, the fresh coffee, the cozy quilt action and laundry facilities, my stay there was as lovely as any bed & breakfast I’ve ever stayed in, anywhere.

No need to despair over the fact that Kara’s not actually running an inn, however; there are plenty of places up this way where you can stay, too.

Together, Kara and I explored the cute shops and street art of Carbondale, the dog- and ski-bunny-filled streets of Aspen and the Old West charm of Glenwood Springs. In the latter, I failed to photograph our visit to some “vapor caves,” a unique and rocky experience where you can sweat out the evil humours within and then treat yourself to a kick-ass massage.

I was thrilled to see my pal (who I hadn’t seen since our visit to the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain near Tucson, Arizona), get some use out of my new parka, eat at wonderful restaurants, try Colorado-made wine, and see a stunning swath of America that had heretofore eluded me.

And hooray: I’ll be headed back this way this summer for TBEX, the annual travel bloggers’ conference!

Mountain hikes in the sunshine, anyone? Why, yes…I thought you’d say that.


This bronze sculpture of Freidl Pfeifer, one of the founders of Aspen as a ski resort, stands at the base of Aspen Mountain

The Silver Queen Gondola in Aspen costs $33 US per person, but you get a $5 refund if you bring your ticket back to the front desk; we opted instead to enjoy Aspen Mountain from the ground, over lunch

Delighted in a delicious turkey burger, sweet potato fries and J.T. Scrumpy's hard cider beside the pool at Aspen's Sky Hotel, which sits near the base of Aspen Mountain

The lobby of Aspen's Hotel Jerome reflects its origins as the 1889 pride of a former silver-mining town

The Hotel Jerome's J-Bar is a traditional saloon that attracts real-life cowboys

Aspen is full of art galleries, snow and adorable dogs

The streets of tiny Carbondale, Colorado are full of art like "Free Mind" (which incidentally, could be yours for $38,000)

Tried and loved Colorado's own earthy Woody Creek Cellars Merlot at the delicious, cozy and locally-focused Six89 Restaurant in Carbondale

Amtrak's California Zephyr takes a gorgeous mountain journey from Glenwood Springs to Denver

Downtown Glenwood Springs, steeped in the infamous history of Doc Holliday, is full of vintage -- and sometimes sagging -- frontier architecture

I took my traveling companion, Rusty, to Glenwood Springs' Hotel Colorado, home of the first Teddy Bear; in 1900, when hotel guest Teddy Roosevelt failed to shoot a bear in the nearby woods, maids here made him a stuffed bear from scraps of cloth -- and his daughter Alice named it Teddy

Heading through Moffatt County, Colorado, I passed this dilapidated silver mine, a relic from the area's late 1800s boom era...before it became even more famous for its skiing

Pausing to look at the ice and snow on the White River in Moffatt County, I breathed in the crisp, clean, cold air and felt it all the way to my toes


Aspen, Colorado
Hotel Jerome
Sky Hotel
Aspen Mountain’s Silver Queen Gondola
Carbondale, Colorado
Six89 Restaurant
Bonfire Coffee
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Hotel Colorado
The Pullman
Yampah Hot Springs Vapor Caves
Amtrak’s California Zephyr


Soon continued in
Driving the American West: Central Wyoming


  1. Woo hoo! Was so happy to share my little slice of paradise w/ you. 🙂

  2. Suzan Wynne says:

    OMG. Fabulous! You were three the last time I was in Aspen and Glenwood Springs. Guess I need to do that again, huh?

  3. Considering that I’m, um…of a certain age now…I’d say yes!!

  4. @Kara, thank you for being such an excellent tour guide! I’ll hunt down a turkey burger with you any day. 😉

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