On Top of the World
The hiking around Carbondale not only provides a good workout, but some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Colorado. Whether you want to stay close to town and take a short day hike, or venture out further, there is something for everyone.
Just down Highway 133 from Carbondale, you’ll find Prince Creek Road, which leads to the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness. This area includes many trails with a wide range of difficulty levels. Thomas Lakes Trail, 3.6 miles one-way, is a well-maintained trail in good condition. This hike is a beautiful one with many wildflowers and scenic overlooks. From Thomas Lakes you may choose to climb Mt. Sopris, which is a steep four miles more; most often hikers camp at Thomas Lakes and tackle Mt. Sopris the next morning.
The Thompson Creek Trail, just seven miles from Main Street in Carbondale, is a beautiful, short, scenic hike with some unique attractions. Take special note of the rock fins—slices of rock formations about one foot wide reaching up into the sky. Beyond the fins, the trail becomes more difficult. Those up to the challenge will find the remains of an old railroad trestle at the confluence of North Thompson Creek and Thompson Creek.
The Avalanche Creek Trail, an easy to moderate hike, is eleven miles round trip. This trail follows the creek up a beautiful rocky-walled valley. Try to go at least as far as Hell Roaring Creek (five miles round trip) to see the creek plummeting down from above in a series of falls.
Nearest to the center of Carbondale, you’ll find Red Hill. This system includes trails ranging in difficulty from easy to very difficult. Red Hill’s Mushroom Rock Trail, the most spectacular hike in this system, leads to an outcropping known as Mushroom Rock. From here, you’ll have an incredible view of Mt. Sopris, the valley below, and the Town of Carbondale. Red Hill’s Three Gulch Trail climbs through the pinon and juniper forest, with frequent and spectacular views of Mt. Sopris. The easiest hike in the system is the short 0.6-mile Outer Loop.
Be sure to stop by the U.S. Forest Service office at 620 Main Street in downtown Carbondale for detailed maps of these trails and dozens of others. Or, visit their Aspen/Sopris Ranger District web page which lists many area trails by category.