Exploring Basalt's Neighborhoods

    by Jeanne McGovern

    Downtown Basalt

    If there is a slice of Basalt that embraces all that this quaint Rocky Mountain town has to offer, it’s downtown. Stroll Midland Avenue — Old Town Basalt’s main drag — and you’ll quickly see why: Classic Victorian buildings house restaurants, galleries, retail shops, banks and more, while modern structures are home to assorted retail, real estate offices and other commercial ventures.

    Historic downtown is also the hub of daily life for Basaltines and visitors, with the Town Hall, Chamber of Commerce caboose, Basalt Regional Library and post office creating an eclectic mix of commercial, residential and government use. And, at each edge of the Old Town core, stretching out from the confluence of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers, are the Riverside Plaza and Riverwalk centers with more restaurants and commercial space.

    On the hillside overlooking downtown Basalt, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains, is the “old” neighborhood with its charming mix of historic and beautifully renovated homes. Across the Fryingpan River, at the edge of town and along Basalt’s History Tour, are the newer River Cove homes; here, landscaped alleys lead to the more traditional homes and condos at Elk Run and the Columbines. Woven into these locals’ neighborhoods are the town police headquarters, the fire department, the elementary and middle schools, as well as the Basalt Old Brick Community Center.

    Fryingpan River Valley

    Perhaps the most stunning — and acclaimed — natural feature of Basalt is the Gold Medal Fryingpan River. Running through the Fryingpan River Valley, just east of downtown, this sparsely populated area is dappled with ranches and homes set against the backdrop of the White River National Forest and Hunter Fryingpan Wilderness area, red sandstone cliffs, evergreen pines and firs. Rife with legends of mining, railway history and the early Colorado frontier, the Fryingpan River Valley is worth a drive. Travel about four miles up and the Seven Castles red-rock outcroppings on the left side of the roadway are a spectacular sight. Carry on another 10 miles and the 997-acre Ruedi Reservoir is a must-see. Insider tip: In autumn, watch for the pumpkins that mysteriously appear on roadside nooks and crannies, high ledges and rocks jutting up from the river.

    Southside | Basalt

    Business Center One of Basalt’s fastest growing neighborhoods is Southside. Situated on the south side of Highway 82 and Basalt, the residences here comprise a mix of single-family homes and duplexes, all perfectly set between two parks, a mixed-use space, open swaths of fertile ranch land and, at the edge of the neighborhood overlooking the town and valley is Basalt High School and the Longhorns stadium.

    Also on the south side of town is the bustling Basalt Business Center district, which includes a vibrant mix of automotive shops, consignment stores and other retail and service businesses, including Cathers the largest new home furnishings store in the valley. Plus, the Basalt Business Center is home to emergency care for people and pets with Aspen Valley Hospital’s After Hours Urgent Care Clinic and the Valley Emergency Pet Care.


    Linking historic downtown Basalt and the newer Willits neighborhood is the small hamlet of Emma. Located in unincorporated Pitkin County along Highway 82, Emma offers a true taste of the Roaring Fork Valley’s past. Here, visitors will discover the sweet Emma Schoolhouse, an old Victorian farmhouse and remnants of the historic Emma Store. The Denver and Rio Grande Western Emma Train Station, which no longer exists, sat just behind the area of the schoolhouse and provided daily passenger service until mid-1922. Today, a paved bike and pedestrian trail follows the rail line, extending from Glenwood Springs to Aspen and passing through an area offering breath-taking views of Basalt Mountain, Mount Sopris, working ranches, country homes and farmlands. 

    Willits | Willits Town Center

    If there is a place in the Roaring Fork Valley that mimics modern American life, it is in Willits — a lively mix of houses and townhouses, parks and playgrounds, shops and businesses. Neighborhoods here are organized around parks and safe streets, and stores are planned along a conventional main street and a town square of the Willits Town Center. The rolling terrain of the Village Green stretches the length of Willits and includes a lake, a soccer field, playgrounds, biking and walking trails. Willits Town Center — still adding retail and housing — is the focal point of activity for residents and visitors, with a Whole Foods Market and Element Basalt-Aspen hotel anchoring an inviting mix of locally-owned restaurants, clothing retailers, sporting stores, service business and more. Also envisioned for Willits is The Arts Center at Willits, a multi-disciplinary performing arts building that promises to be a cornerstone of the midvalley.

    El Jebel

    At the edge of Basalt, straddling Highway 82 just downvalley from Willits, is the unincorporated area of El Jebel. Once the main commercial hub for the midvalley, El Jebel is home to Orchard Plaza to the south and a another commercial center to the north that between them house City Market, a bowling alley, a garden center, fire station, preschool, restaurants and other retail and service businesses. El Jebel, home to the Sopris Village and Blue Lake neighborhoods, is also the gateway to Missouri Heights, a vast mesa overlooking the valley floor with working ranches, single-family residences and sprawling open spaces. Perhaps the crown jewel of El Jebel is the aptly named Crown Mountain Park; with ball fields, playgrounds, BMX track, community center and much more, the recreational area offers something for everyone.