Perfect Weekend in Basalt
Three Days of Fun, Food and Adventure in the Midvalley
By Laurel Miller
While it’s true I live and work in Basalt, the fact that I choose to also spend most weekends within the three-mile radius of the place I call home speaks volumes. I reside in Willits, just a few minutes’ pedal from the scenic Rio Grande Trail – the Roaring Fork Valley’s 42-mile multi-use path that follows the former Denver-Rio Grande Railroad bed from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. It plays a large role in my daily routine (despite the fact that my bike is a 30-year-old fixed speed cruiser). The stretch from the Roaring Fork Club to Rock Bottom Ranch is diverse, cutting through historic agricultural land, and hugging the river. With pedaling or walking in mind, here’s my version of the perfect weekend in Basalt.
Approaching Basalt on an early Friday on Highway 82 you’ll encounter Willits Town Center (four miles from downtown Basalt). There, if you don’t have your own, you can pull in and rent bikes from the friendly guys at Basalt Bike and Ski. If you’re staying at the nearby Element Basalt-Aspen, there’s a convenient outpost on the ground level. Alternatively, I like the Basalt Mountain Inn, which is a sweet little motel in downtown. Once you’re settled, hop on your bike and make the short ride to Woody Creek Distillers for Food Truck Friday (June-Labor Day), the hottest ticket in town since its launch last summer. The bartenders at this award-winning, family-owned distillery will be happy to pair your meal with one of their seasonal cocktails - or go big and get a whiskey flight.
Work off any lingering effects from the night before with hometown cooking at Café Bernard on Midland Avenue, a homey spot specializing in French classics. Then, wander around downtown and check out the art galleries and boutiques. Afterward, go for a stroll through the Edible Forest (next to the Basalt Store) – described as “a community garden on steroids.” Back on your bike, pedal down the Rio Grande trail to ACES at Rock Bottom Ranch – a working farm and education center that’s part of Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. Take the self-guided tour, and be sure to stop by the farm store for a souvenir jar of honey, duck eggs, preserved tomatoes, or other farmstead products.
For dinner, head back to downtown for down-home Mexican food at Cocina del Valle, the result of the investment of Manaus Fund’s Valley Settlement Project, an incubator program that provides funding for local Latinos launching restaurant and catering businesses. If you’re in a romantic mood, enjoy candlelight dining at Tempranillo. For a nightcap, it’s Brick Pony Pub. Staying in Willits? El Korita specializes in Mexican seafood dishes and makes wickedly strong margaritas and the patio is hopping on the weekends.
Stroll the Basalt Farmers’ Market and pick up some snacks for the drive home. Then meander over to Heather’s Savory Pies & Tapas Bar for the namesake pot pies on the patio. Work off brunch with a hike on the Arbaney Kittle Trail (warning: it’s a steep incline all the way up, but the views are worth it); if you’re feeling lazy, opt for a scenic drive to Ruedi Reservoir. On your way out of town, drop off your bikes and grab some java at our local Starbucks, Colorado Wagyu burgers from Sure Thing Burger or smokin’ ribs at Smoke Modern Barbeque – and hit the road.