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springtime in the rockies
day-trippers at bachelor gulch find three driving tours the best way to wheel around town

“I came for the winter but stayed for the summer.” This is the explanation you’ll hear from many transplanted Coloradans, lured by world-class skiing only to discover the warmer charms of the Rocky Mountains. From rodeos to rafting, ghost towns to gourmet festivals, hiking to Hummer tours, spring and summer offers a near-endless array of things to do and see in the mountains around Bachelor Gulch. One of the best ways to experience it all is on a daylong road trip at the heart of two of the West’s best driving loops. Loop: LeadviLLe-independence pass-aspen Time: WiThouT sTops, 3.5 To 4 hours Driving this loop clockwise will let you finish your day with a soak in one of the world’s most famous hot springs, so start by heading east to Minturn on I-70, a drive of just a few minutes. If possible, schedule this excursion for Saturday, when you can join locals at the Minturn Farmer’s Market, the largest in the Vail Valley. Teeming with area chefs, residents and socialites, all of whom gather to shop, sip, see and be seen, the market is quite a happening. From the former railroad town, head to Leadville via Highway 24, through the heart of White River National Forest. Just after leaving Minturn, pull over at Gilman to view one of the area’s most complete ghost towns (no entry allowed), then continue up and over Tennessee Pass, crossing the Continental Divide. This region is the epicenter of the state’s

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A glorious sun rises above Huron Peak in the Collegiate Range, near the charming town of Buena Vista.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESSE SPEER

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Left: The farmers market at Glenwood Springs.

Once you have filled your stomach and shopping bags, it’s off to Glenwood Springs, continuing on Highway 82. This is where the Wild West’s most famous tuberculosis patient, gunfighter Doc Holliday, went for the curative powers of the steam and hot springs, and people still do today (there is a nice 30- to 45-minute hike to Holliday’s clifftop grave from the visitor center). The Yampah Hot Springs feed a massive swimming pool bigger than a football field with more than 1 million gallons of mineral-rich water, always between 100º and 106° F (changing facilities are provided). At the nearby Hot Springs Vapor Cave, a walking tour features several natural rock pools fed by hot springs and natural steam rooms with marble benches at 110º to 112°, all set beneath overhanging stalactites. The return drive from Glenwood Springs on I-70 runs through gorgeous Glenwood Canyon, with numerous pullouts where you can stop on the banks of the Colorado River and watch kayakers braving the whitewater. Or take a stroll along the paved recreation path that runs the length of the canyon. For the ambitious, there is an optional hour-long hike from the Glenwood Canyon rest area to Hanging Lake, an alpine glacial lake whose bright green waters are the result of travertine deposits. Loop: vaiL pass-LeadviLLe-Breckenridge-Frisco Time: Four hours While high mountain passes and stunning panoramas abound, this is a more historic route. The highlights are the thriving former mining town of Breckenridge, with the largest National Historic District in Colorado, and the not-so-thriving Fairplay, home to the South Park City Museum. This unique representation of a Colorado mining town in the boom period from 1860 to 1900 has 34 historic buildings transplanted from throughout Colorado. These include a newspaper office, schoolhouse, apothecary, saloon, assay office, general store, blacksmith shop and train depot. The buildings contain more than 60,000 frontier artifacts. Start by driving east on I-70, and once over Vail Pass, turn south on Highway 91, which will take you the back way into Leadville, past Climax, where you can see the famous hilltop Climax Mine from the road. The entire hillside is covered with mining ruins and oddly colored rocks and cascading pools of colored water. After passing Leadville, continue south on Highway 24 to Buena Vista. During this entire stretch, the Collegiate Range will

the food & wine classic in aspen
About 90 minutes from Bachelor Gulch, the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is one of the world’s most exciting summer food festivals. Hop onto I-70 heading west through Gypsum to Glenwood Springs, where you’ll switch to Highway 82 east through Carbondale and Snowmass. Once in Aspen, it’s hard to miss the two humongous tents filled with winemakers and vineyard owners ready to pour their wines from around the world. Outside the tents, celebrity chefs and cookbook authors sign books, while at separate venues, all within walking distance, cooking and wine-tasting seminars take place, led by the culinary glitterati du jour (including Padma Lakshmi of Bravo’s Top Chef,

sidetrip
dog tails Forget reality TV: The real “Bachelor” can be found at his namesake hotel, posing for photos with kids, hiking with guests or curled up on his custom dog bed at the concierge desk. Bachelor is a yellow Labrador retriever, adopted by hotel executive Steven Holt after being rescued from the streets of Denver as a stray puppy. Bachelor is available to any guest for walks and hikes or snowshoeing in winter.

The town offers every cuisine imaginable, from an outpost of chef Nobu Matsuhisa to a Cape Cod–style lobster pound, but the local lunch favorite is Ajax Tavern, at the base of Aspen’s namesake ski mountain.

rich mining history, and Highway 24 is dotted with ancient mines and equipment. A mining museum awaits in Leadville, the highest incorporated town in the United States. Rosie’s Brew Pub claims to be the nation’s highest-altitude brewery, reason enough for a beer. But if you’re planning on a restaurant lunch, hold out for Aspen’s great eateries. Turn west on Highway 82 and cross the Continental Divide again, this time climbing 12,000-foot Independence Pass, a must-see attraction in its own right. The long climb, with numerous switchbacks, is stunning, and the descent into Aspen is memorable. Make sure to stop at the top, where you can take a short stroll on a well-marked trail past a mini ghost town of cabins once used by cowboys for overnight shelter. This is a great spot if you are picnicking. Aspen warrants a couple of hours of pedestrian exploration, and happily its downtown shops are laid out in a user-friendly grid pattern. The town offers every cuisine imaginable, from an outpost of chef Nobu Matsuhisa to a Cape Cod–style lobster pound, but the local lunch favorite is Ajax Tavern, at the base of Aspen’s namesake ski mountain.

Top to bottom: Guest speakers include Padma Lakshmi, Jacques Pépin and Ming Tsai.

Ming Tsai of Simply Ming and the worldrenowned French chef Jacques Pépin). Wine experts also offer guided tasting classes. The delicious threeday event, June 13-15, also showcases the nation’s 10 Best New Chefs at a festive dinearound with food prepared by the hottest cooks on the planet. Tickets are available at foodandwine.com/ classic. A percentage of proceeds benefits Food & Wine magazine’s Grow for Good campaign, a national initiative supporting sustainable agriculture. • by annie copps

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY JACK AFFLECK

PADMA LAKSHMI PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF BRAVO

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be off to your left, with some of Colorado’s most famous “Fourteeners,” or 14,000-plus-foot peaks, including Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert, the state’s highest. Funky Buena Vista is home to a famous coffee shop, Bongo Billy’s, where you can pop in for a cup of java and watch the eclectic mix of locals tuning into free Wi-Fi. Leaving town, turn back north on Highway 285, following the eastern edge of Pike National Forest into Fairplay, with its historic museum. From here, take Highway 9 north, and very soon you will arrive in Alma, a tiny old mining town oozing local character. Its most famous watering hole is also its only one, the AOB: Alma’s Only Bar, a classic Old West saloon. From Alma, cross mild Hoosier Pass into Breckenridge, now one of

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the West’s largest ski resorts. Wander through the huge downtown historic district, with buildings marked by plaques, and take in the shops of Main Street. If you have time, the major attraction is the mine tour at Country Boy Mine. If your stomach is growling, do what Breckenridge insiders do and try to get one of the seven tables at tiny Giampietro Pizzeria, whose cuisine is more Piemontese than Colorado. If you have children in tow (or even if you don’t), a stop at Mary’s Mountain Cookies is a must for monstrous temptations that have become the stuff of ski-country legend. From Breckenridge, follow Highway 9 north to Frisco, where you will get back on I-70 west and return to the resort. • by LaRRy oLMsTeD

the perfect picnic
There is no shortage of choice lunch spots on these driving tours, but many visitors prefer to pack a picnic and dine in the great outdoors, perhaps along the banks of the Colorado River or atop the Continental Divide. The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch offers myriad choices for the perfect picnic, right down to the basket. At Seven, its gourmet deli, you can pick and choose from sandwiches, fine cheeses, breads, soups and other deluxe grocery items, and even add a bottle of wine to your hamper. The Buffalo Bar, now under the management of award-winning chef Wolfgang Puck, offers a huge array of gourmet salads and more than a dozen specialty sandwiches, all available to go. Even the lunch menu at the hotel’s new flagship fine dining restaurant, Puck’s famous Spago, can be packaged for your road trip, whether you opt for his signature Chinese Chicken Salad or a decadent Maine Lobster Club Sandwich. —L.O.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY LOOP DELAY/GETTY IMAGES


								
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