Just outside of Aspen, seated between the Roaring Fork and Crystal Rivers, is Carbondale, Colorado. John and I traveled to this quaint mountain "suburb" one weekend in April to visit some friends and cast our fly lines in both of the town's rivers.
If you want to see more from our trip please check out our YouTube video - here!
On Friday afternoon, we drove down into the mountain valley ready to start our weekend. After we celebrated our arrival with our good friends, we called it a night in hopes of hitting the water early. Not surprisingly, I was the first to wake up, so I headed out of the apartment and started my search for a fishing spot.
I easily found a spot near town, across the water from the Days Inn, on Google Maps. My goal was to try to park near a boat ramp and explore the banks from there. I was so excited to find that I was all alone in the parking lot when I pulled up around 7:30 a.m. I grabbed all of my gear and headed under the bridge to wade up the Roaring Fork River for the first time.
You can find the exact location, here.
I walked in and out of trees, sandy areas, and the shallow water until I found a nice little island that created a split in the water. I knew this was the perfect place, and it had a great view of the mighty Mount Sopris.
I walked up and down the grassy island trying to find my first spot. I eventually found it where some tree limbs created a small riffle in the water. I knew this was a great spot, and I caught a beautiful rainbow trout. It was by far the largest fish I had caught to date.
I was overjoyed with the morning's surprise, and during my celebratory picture snapping, I received a message from the house saying everyone else was ready to join me on the water and catch something just as nice.
I quickly packed up and headed home to share my success and help everyone find a new place to check out. We chose to head down Highway 133 and try the Crystal River. The first pull off was just inside of the White River National Forest. You can see the exact location on Google Maps.
As soon as we set up chairs and our fly rigs, quite literally on one of his first casts, John caught a small trout! It was his first catch on a fly line, but the tiny trout wiggled off the hook before I could scoop it with the net.
We spent most of the morning hanging out in this spot taking in all of the mountain views and warm, sunny rays. Unfortunately, the sunny rays kept the fish from biting and that first fish was the only one we caught in this spot.
After a while, we grabbed our gear and headed out to spend the afternoon back on the Roaring Fork River. We chose to go to a different spot than where I had been earlier that morning and drove up toward Glenwood Springs.
We arrived at Veltus Park around 3:30 in the afternoon just in time to see hundreds of bugs hatching on the water. Though they were somewhat annoying to those of us not fishing, we didn't let the little bugs get in our way and spent hours casting here.
You can visit Veltus Park's website here!
I had about six or so hooks, but all of them got away. John chose to stand on the other side of the water and didn't have as much luck as I did. We stayed until the bugs died down and the fish stopped biting. It was the most fun day fishing yet, and we got plenty of practice matching our flies to the new surroundings every time we moved.
The next morning, I was able to wake John up early to join me on the water. We scouted out a new spot at the Blue Creek Ranch Open Space. We arrived at the Angler Parking Lot around 7:30 a.m. and were on the water shortly after. You can see the exact location on Google Maps.
We knew we had chosen a good spot, because in later conversations, this exact location kept coming up as a great place to wet a line. We didn't quite have the flies we needed and didn't get any bites. We didn't stay terribly long, because we were ready to find a new place to reunite with our fiends.
We all met back up at the same spot on the Crystal River as the day before. Just as the day before, the spot was unproductive, and even though we could see fish, we could not get them to bite.
Before long, the rest of the group was ready to call it a day, but since this was mine and John's last opportunity to fish for the weekend, we stayed on the water and drove up to a new spot.
Just a few miles up the river, we found a calm spot with a few large boulders at the mouth of a waterfall. We decided this was a perfect spot to toss, and we were correct. In the few hours we fished here, I caught two fish and John had a few bites! The spot was fairly secluded and had even better views than the previous spot. We were so happy we stuck it out and found this honey hole.
If you want to see roughly where we fished, you can find the nearest Google Maps location here!
Once some clouds rolled in, we had to call it a day and make the long journey back home to Denver. We went back by our friend's house to say goodbye. Overall, it was a tremendously successful weekend for a couple of beginner fly fishers!
Tucked away in the Rocky Mountains about 2 and a half hours west of Denver and 20-miles south of Kremmling, sits one of my favorite hidden spots in Colorado. Radium Hot Spring is nothing more than an array of rocks holding mildly warm water in a pool alongside the frigid, rushing Colorado River. It is a beautiful place to sit and soak on any day.
I have been to Radium Hot Springs on three happy occasions. The first was a blustery, snowy day with a visiting friend, the second was a piping hot summer afternoon with a couple after a concert weekend, and the third was for a fly fishing and camping weekend!
If you are looking for the most recent report please scroll to the bottom!
Memorial Day 2019:
My first trip was over Memorial Day weekend with a friend who was visiting from Nashville. We spent several days road tripping around the state and decided we needed a good soak after skiing in Breckenridge.
We followed AllTrails app directions to the trailhead which was actually the Mugrage campground. We didn’t think we were in the right place at first, but after a few minutes of driving around and poking through snow patches, we found the trail marker near a resting herd of big horned sheep.
We cautiously maneuvered our way up the hill trying to not stir the sheep. Thankfully, we reached the top of the hill with no conflicts.
From the top of the hill, the trail cuts through an open field full of cacti and hearty vegetation and leads toward the river.
The trail ends at a cliffside and features a makeshift campsite and fire ring. If it hadn’t been for the “diving allowed” sign, we wouldn’t have known that we had arrived.
We stood by the sign and looked over the edge to find an empty hot spring waiting below. The cliffside had an opening with ledges short enough to climb down. We took careful steps on the icy rock faces and made it to the pool.
It was freezing cold out, and snow was just starting to flurry. Taking our layers off seemed like a crazy idea, so we did it quickly. We slipped into the warm water and tried to warm up as quickly as we could.
The water in the spring wasn’t terribly hot. It was more like bath water, but the rising steam felt great while the snow flurries whipped around our hats.
We had the spring to ourselves for almost an hour until a rowboat of fishers came by and decided to stop. As quickly as we took off our wet bathing suits, we toweled off and put on our warm, dry layers to give the group their privacy.
Our soak was wonderful and relaxing on the chilly, gray day. It was so enjoyable that I came back for a second time and brought even more friends with me!
Labor Day 2019:
On our way back from a concert series in Steamboat Springs, John, another couple, and I passed through the town of Kremmling, and I insisted we stop. This time, we followed Google Maps which lead us to a different trailhead parking lot than I had used on my previous visit.
After navigating the rutted, difficult, and unnamed road off of Old Trough Road, we were, again, lead to a campsite at the trailhead. It brought us to the opposite side of Radium hot springs this time, and there were three different routes to choose from with no idea if any lead to the spring we wanted.
Initially, John and I stayed on the gated road, but after about a mile of walking, we checked our location and realized we had passed the spring. We retraced our steps and arrived back at the car and campsite and soon found that we had missed a sign marking the correct route down to the hot spring.
This route is much steeper until it reaches the same cliffside and makeshift campsite as the trail from last time. It was roughly a mile to the cliffside stairs, and we couldn’t wait to hop in the water and out of the sweltering summer sun.
There were two other people in the pool when we arrived, but that didn’t stop our friends from joining them in the water. It wasn’t as hot as it had been the first time, but in the midsummer heat, it was nice enough to stay until our fingers were pruney.
A few people who’d been at the Billy Strings concert in Steamboat showed up for a soak bringing the count to eight people and two dogs. As our group decided to get on the road and wrap up our weekends, a boat full of fishers anchored off to keep the pool full and lively.
The pool was about to get crowded but nowhere near as crowded as it would be, over the entire weekend, the next time I visited the area.
May 1st - 3rd, 2020
This trip was very different than all of my others to Radium, not only because we spent the entire weekend here, but because we did things other than just soak in the hot spring! This time, one of John's roommates joined us for the weekend of fishing and camping.
It was also different, because when we arrived, the road and trail were PACKED. It appeared that the spring had recently been added to the Warm Spring Trail as part of a larger trail system. It would only make sense for this to increase traffic at the site. New trailhead signs and maps were a nice addition, because they helped us find the trail much faster than last time.
We quickly made our way down the short trail and scouted out a campsite right on top of the hot spring. We arrived at sunset, so we quickly dropped off our first load of gear and headed back up the trail for a few convenient items. When we got back, we set up camp in the dark and built a nice fire.
It wasn't long before the sounds of the river below lulled us into a good night's rest. That rest was cut short when several trains rolled by early in the morning hauling freight through the nearby mountain towns. It was kind of nice to be up so early to try our hands at fly fishing.
John decided to fish near camp while I ventured up and down the river in search of the perfect spot. The Colorado River was very wide and rapid, so finding a place was a little difficult. I was very jealous of how the folks on rafts and boats could fish the entire watershed.
When mid-afternoon started to creep up, so did the clouds. We had to cut our day quite short when a wind and rain storm overcame the area, but fortunately, we made it to camp before it all started. We spent the rest of the day in our tents drinking and playing games until the sun peered out just in time for sunset.
We built a nice fire with some wood we had kept dry and enjoyed hot dogs and s'mores over the campfire before crawling back into our cocoons of tents. The rain was on and off throughout the night and it created a great sleep soundtrack for us.
When we were woken up by the trains the next morning, we woke up and started a fire for breakfast. We cooked up some bacon, egg, black bean, and green chili breakfast burritos and enjoyed the view from around the fire.
After the hearty meal, we decided to pack up and make our first trip to the car to drop off our heaviest gear. The hike back up is nowhere near as easy as the hike down, but we were glad to get our first load up the cliffside before soaking in the hot spring. We were hot and sweaty by the time we made it back down.
We got back down to the hot spring to find a plethora of boats parked at the spring, but no one was actually in the water. It turns out that the rain from the night before had flooded the hot spring and cooled the pool.
Unfortunately, we didn't hang out in the spring very long, but we did enjoy all of the people who were hanging out around the rocks. We soaked in the sunshine and soaked our feet until it was time to hike back out.
The nice break made the hike back up quite enjoyable, and before we knew it, we were back in the car heading home and already missing the sounds of the river and smells of the campfire.
Talkin' 'bout Tacos:
I'm Taylor, aka Tacos! I am sharing my journeys and experiences from across the world hoping to inspire travel and adventure in all who read!