The beauty of the mountains surrounding the tiny town of Marble, Colorado is astounding. Sitting on the deck outside our room at Beaver Lake Lodge, I can see one of the many sparkling lakes that dot the aspen covered mountains. I can hear the rumble of a Jeep tour heading towards the Crystal Mill that is situated high in the mountains and can only be reached with a 4-wheel drive.
People don’t come to Marble for its high rise hotels or its fancy restaurants. In fact, I think most people stumble upon Marble by mistake but it’s a mistake worth making. With a permanent population of less than 200 people, small is an understatement. Although it is technically only around 60 miles from Aspen, it might as well be a million miles away in terms of atmosphere. It is a rugged town with a lot of character.
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If you go, the only place to stay overnight is Beaver Lake Lodge unless you would rather sleep in a tent alongside the rushing Crystal River. Although accommodations are hard to come by, history is not. A few minutes’ walk from the center of town you will find yourself in the ruins of a 100 year old mill site with a self guided walking tour. You can see the very spot where the men worked to carve the pillars that are on the Lincoln memorial in Washington D.C. and you can also take a look at the block of marble they have set aside in case the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier needs to be replaced. Most of the large marble walls that were used to protect the factory from fires are still intact as well as the stone pillars that ran alongside the railway. The tour doesn’t take very long to complete unless you feel like going up to the marble quarry itself.
The quarry is still in full operation. Whether you drive or walk the three miles up the twisting one lane road to the top, watch out for the quarry trucks that speed up and down the mountain several times a day. Be sure to take your time and bring a lot of water since the elevation, at just shy of 10,000 feet, is pretty high. The views along the way are a photographer’s dream. Once you reach the marble quarry it’s almost as if you have stepped back in time. Huge, discarded blocks of marble lay everywhere and the Yule Creek seems to burst from the middle of it all. Be aware that the river is beyond swift so keep your kids and pets close.
Another activity available is a jeep tour that takes you up an impossibly skinny and steep road to the ruins of the Crystal Mill. The route is only passable in the summer months so it makes it even more special to get up there. A few hardy families live up there in the “town” of Crystal during the summer. They are a very friendly bunch and will almost surely invite you back for Saturday church service and the community potluck they do every weekend. Although the journey there is a little scary at times, it is definitely worth it.
When you get back to town you can unwind with some dinner at Slow Groovin’ BBQ. They have great food and really yummy root beer floats.
The next time you are in Colorado, program Marble into your navigation system. If you like the mountains and need a break from the ordinary it is worth the drive.
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