Although Beaver Lake Retreat is the perfect last-outpost of creature comforts for forays into true wilderness, this alpine inn is also a perfect “base camp” from which to visit many great attractions in Marble and in the Aspen and West Elk Loop area.
Marble itself offers:
The Historic Marble Quarry and Mill Site: Despite the foreboding signs at the quarry road bridge or what some people will try to tell you, summer and fall visitors my drive ordinary cars up the good gravel road 4 miles to the public parking lot just 1/4 mile walk from the huge portals where you can peer into the cathedral-like man-made caverns from which the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and much of the Lincoln Memorial were quarried. The foot trail portion is well marked and improved periodically by Outward Bound volunteers. Gunnison County and other civic minded local groups have protected this trail from the threat of closure or admission fees by private land owners. Seeing the quarry this way is free to the public and well worth the quarter mile walk. The old mill site is directly west of the quarry road bridge over the Crystal River.
Historic Buildings of Marble were mostly decimated by floods, fire and house movers, but there is a walking tour of Marble which includes the Old School (now restored), the Marble City State Bank Building (now restored), the church, several surviving houses and other curiosities. See Marble: A Town Built on Dreams by Oscar McCollum, Jr.(ISBN # 0913582562), a 2 vol. set.
Crystal Mill and the “ghost town” of Crystal (with real living “ghosts” in the summer) is accessible by non-low-rider vehicles with competent drivers. Not really a mill but a hydro-electric plant, it is one of the most photographed curiosities in Colorado.
Waterfalls on the Crystal River, Yule Creek and Milton Creek are all well worth the short hikes to look or to sit for a cool picnic lunch away from summer heat. Ask us the best paths.
Galleries and Shops in Marble include Thanos Johnson’s Ceramics Studio and Gallery which offers chats with a truly distinguished eccentric who has been here since 1945. Jack and Helen Orlosky’s Gold Pan Gallery, Fenton’s Antler Art and Dave Jone’s General Store are colorful, must-visit local establishments only a short walk from Beaver Lake Retreat in the east end of Marble (nee Clarence – the old commercial core).
The nearby area offers:
Redstone, a full-blown tourist town 12 miles down-stream (“down-valley” as locals say) with hotels and restaurants and a plethora of gift shops. It’s a great place for dinning out and milling around. Events like the July 4th parade, the Grand Illumination for Christmas and the Annual Sled-Dog Races (in jeopardy of global warming) are down-home, good-time events. Many of our guests visit there, but seek peace and quiet in lodging here.
Aspen, with world class downhill skiing, world class shopping, world class night life and world class pricing, is about an hour’s drive away down the Crystal River Valley and up the Roaring Fork Valley even though it’s only 15 miles or so northeast as the eagle flies. We will load up the big van for a group’s day-trip or explain about the pay parking if you go on your own. It’s sort of the antithesis of Marble, but if you gotta go, you gotta go!
Carbondale is the nearest (28 miles) real town with grocery stores and gas stations, a great Chamber of Commerce, a quaint old downtown with good restaurants and shops with real-world pricing. The last chance town to gas up and buy groceries if heading to Marble from I-70. We often house guests for Mountain Fair and other ‘Bonedale’ events.
Glenwood Springs is 40 miles north at I-70 and has super-civilized stuff like Wal-Mart, car dealers, surplus stores and mainstream American culture coursing through it (exactly what Marble offers escape from). But it does have the world’s largest hot springs pool, some great caves, Glenwood Canyon and Hanging Lake… all attractions worth visiting.
West Elk Loop is a 204 mile Scenic and Historic Byway which runs along the north rim of America’s Newest National Park, The Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The drive was described by one of the area’s forest rangers as “the closest you can come to a wilderness experience in a passenger car.” Marble and Beaver Lake Retreat is situated right at the apex of the loop, just 5 miles east on County Road 3 spur from the base of McClure Pass on Hwy. 133, 24 miles into the byway after departing Carbondale. If you mountain-bike or courageously jeep the alternate route from Mount Crested Butte back to Hwy. 133 through Gothic and Crystal, over Schofield Pass, you come right through Marble only 50 yards from Beaver Lake Retreat.
The Marble Sculpting Symposium takes place every July 1 – August 5 and transforms the town with expert to novice stone sculptors from around the world. It’s great to attend or just observe. Beaver Lake Retreat is generally booked with sculptors a year in advance for July 1-9, 14-22 and July 28-August 5. Booking between those dates you can also find some sculptors sculpting. For more information, go to www.marbleinst.org.