If you’re looking to combine adventure with comfort this holiday season, there is one experience that stands out among all the rest in Colorado; the legendary Pine Creek Cookhouse, nestled in the ghost town of Ashcroft in the Elk Mountains just outside of Aspen.
The restaurant, renowned in Colorado for its emphasis on local wild game and fish, offers three-course meals prepared by head chef Chris Keating. The cuisine highlights mountain traditions from around the world for a highly curated menu that is uniquely Coloradan in nature. The kick is, there’s no road to the restaurant.
In winter, Pine Creek is accessible exclusively by snowshoes, cross country skis, or a horse-drawn sleigh ride for those looking for a more relaxed experience. The restaurant is affiliated with the Ashcroft Adventure Lodge, which offers Nordic ski and snowshoe rentals, as well as lessons and guided trips.
The most celebrated attraction at Ashcroft is the nighttime Miner’s Light tour to the restaurant. By reservation only, this includes a guided ski or snowshoe trip by lantern up to the restaurant for dinner.
You can also take full advantage of the United States’ first self-sustaining cross-country ski area. With thirty-five kilometers of groomed trails across 600 acres of Rocky Mountain sub-alpine terrain, all surrounding the once booming Ashcroft ghost town, this might be Colorado’s most scenic place to cross-country ski.
Ashcroft, listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, was a town that once boasted a lively population of 2,500 people, mostly miners, who arrived during the Colorado silver boom of the late 19th century. Like many ghost towns in Colorado, its boom only lasted for a short time; once the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Line was built through Aspen, Ashcroft’s population rapidly fell as its residents moved down the Castle Creek Valley and up into Aspen.
But today, some of Ashcroft’s buildings still stand as a testament to Colorado’s history and are now the site of the Pine Creek Cookhouse and beautiful recreational trails. Whether you sign up for the full Miner’s Light Dinner tour, or elect instead for an early morning cross country ski tour, Ashcroft and the Pine Creek Cookhouse are iconic Colorado institutions that cannot be missed.
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