Crested Butte is a quintessential Colorado mountain town. It’s the kind of place you visit and never want to leave. This small town, founded in the 1880s as a gold camp, sits nestled in a mountain valley among 12,000-foot-high peaks. It’s a place that respects history and where locals have traded in their mining hardhats, picks, and gold pans for mountain bikes, skis, and hiking boots.
People call Crested Butte “Colorado’s Last Great Ski Town” for its funky 1970s vibe. The reason why skiers and snowboarders love this remote area in central Colorado is the snow, making for epic ski conditions. The town recorded an astonishing 112 inches of snow during the first two weeks of January 2017 alone—so much snow that the ski area closed for a day. Skiers and boarders find open beginner and intermediate slopes, three terrain parks, and extreme inbounds runs for experts.
The town also bills itself as the “Nordic Ski Capital of Colorado”. Over 50 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails surround Crested Butte so you can clip into your skis and hit the trails. The Nordic Center, within walking distance of downtown Crested Butte, offers ski rentals, lessons, clinics, and tours. Beyond town are more cross-country ski tours up the Slate River Valley and to the old mining town of Gothic.
Crested Butte was one of the places that mountain biking was born in the United States. In the late 1970s, a few locals started pedaling clunker Schwinn bicycles over Pearl Pass to Aspen. These fat-tire adventurers created a new sport and Crested Butte became its capital. Over 750 miles of singletrack trails and abandoned mining roads give many options from easy cruiser rides to jarring technical descents. Good beginner routes include trails at the ski resort, Wagon Trail, Lupine Trail, and Cement Creek Trail. The best expert route is Trail 401 with alpine views and a 1,500-foot descent down Mount Belleview. Other toughies are Dyke Trail, Doctor Park Trail, Strand Hill Trail, and Teocalli Trail.
In summer, there are so many flowers that the state officially dubbed Crested Butte the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado.” Lace up your boots and hit area trails for flowers and photography. Good wildflower hikes include Rustler Gulch Trail, Copper Lake Trail to Judd Falls, Meridian Lake Trail, and Brush Creek Trail. A great two-mile hike begins atop the Silver Queen lift at the resort and climbs to Mount Crested Butte’s summit—expect stellar views.
September at Crested Butte is one of the best seasons, with forests of golden aspen spilling down mountain slopes. The best aspens are found along the Kebler Pass Road, which is home to the largest living organism on earth—an aspen grove. Aspens grow from a single root system so every tree is a clone of its neighbors. Other great color drives are Ohio Pass Road, Brush Creek, Washington Gulch, and the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway.