Crested Butte, tucked among soaring peaks in the Elk Range, is an authentic 19th century mining town that reinvented itself as a mountain playground. Crested Butte is hard to beat for a weekend getaway with its small-town ambiance, plentiful restaurants and accommodations, variety of outdoor activities, and world-class views. Crested Butte is really Colorado mountain living at its best, with respect for its colorful history, friendly locals, and so much to do that you’ll want to move into one of the clapboard Victorian homes on Maroon Avenue. Short of relocating to the Butte, here is the two-day plan for a perfect weekend in Crested Butte.
Day 1 — Mountain Biking and Scenic Driving
Crested Butte is ground-zero for Colorado’s best mountain biking. In fact, the biking adventures are so good that it’s one of the places where mountain biking was invented in the United States. Plenty of singletrack and old mining roads lace the hills, offering mountain bikers of all abilities over 750 miles of rides from easy downhills to gnarly technical climbs. Gear up for a morning ride at Big Al’s Bicycle Heaven or The Alpineer and head for Wagon Trail, Lupine Trail, Dyke Trail, and Trail 401, the famed expert ride with a 1,500-foot descent.
You’re going to be hungry after knocking out some mileage so head into Crested Butte for lunch. Lots of stellar restaurants line Elk Avenue, but favorites are Teocalli Tamale for big burritos and their namesake tamales, and Izzy’s, a funky, friendly joint with tasty bagel sandwiches.
Crested Butte sits in the heart of Colorado’s high country and what better way to see it than taking an afternoon scenic drive or bumping along a 4×4 road? Every bend offers spectacular views of snow-drenched peaks, verdant valleys, and groves of golden aspen trees. Take the Kebler Pass Road west of town on one of the state’s best scenic drives, passing Lake Irwin, the rugged Ruby and Anthracite ranges, and East and West Beckwith Peaks. September is perfect for leaf peepers, with hillsides cloaked in shimmering aspens. Other good two-wheel adventures are the Brush Creek Road, Gothic Road, and Washington Gulch Road.
The Butte, with its legacy of abandoned mining roads, is a perfect base camp if you have a 4WD vehicle. The classic, must-do route is the Pearl Pass Road, an almost 30-mile track between Crested Butte and Aspen over 12,705-foot Pearl Pass. August and September are best for driving since snow doesn’t melt until late July. Another great jeep trail is over Paradise Divide to Schofield Pass and returning through the ghost town of Gothic.
Crested Butte has plenty of dinner options from casual to fancy, so you’ll find a restaurant for every taste. Great suggestions are a steak at Elk Avenue Prime; Soupçon, a petite French bistro; and while vegan menus are limited, try Secret Stash and Sherpa Café. Numerous accommodations fit every budget, including bed-and-breakfast inns, hotels, and lodges both in town and at nearby Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Good bets are Old Town Inn, Cristiana Guesthaus, and Elk Mountain Lodge. If you want stars at night, head to several National Forest campgrounds. Oh be Joyful, Lake Irwin, Lost Lake, and Gothic are the best nearby unplugged campsites.
Day 2 — Hikes, Picnics, and Afternoon Adventures
Start your morning with coffee at Camp 4 Coffee and breakfast at McGill’s or the Paradise Café, and then do an invigorating hike on hundreds of miles of trails that thread through wooded valleys, clear alpine lakes, and climb to mountaintops with forever views in surrounding Gunnison National Forest. Crested Butte is called the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado” for its wildflower-strewn meadows. Come in July and August for the best colors. Best hikes include Meridian Lake Trail, Brush Creek Trail, Rustler Gulch Trail, and Judd Falls Trail to a gorgeous waterfall. Other fine trails are on the Cement Creek Road southeast of town and along Kebler Pass Road to the west. The best local views are from Mount Crested Butte’s 12,162-foot summit. The mile-long trail begins from Silver Queen lift.
Nothing tastes as good as a picnic lunch after a morning hike. Stop at Clark’s Market or Mountain Earth Whole Food Grocery for all the fixings for a French lunch with baguette, brie, sliced apples, and maybe pasta salad, and then head to Town Park for tables and a playground.
There’s plenty to do on your last getaway afternoon. Take a stroll down pedestrian-friendly Elk Avenue, the main drag through Crested Butte, and see historical buildings, shop for gifts, and visit art galleries. The people-watching is great too. See the area from the back of a horse on a guided ride on one of the sprawling ranches down the valley. Play a round of golf at the Club at Crested Butte, an 18-hole championship course with lakes, aspen groves, and, of course, complimentary mountain views.
If catching a wild trout is your thing, lots of creeks, rivers, and lakes yield rainbow, brown, brook, and cutthroat trout. Good fly fishing is in East River, Taylor River, and backcountry tarns like Green Lake. Check at Dragonfly Angler or Crested Butte Angler for a guided trip and local knowledge and conditions. Lastly, hop in the car and drive north to Gothic, a 1880s silver-mining town in a gorgeous setting. Gothic is now the home of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, one of America’s premier research facilities for mountain ecology and climate.
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