38°54'3.59" N -106°58'1.79" W
Billed as “the last great Colorado ski town,” Crested Butte has quickly gone from a backwoods mining outpost to a premier outdoor paradise. Today it is a popular destination for skiing, mountain biking, hiking, and a myriad of other adventures.
Here is how to spend 72 wonderful, off-the-beaten-path hours in the wildflower capital of Colorado.
Wake up nice and early and go for a refreshing morning walk. If you can, try to get out the door just as the sun is starting to peek over the eastern mountains. Once the light hits the peaks, the whole valley starts to glow in a beautiful golden haze. 100% worth the slightly chilly air (depending on when you are there).
Then head to downtown Crested Butte for a cup of warm, delicious coffee at Camp 4. It’s a local staple and one that should be acted upon at least once (or twice… or three times). Once you are all caffeinated up, start walking up Elk Avenue towards Butte Bagels, a small, adorable bagel shop in an alleyway (the David is especially good).
Soon the time will come to check out what all the hubbub is about with mountain biking. Crested Butte has quickly become a mountain biking hotspot and with so many trails, of various difficulty, it is easy to understand why so many people flock to this otherwise out-of-the-way destination.
Either ride your own bike or rent one at Big Al’s Bicycle Heaven (prices ranging from $45 to $115 for a full day). Once you have your trusted metal stead, head out of town on Highway 135 to the Strand Hill Trail, right off Brush Creek Road. This loop is 7.5 miles with 80% of it being on singletrack. It is rated as intermediate to difficult, and if you want to make it longer, there is the option to add on 3 miles on Farris Creek Road (intermediate) or 2.2 miles on Brush Creek Trail (easy to intermediate). OR if you are really feeling like a big adventure, we recommend taking on the entire Deer Creek Loop - which is 28.9 miles with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain (but talk about some stellar views…).
Once you are done riding Strand Hill, head back to town for a well-deserved lunch at Teocalli Tamales, a Mexican restaurant serving up delicious (and cheap) tacos, burritos, and of course, tamales. Either hang out at the restaurant, walk around town, or get back in the car for another exciting Crested Butte adventure.
Head out on 6th Street, which quickly turns into Gothic Road (also known as County Road 317). Stay on this road as it twists through Crested Butte Mountain Resort and up into the nearby valleys. You’ll drive through aspen and pine forests and stay almost parallel to the East River, which you can spot down below in the open valley.
Eventually, you will see a grouping of small, wooden buildings in front of you: you have reached Gothic, an old mining town that today plays host to the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab and a few hardy residents (4). Gothic, like many ghost towns in the area, originated due to the fervor of silver. At its peak in the late 1800s, it supported around 1,000 people - and was even visited by President Ulysses S. Grant. While it once had 200 buildings, even today you can spot a good number of them in pretty solid states (many are houses for the Lab). With a good number of historic buildings, and the stunning surroundings, this is a great late-day adventure that is under a half hour from town.
And if you aren’t too tired from biking, you can also explore some of the trails nearby. Including, Judd Falls and Copper Creek, the latter of which will eventually lead you to Copper Lake and on to the Maroon Bells area (along the East Maroon Trail). You can also keep driving up the road towards Schofield Pass, and the very famous 401 mountain bike trail. Or turn around at Gothic and head back to Crested Butte for some relaxation before heading out to dinner.
Soon it will be time for a nice relaxing dinner, especially necessary before tomorrows adventure (but more on that in a second). There is no better place to load up on delicious (and carb-heavy) food than Marchitelli’s Gourmet Noodle Restaurant, a laid-back Italian spot near the main street.
This is the big adventure day, so make sure to get up nice and early (and drink plenty of coffee). Crested Butte, while famous for having world-class mountain bike routes, also has some pretty stellar hiking trails. One of the best is