If you haven’t had the chance to explore Crested Butte yet, I’m telling you now – add it to your travel list, and you won’t be disappointed! I’ve been fortunate enough to visit this small Colorado mountain-town gem several times over the past decade, and each visit solidifies its standing as one of my favorite destinations ever – period, full stop. The best part of Crested Butte is that there are epic adventures to be enjoyed throughout the entire year – I’m sharing my beta on the best outdoor adventures Crested Butte has to offer – and you can find more info in my travel guide here!
If hiking is your jam, then seriously, start planning your Summer 2022 trip now to Crested Butte. The wildflowers are truly unbelievable and usually reach their peak in the first half of July. I suggest skipping the first week of July, as the town has experienced a major influx of tourists for the 4th of July weekend after being featured on Budweiser’s “My Town” campaign. But hey, if you’re looking for a rowdy holiday weekend escape, then book away! Head out to these trails to get your wildflower fix – which by the way, are also prime leaf-peeping spots for late September-early October:
- Brush Creek Trail: 4.8 miles out and back, a great option for an easier hike or if you’re still acclimating to the altitude.
- Baxters Gulch Trail: 10 miles out and back, so you can shorten it to fit your hiking preferences. Experience tons of wildflower variety and great views of the Butte on this newer and less popular trail right outside of town.
- Cliff Creek Trail: 4.8 miles out and back, a more challenging and high-altitude hike that requires driving over Kebler Pass (iconic drive for fall foliage) – the wildflower views with alpine backdrops are more than worth it!
For those looking to sightsee while shredding unforgettable MTB trails, then you truly can’t go wrong on any trails in Crested Butte. I have long dreamt of biking in Crested Butte after hearing epic stories over the years – after picking up mountain biking during the pandemic, I finally got the chance to get my adrenaline high this July. Here are my must-ride trails for jaw-dropping scenery.
- 401 Trail: Hands down THE mountain biking trail that Crested Butte is famous for, and with good reason… the views are absolutely incredible, as in you might just ride off the edge while soaking ‘em in. You’re in for a steep climb at high altitude, followed by a fun flowy downhill that’s ideal for intermediate to advanced riders. Highly suggest coordinating a shuttle or drop-off at the top to shave off some of the ascents – riders can also choose to just do the upper or lower section or the full section. I got dropped off just above Emerald Lake and only rode the upper section because I heard the lower section wasn’t worth it – so if you’re going to choose just one, I’d suggest the upper!
- Lupine Trail: I loved this 7-mile out and back trail! Has a great combination of manageable climbs with switchback descents – best of both worlds with amazing views.
- Strand Hill: If you’re looking for a quick challenge, then highly recommend this 7.5-mile loop trail. The fire road ascent will have you winded in no time, and the descent has several technical drops and steep sections.
- Deer Creek Loop: For a challenging full-day ride, search no more. The 29-mile Deer Creek Trail loops around Mt. Crested Butte and totally immerses you in the wilderness – I can only speak to the West Brush Creek / Deer Creek Road section, but believe me when I say this climb is a doozy.
Paddle Boarding (or other water activity)
Hopping on the water after your hike or bike adventure is the best reward! And the views certainly don’t hurt either. Crested Butte boasts several lakes that are a great option to cool off:
- Lake Irwin: The best part of this watering hole is that there is no hiking involved, so you can literally park and pop on your board – also recommend camping here if you can!
- Long Lake (also called Meridian Lake): Popular spot for water activities right outside of town – you’re in for a pretty steep ~1-mile hike to the lake, but worth it for views of the Butte!
- Green Lake: If you’re *really* up for a challenge to get your water fix, then search no more and hype yourself up for the 8.5-mile out and back trek to get to the water (bonus points for biking up!).
- Emerald Lake: Another spot that requires zero hiking – but you’ll probably need a 4WD vehicle to drive up Gothic Road to access this scenic crystal clear alpine lake.
The only season I’ve yet to experience Crested Butte in is winter, but I hope to make it happen this year! Here are a few activities that are on my winter bucket list:
- Mt. Crested Butte: Often referred to as “the last great mountain town,’ which is reason enough to explore this Vail Resorts property on ski or snowboard. You’ll want to get an Epic Pass – which you can get the inside scoop on in my travel guide!
- Nordic ski: Turns out Crested Butte is also the “Nordic Ski Capital of Colorado” (so many superlatives!) – head to the Nordic Center to try your hand (er, feet) at cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.
- Experience exclusive backcountry access: For the seasoned winter athletes, splurge on a stay at the Scarp Ridge Lodge and enjoy private backcountry with legendary powder.
I hope that this has inspired you to start planning a trip to Crested Butte ASAP, as it’s truly a special place. Keep it on the down-low though, as this is one of Colorado’s best-kept secrets but word is getting out!
About the Author
Colvin is an adventure-seeking outdoor enthusiast passionate about connecting people with nature and pushing beyond comfort zones.