Wildflower capital of Colorado, birthplace of mountain biking, jaw dropping scenery, a historic ski town full of rustic charm and unique characters, and the best cocktails on the planet - learn why visiting needs to be on your bucket list and get insider tips from a former resident on how to spend a perfect week in Crested Butte.
As far as I'm concerned, CB is the happiest place on Earth - my version of Disneyland...I decided to write this guide because we would often strike up conversations with tourists at our favorite watering hole - The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin and they would ask us for recommendations on what to do during their visit. We would excitedly begin to rattle off a mile-long list of all the fabulous things one absolutely must see, do, eat and drink while in the Butte. After 2 or 3 of the luscious, yet surprisingly strong libations at the Cocktail Cabin, coupled with being at an altitude of 8900 feet, it is unlikely that these folks remembered much of what we told them. So, I thought it would be handy if I could just give them a webpage to go to...and here we are. Click through the tabs above for my tips!
Gas Cafe - Yes, I am insisting that you eat at the local gas station for breakfast. You'll just have to trust me on this one. You'll be moved to tears and inspired to send me an email with your undying gratitude for the recommendation after your first bite of the best breakfast sandwich your stomach will ever have the pleasure of digesting - The Burley. You won't actually see them listed on the menu, but armed with knowledge from an ex-local, you're in the know. A Burley is a Hurley (which is on the menu) with bacon added to the mind-blowingly perfect combo of toasted English muffin, fried egg, cheese, and hashbrown. If you prefer your swine in the sausage form, you could order a Surley - see the pattern here? H for hashbrown, B for bacon, S for Sausage...Here's another insider tip - these things are so dang popular there is typically a 15-20 minute wait, sometimes more on weekends. So, what you want to do is call in your order so it's ready when you get there - put (970) 349-9656 in your contacts right now. Be sure to leave a tip in the tip jar when you pay - they'll ring a bell and give you a shout for your kindness. Once you are armed with the best fuel for your epic biking or hiking adventure, it's time to head to your next stop...Camp 4 Coffee (see the Drink tab).
Bonez - As owner of Bonez and the Secret Stash Pizza, Kyleena Falzone has mastered the recipe for successful eateries in Crested Butte. She has a winning combination of unexpected and tasty recipes and a flair for interior decorating, creating a unique, cozy ambience. I'm a big fan of their DIY guacamole, street tacos and the scorpion margaritas. Happy hour is from 4-5pm. Be sure to admire the pendant lighting over the bar - made by a local artist from recycled coffee cans. You can get your very own light kits (and support an artist!) for just $72 at Can-D-Lite.
The Secret Stash Pizza - The Stash is usually the one restaurant we always make sure to take out of town guests to because of their truly unique pizzas. Start with one or more of their amazing appetizers - our favorites are the stuffed mushies, stash wings (think Asian, not buffalo), and the very aptly named crack fries. Then dare to venture outside your comfort zone and order one of their specialty pies - our go-tos are the Spicy Wais, Woodward and the Hamptons.
Slogar - Located off Elk Avenue at 517 2nd St, Slogar is the place to go after you've ridden an epic ride and are super hungry and in need of extra calories in the form of a good 'ol fashioned southern meal - including fried chicken, cole slaw, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, and homemade biscuits and jam.
Wooden Nickel - If you're craving a big, juicy (emphasis on the big) burger, look no further than CB's oldest saloon. We would often split one of these bad boys, along with one of their massive loaded baked potatoes and both be pleasantly full. They also have some mean steaks. And their chocolate cake (also huge) is to die for.
Soupcon - If you're in the mood for gourmet French food or are celebrating a special occasion, make reservations for one of the two evening seatings (6 & 8:30 pm) at Soupcon. We definitely consider ourselves foodies and this restaurant is of the same caliber as what you would find in any major metropolitan location. The ambience is super cozy in this tiny old miner's cabin and the wait staff will treat you like royalty. A their steaks simply melt in your mouth.
The Sunflower Communal Kitchen - For farm to table fans, the Sunflower offers up some really delicious seasonally-driven meals. Reservations are required -if you enjoy outdoor eating, ask for their intimate back patio. The Sunflower is also a deli during the daytime.
Third Bowl Ice Cream - I personally guarantee this will be the best ice cream you've ever tasted. No chemically laden, alien green mint chocolate chip here - everything is made from scratch from fresh, natural ingredients, locally sourced wherever possible. They also have some uncommon flavor combinations - try a sample or 6, even if you have your heart set on plain ol' vanilla.
Teocalli Tamale - If you need a quick, cheap bite, served up by friendly staff, visit Teocalli for belly bustin' burritos and tasty tacos.
Given that it is a town of only 1500 people, there are a surprising number of great places to get your eat and drink on in the Butte and you really can't go too wrong. These just happen to be some of our very favorites. The word is out on this once sleepy little town though, and the wait time for restaurants can get pretty long during peak season, especially on weekends. We suggest you plan ahead (get reservations, don't wait til the last minute), lest you get hangry (angry hungry).
Camp 4 Coffee - After you've picked up your breakfast Burleys from the Gas Cafe (see the Eat tab), it's time to head to Camp 4 for the other fuel - caffeine. Now, you may be wondering why I would put food before coffee. Like you, I also don't function before coffee, but there's a method to my madness. Camp 4 is an experience to be savored from the comfort of their adirondack chairs on their lovely patio, where you can admire their impressive collection of license plates that cover the building and strike up a conversation with the locals (who might just whip photos of a very polite fox they invited in to hang out in their house last winter - true story!). Back to my madness - you'll definitely want to sit down and enjoy your cuppa with your Burley. Added bonus - you'll get to make everyone around you jealous with the heavenly scent of your Burley. Insider tip - the line can get hella long in the summer, so if you're visiting with another person, have one person stand in line at Camp 4 while the other goes to pick up the Burleys. If you've got a sweet tooth, their chocolate croissants are the best I've had outside Paris.
The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin - if you only go to one establishment while you're in Crusty Butt, go here. We've searched far and wide and they have the best cocktails on the planet, hands down. Located on 3rd street off Elk Avenue, the setting is a cozy old miners cabin. The lovely proprietors Drew and Sarah Jane, along with their amazing staff, will serve you mind-blowingly delicious, house infused cocktails that will ruin you for all other cocktails for the rest of your life. You're welcome. Happy hour during the summer is 4 - 6 pm and 5-7 pm in the winter and will get you $4 off certain drinks. We enjoy sitting on the patio during the summer or in the aspen room in the back if you have a large group. You really can't go wrong with any drink you choose, but our personal favorites include: Vanilla Bean (on hiatus until the price of vanilla comes back down), Poco Loco (just the right amount of spicy), Beetnik (it's got beets, so you can consider it a health drink), Lavender, and the Down the Hatch (definitely spicy, and if you really like a lot of heat, they often have an extra spicy batch if you ask). They also have super tasty small bites - the truffle oil mac and cheese is divine and their spiced nuts are addicting. Note: 21 and over only.
Montanyas - The Butte has it's very own rum distillery with a phenomenal menu of yummy adult beverages as well as mocktails, great ramen and fresh batch, homemade potato chips, along with other nibbles. First time visitors can have a free rum sampling. The kiddos are allowed here and they often have free popcorn. Our favorites include the Maharaja (cool blend of Indian spices), Caldera (can vary widely in spiciness), and the Teocalli (refreshing). Be sure to check the board for the cocktail of the day too.
The Brick Oven Pizzeria - This is your post-ride or hike place to go grab a beer on their huge, sunny patio. They have an impressively extensive beer menu. If you're starving, you can also grab one of their pieces of pizza by the slice from the bar.
Crested Butte has over 450 miles of trails and a little something for everyone - from ripping-good downhills, epic cross-country rides, to beginner and family friendly rides - all with breathtaking scenery. Don't forget to stop and smell the wildflowers (and take copious amounts of photos to taunt your friends on Facebook). And please be a good trail steward: give horseback riders and uphill traffic the right of way, and check trail conditions and opt for dry trails and if you come across a muddy spot, ride or walk through it instead of making the trail wider by going around/off trail.
Trail 401 - The one, the only, the absolutely EPIC (IN ALL CAPS, because I'm shouting with unbridled enthusiasm). There's a reason this trail is world-famous. You will be hard-pressed to find more gorgeous views combined with a super fast, fun downhill through head-high wildflowers in a good snow-year. For more details, local tips and best photo spots, check out the "Trail Info" section of any of my Trail 401 paintings or photos.
Doctor Park - Another fan favorite in the valley, Doctor's is one of the more technical descents, but also has the most amazing section of tight singletrack through thick aspens that feels like you're an Ewok on Planet Endor flying through the trees. The downhill is so long on this one I have to stop periodically to give my hands a break from braking. Good stuff Maynard.
Teocalli Ridge - I like to joke that Teocalli is Aztec for "the Motherf%cker" because this trail has one of the steepest, longest climbs around (on the bright side, there's lots of wildflowers to take in while you granny-gear or push your bike uphill). But once you get to the gorgeous scenic overlook at the top and start your descent, you'll forget all about that climb, guaranteed. BTW, the CBMBA website link has the mileage starting from the actual trailhead, but it's a slow, bumpy drive through a couple creeks the last 5 miles, so most people park at the Deer Creek sign on Brush Creek Road. I'm also not sure which mutant they used to measure the ride time, but I laughed when I saw an hour. Pretty sure it takes me over 2+ hours just to do the climb, but I do take A LOT of photos.
Strand Hill - Strand Hill is a super fun roller-coastery ride through the aspens. You definitely want to ride up the Canal Trail to Strand Bonus to Strand Hill proper. Do not ride straight up the crappy road from the base of Strand Hill - it's a needless suffer fest when there's a much more pleasant option. This is a great option if you want to get a short ride in (can definitely be done in an hour) or you can combine it with other trails for a longer ride. For more details, other ride combos, local tips and best photo spots, check out the "Trail Info" section of any of my Strand Hill paintings or photos.
Snodgrass / Lupine + Gunsight Connector/Lower - This is a great not very technical ride from town route (or alternatively put yourself and your bike on the free shuttle bus up to the trailhead to save a road climb). Both Snodgrass and Gunsight Connector trails wind through shady, magical aspen groves. Skip the last descent on Lupine 2 to continue climbing up Gunsight Connector. Lower is an easy, scenic way to ride back into town along the slate river (be sure to stop and look back every once in awhile to take in the view of Paradise Divide over the river). If you've still got a little gas left in the tank, opt for the Upper Lower instead of the Lower and be sure to add the super short but scenic Gunsight Bridge Loop (refer to the CBG Trail App below) - which has a nice scenic overlook of the lower Oh Be Joyful cascade. For more details, local tips and best photo spots, check out the "Trail Info" section of any of my Snodgrass or Lower paintings or photos.
Meander / Primer / Hot Dogger - In addition to the chairlift-served technical downhill riding, there's a lot of really good cross-country riding at the ski resort. My all-time favorite loop (which can be linked up with a variety of other trails on the mountain, as well as Snodgrass, Lupine, Lower, etc) is to ride up Gothic Road (or put yourself and your bike on the free shuttle if you're planning to link up lots of other trails) to the Meander trailhead across the street from Snodgrass (look for the trail sign - it will look like you're riding into a warehouse). Like the name suggests, Meander is a pleasant way to climb up the backside of the ski mountain. It also has little traffic and tons of wildflowers with a super narrow singletrack that is sometimes hard to see because of said wildflowers. You'll be hitting your knees with corn lilies (I love that sound!). Connect up to Primer to get to the top of the Red Lady Chair Lift, then look at the trail map sign to hook up to Hot Dogger - then let 'er rip down the fastest, smoothest, flowiest, downhill around. Full face grin.
Upper Cement Creek - It's a bit of a haul out Cement Creek Road in CB South to get to the trailhead, but this is one of the rides I take absolute beginners on - it's a pretty, peaceful, smooth and relatively flat trail once you get beyond the first 500 feet or so and it opens up into a wide valley. You may have the trail all to yourself (although you might hear a moto or 2 going up the road) and it follows a creek the whole way, so it's dog friendly.
Woods Walk / Lower - I'm listing this ride as a standalone for beginners and the kiddos. You can easily ride from town and it isn't very technical and it's super pretty because it follows the Slate River with views of Paradise Divide. When you get to the Gunsight Bridge, turn around and head back. If you're feeling bold, come back on the Upper Lower, which is a little more technical. This is one of the most heavily used trails, so be kind and share the trail.
Hartman Rocks - Hartman Rocks is located in Gunnison - about 35 minutes from CB. With over 40 miles of high desert singletrack, it is truly a gem. I've included it here because often when CB gets socked in with rain, it can be sunny and dry (thanks to fast-drying gravel trails) in Gunnison. They've also got great camp spots. For more details, local tips and best photo spots, check out the "Trail Info" section of any of my Hartman's paintings.
Be sure to peruse my website for trail paintings and photographs - 5% of the purchase price of trail artwork and photos are donated to the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association to build and maintain trails.
There are boatloads of beautiful hikes, short and long in the valley and these are just a few of my very favorites. I highly recommend picking up a hiking guide from Townie Books.
Maroon Pass - This hike is an absolute must-do during wildflower season. Short of a super bloom in California or perhaps the blue bonnet bloom in Texas, both of which have just one flower, this trail has the highest concentration and variety of wildflowers you will ever see. You can hike over to Aspen on this trail or do it as an out and back. The wildflowers congregate on the CB side. There are a few shuttle services to this trailhead if you a) want to hike to Aspen, but not hike back or b) don't have a 4-wheel drive to get you to the trailhead. I also really recommend linking up Maroon Pass with Hasley Pass - the view at the top is breathtaking and the wildflowers stay heavier on this trail than continuing on Maroon Pass and makes for the perfect day hike. If you enjoy backpacking, consider the Four Pass Loop, which can be done over 3-4 days. This is a heavily trafficked trail, so consider going mid-week.
Trail 403 - While this is also technically a mountain bike trail, most people hike it as an out and back from the Washington Gulch trailhead to the scenic overlook. This is one of the trails I take tourists on because it has a big "bang for your buck" in that it is not overly steep and you get some really amazing views in a short hike. I recommend hiking to the scenic view at the big rock pile that overlooks the peaks in the Gothic Valley, then turning around (vs. heading down the super steep trail that puts you out on Gothic Road). Go check out the rock piles for marmots, chipmunks and pikas. You will want to have a 4-wheel drive or higher clearance vehicle for the last 1/2 mile up Washington Gulch, which has some seriously deep ruts at the top.
Scarp Ridge - This is another "big bang for your buck" trail, with jaw-dropping views of mountain peaks and icy blue lakes in the distance, as well as unique tundra wildflowers, reached in a moderately short hike (~2.5 hrs). This trail is VERY exposed, so plan your hike for the early morning before the afternoon thunderstorms.
Teocalli Mountain - For a more strenuous climb, Teocalli has some really incredible views from the top. You'll leave the main/mountain biking trail at the saddle and start working your way up the steep face. You will have to scramble up some serious scree fields for the last couple miles. Be sure to get an early morning start, as the face is very exposed.
You can pretty much drive down any road in CB and find a scenic view, but below are some of our favorite places to take out of town guests. Be sure to know before you go - check with locals in town to make sure conditions are good for travel. Don't be a douche - not only can you get your vehicle stuck in the deep early season mud and snow, but you create super deep ruts in the road that ruin travel for others. Stay on the road - if you need to turn around, drive until you can find a hard packed place to do it vs. mowing down wildflowers. Follow the Leave No Trace principles so others can enjoy the pristine beauty of this incredible valley.
Schofield/Paradise Divide - We take all our out of town guests on this drive - it is absolutely stellar! Be sure to ask in town if the road is open or not, as there is an impassable avalanche plug on Gothic Road near the top of Schofield Pass that often doesn't melt out until early July. While this is not a technical 4X4 drive by Colorado standards, a 4-wheel drive is recommended for this drive as road conditions can change from year to year and you can encounter snow across the road even in the middle of the summer. While a Subaru or similar vehicle may be able to handle it, we've also seen a car bottom out on a deep rut and have their radiator overheat - and a tow off a mountain pass is really expensive. Also, if you have a strong fear of heights/drop offs, you might want to pass on this drive, as there is a few narrow-ish spots with some drop offs near the top. Having grown up 4x4-ing, it never crossed my mind that someone might find this drive scary, but to those who have never been on high mountain roads, it could be. I recommend driving up Slate River Road from town then coming back down Gothic Road back into town. Drive out Slate River Road until you hairpin right (otherwise you just end up in a campground) and you'll start climbing up the pass to Paradise Divide. Don't take the one right hand turn, which will take you back down Washington Gulch, keep going straight. You'll top out at a lovely high alpine lake (great reflections when it's calm). Be sure to park and walk around to enjoy the views and snap some photos. There are a few camp spots up there too. Follow the main road and you'll start to wind back down into the valley. You'll eventually get to a split in the road. If you have time, go left and continue to the historic Schofield Townsite (once a booming mining town), which is past the parking lot for the Maroon Pass trailhead. If you continue another mile or so, you'll eventually see 2 big yellow "You shall not pass" extreme 4X4 signs. Park here unless you have a Jeep. Walk down the road another 500 feet or so until you hit the creek - you'll see a beautiful waterfall on your right, which is also a great swimming hole if it's a hot summer day. I also recommend a day hike down to the Devil's Punchbowl from here on the rough 4X4 road or if you don't mind a "not so fun" bike ride on the rough road, you can keep going to the iconic Crystal Mill. The canyon is super cool, but do not attempt driving it unless you are a very experienced 4X4-er or own a Razor - it became super narrow after a rockslide several years ago and many people have damaged their vehicles. If you don't have as much time, you can skip these little side trips - simply turn right back at the split in the road, and you'll be on Gothic Road at the top of Schofield Pass, which will take you back down to town (you'll pass the Trail 401 trailhead on your left). If you have time, stop at Emerald Lake on your right as you head down (see Gothic Road photos in next bullet).
Gothic Road - If you don't have time or the right vehicle to do the entire Schofield/Paradise Divide drive, be sure to at least drive out Gothic Road (the road going out of town to the ski resort, just keep going after it turns to dirt) - perhaps to Emerald Lake after the snow plug from the avalanche melts out (late June/early July). This is one of my favorite drives and there are lots of hiking trails along the way or just bring a camp chair and a picnic and sit by the East river.
Kebler Pass - Kebler Pass is a lovely scenic drive - either as an out and back, a day trip over to Paonia (wineries, a few restaurants), or linked up with Ohio Pass if you want to start/end closer to Gunnison. Kebler Pass is considered the home of one of the largest living organisms on the planet - a massive, old, aspen forest (aspen trees in a grove share the same root system, technically making it a single organism). So, it makes for a splendid fall drive (the leaves on Kebler turn later than in CB - typically early - mid October). There are a lot of hiking and horse-friendly trails on both passes. As a bonus, drive out to Lost Lake, which has a campground and more hiking trails. Lake Irwin is another favorite stop - popular for fishing, stand up paddle boarding, picnics, and the trailhead for hiking Scarp Ridge.
Best Camp Spots
Please be a good human and treat these beautiful places with respect so they can be enjoyed by others! Only camp and build fires in designated spots. Make sure your fires are drowned and dead out. Pack out all your trash. Follow the Leave No Trace principles.
Schofield Pass - Although this is a long drive from town (over an hour), it would be a great base camp if you want to ride Trail 401 or hike Maroon or Hasley Pass, or ride/hike down to the Devil's Punchbowl and Crystal Mill. A 4-wheel drive or higher clearance vehicle is recommended. Drive out Gothic Rd and climb up Schofield Pass. Just past the Schofield Pass sign, there's a turn - take the right fork and continue past the Maroon Pass parking lot and go another mile or so until you see two yellow "You shall not pass" extreme 4X4 signs. Park there (unless you have a Jeep). Hike down the road another 500 feet and take the pull out that splits off from the road on the right - walk in a little further and you'll discover the most idyllic camp spot above a gorgeous waterfall.
Washington Gulch Road - A mile or so past the Snodgrass trailhead there are numerous pull-in spots. Great for riding Snodgrass, Lupine, and Ski Resort trails.
Brush Creek Road - There's some good spots out this road past the Deer Creek trailhead - you'll head down towards the creek - there's good spots before and after the creek (requires 4X4 to cross).
Slate River Road - There is the very popular (hard to get a spot) Oh Be Joyful Campground on the Slate River and many other pull-in areas along the road if you keep going out the road. Trails you can ride from here include Lower Loop, Gunsight Connector, and Lupine.
Gothic Road - Most of the Gothic Road pull-in camp spots are only open before June 15 or after August 15 to reduce traffic and impact on the area, but there are a couple designated campground areas (Like Washington Gulch #403) that are open all summer if you are lucky to score a spot. Perfect if you want to ride the 401 trail or hike the many trails in the area.
Kebler Pass - there are lots of campgrounds on Kebler Pass, including at Lake Irwin and Lost Lake, as well as many spurs off the main road and at some of the hiking trailheads.
Best Places to Stay
There's a ton of places to stay in CB, including lots of charming historic Victorian houses on Airbnb and VRBO. If you want to get away from the crowds, consider the CB South area and Pioneer Guest Cabins. For a budget and dog-friendly option in town, try the Old Town Inn. You can also stay in Mount Crested Butte (ski area) - there's a free shuttle that runs between town and the mountain. A dog friendly option on the mountain is the Grand Lodge. As it gets quite busy in the summer, I highly recommend figuring out your accommodations before you go. And if you're planning on coming over July 4th (I personally would not recommend it as there are > 15k people in town for that weekend), plan on booking in January, as everything will be full by February.
Must Do List
Art Galleries & Classes - CB is a designated creative district, home to many talented artists, 8 art galleries, and numerous art classes offered through the Center for the Arts, as well as the Wildflower Festival. Be sure to stop in some of the galleries or stroll through an evening ArtWalk.
Campfire & S'mores - Even when the rest of the state of Colorado is under fire restrictions, Gunnison County / CB is quite often not because of their amazing microclimate of heavy snow and almost tropical vegetation. So, you better take advantage and build yourself a campfire and roast some S'mores. Our favorite places include - along Cement Creek in CB South (there's great spots on the right side of the road across from Walrod Gulch hiking area), on top of Schofield Pass just past the yellow "You Shall Not Pass" Extreme 4X4 signs (see the Drive tab for more info & pix for reference) before you drop down to go towards the Devil's Punchbowl. Just park at the signs and walk down the road about 500 feet (unless you have a Jeep) - there's a great spot on the left next to a creek that appears out of the forest or another spot above a waterfall on the right side of the road (see pic on the Camp tab). Lake Irwin also has some great spots - just drive past the lake and go up the road a little ways - there's lots of pull outs and fire rings. Please be responsible and bring lots of water (or pick a spot next to a stream) to make sure your fire is dead out. Also, you might want to bring your own s'mores ingredients or pick some up in Gunnison, as Clark's Market in town can run out of them. Gourmet tip: I like my s'mores with caramel filled chocolate and I also add peanut or almond butter - dessert of champions after a nice long bike ride.
Disc Golf - Admittedly, I am not a big disc golfer, but some friends took us to play on the course behind the CB Nordic Center and it was a gorgeous, peaceful, and best of all FREE way to spend an evening after a ride. There is also a course at the ski resort at the top of the Red Lady chairlift.
Lift Rides at Crested Butte Mountain Resort - Take one of the chairlifts up in the late afternoon, take a hike or bring some wine and a picnic to enjoy the sunset. Or, take the Silver Queen express lift up and then hike 2 miles (strenuous) to the summit of Mount Crested Butte at an elevation of 12,162 feet with a bird's eye view of the town.
Metal Statues - Artist Sean Guerrero created several statues around town, including the iconic Knight & Dragon on your right side as you come into town. I was told that the knight represented "the town" when they were fighting to keep a mine "the dragon" from moving into town in the 80's.
Best Time to Visit
There's never a bad time, but some times are better than others. Here's my recommendations:
Avoid 4th of July weekend - it's a shyte-show, with >15k people in town. While the 4th of July parade is quirky and cool, this is not how you want to experience this town. You'll wait 2 hours to get into any restaurant. And you'll need to book your lodging in January.
Bike Week - CB hosts this event every year during the last week in June. Whether you prefer your races to be a serious, suffer-fest of 40-miles of high altitude single track or the more laid back, costume wearing variety, there's something for everyone, as well as skills clinic, bike movie, fun for the kiddos, and more.
If you like wildflowers... 1) The lavender Lupine blooms peak in late June - ride or hike the Lupine Trail and Snodgrass Trail. 2) Peak wildflower season can vary by a couple weeks each year and the concentration depends on how much snow CB got that year, but even in a dry year, there's still a lot of wildflowers in the valley. Plan on visiting in mid-July to hit the peak and absolutely hike Maroon Pass, which can be good into early August (see the Hike tab above). 3) The fuchsia Fireweed bloom starts after peak wildflower season and also varies by a couple weeks, depending on the snowpack. In a dry year, the fireweed can be great at the end of July. In a wet year, it will peak in early to mid-August. Maroon Pass is also a good place to see fireweed en masse. 4) If you like organized events and hikes, visit during Wildflower Fest.
Crested Butte Arts Festival - Held every year during the first weekend in August, this is one of my favorite festivals. Elk Avenue is shut down and lined with a wide variety of artists.
Fall Colors - Timing can vary by a week or 2, depending on whether it is a drought year or not. Typically, the last week in September and first week in October is peak leaf peepin', but in a drought year, that gets pushed earlier to mid-late September. The exception is Kebler Pass - which generally peaks later - in early to mid-October. Kebler Pass is considered the home of one of the largest living organisms on the planet - a massive, old, aspen forest (aspen trees in a grove share the same root system, technically making it a single organism). Recommended drives during peak fall colors include: 1) Gothic Road 2) Slate River Road (or better yet, combine the two over Paradise Divide (see To Do tab) 3) Brush Creek 4) Kebler & Ohio Passes.
Crested Butte Film Fest - CB has a legit film fest every fall, that often coincides with peak leaf peepin', making it a fantastic time to visit. With 90 films over 4 days, directors Jen & Michael Brody have done a phenomenal job of bringing a diverse line up of creative, entertaining and thought provoking films, along with panels and events with the filmmakers.
Festivals, Festivals & More Festivals - Buttians love festivals (and any excuse to where costumes). There's something going on just about every weekend during the summer, as well as many fun events the rest of the year. Click here to see a calendar.
Mud Season - there are two mud seasons in CB - one in the fall before the ski resort opens over Thanksgiving and one in the spring after the ski resort closes (things pick back up again in June, but depending on the snowfall, a lot of trails may not open up until mid-late June, or even July for the higher elevations like Trail 401, so be sure to check the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association website for trail conditions). Depending on what you want to do, the weather, and whether you enjoy getting away from the crowds / like having the trails all to yourself, mud season, particularly in the fall can be a nice time to visit. Some years the snow starts in October, other years you might be able to bike through Thanksgiving. You might also happen to time it just right to witness a little of the wild west - when real-life cowboys move the cattle herds down the highway. However, fair warning, mud season is when most of the retailers and restauranteurs in town take vacation, so most of the restaurants and shops shut down or have limited hours, so the town itself can seem quite dead. And, sadly, you won't be able to get one of the best cocktails on the planet from The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin...
Ski Season - Obviously the focus of this guide is for summer and fall, but winter is also a fabulous time to visit the Butte. Aside from the ski resort, CB is also the Nordic capital of Colorado - with over 50km of groomed cross-country trails maintained by the CB Nordic Center. The main dirt roads in the area are not maintained in the winter, making them free areas to snowshoe, tour and backcountry ski, and fat bike, including Slate River Road, Washington Gulch, Cement Creek and Gothic Road. The Snodgrass trail also reopens for winter activities after closing in August for cattle grazing. And CB is host to the Fat Bike World Championships.
Other Insider Tips
If you're driving from the front range, be sure to come over Cottonwood Pass, which will reopen after a 2-year project to pave it in late June 2019. It's an absolutely gorgeous drive over the pass as well as the Taylor River Canyon. Insider's tip: take the shortcut to CB at Jack's Cabin Cutoff instead of continuing into Almont. Take a right turn at CR 813 from CR 742 just past the Wilder at the Ranch neighborhood.
Pick up a local newspaper. First, it's like stepping back in time. Second, it's the best source for local happenings, concerts, movies, etc. Last, but not least, the Mountain Mischief police section is guaranteed to make you giggle. And you're required to build a campfire and roast s'mores during your visit,
Town Shuttle - Catch a free ride on one of the colorful hand-painted buses you'll see around town! There are several convenient spots to get a lift to the ski area, trail heads, CB South, etc. Click here for locations and schedule.
Mountain weather is finicky - you can get very cold, rainy days - go check out a movie at The Majestic Theater (you can have adult beverages in the theater - yay!) or find a good book and grab a cuppa joe at Townie Books.
Repeat, mountain weather is finicky and the temperature drops drastically after the sun goes down, so don't forget your light puffy (and a stocking cap if you're camping or doing early morning high country hikes) even in July. And plan your high country hikes and rides for an early morning start to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms. They come out of nowhere, even on what starts as a bluebird day without a cloud in the sky.
BYOB - That's short for bring your own bananas. If you can't live without your morning banana, bring them with or pick some up in Gunnison, as they are a hot commodity and can sell out at Clark's Market in town during the summer, as do s'more ingredients...
All opinions expressed on this page are solely my own - I do not get paid to endorse any of the establishments or events.