I’ve been wanting to start posting city guides for awhile. If you like this – let us know and we can make it a regular thing!
We fell in love the first time we visited Crested Butte, last September (2016) and have been back twice since then! There are mountain towns that are fun, or towns that are close, or towns that are fun and close, but then there are mountain towns that are perfect. Crested Butte lives in the small category of perfect. It’s one of those towns that we will make the four hour drive for even just a weekend and when we leave, we spend the whole drive home trying to figure out how we could possibly make it work to move there full time (still working on it).
Why we love it
CB is home to all of the outdoor activities and it also has a really quaint, cute, small town feel. The downtown area is a less-than-10 block stretch with historic charm and everything you need. There is a laid back, completely non-ritzy vibe that we love, and everyone has just finished a hike/bike/run/ski. Also – the food is EXCELLENT.
Where to stay
There are lots of great (dog friendly) options on VRBO and Air B&B. Your main decision is whether you want to stay on the mountain or in town. In the winter – we like the mountain so we are as close to the lifts as possible! In the summer or shoulder seasons, town is a great option with access to a few good hiking/biking trails and really walkable. There is a free shuttle that runs between the two every ~15 minutes, so don’t cogitate (word of the day!) on this for too long! We’ve stayed at the Nordic Inn (mountain) and Elk Mountain Lodge (town) and loved both, though there wasn’t a ton of space in the room at the Elk Mountain Lodge.
Skiing, AT skiing, nordic skiing, you get the picture.
You can generally find discounted lift tickets for CB that get the price down to ~$50/day if you are doing multiple days (a DEAL compared to every other resort we ski at). Check a Shell gas station on your way in from the airport, Denver-area Costcos, or online. CB is known for being steep and it is, but our experience is that there’s enough powder to take the fear factor down to an acceptable level. I’ll ski almost anything (cliffs excluded) but am fairly cautious and was perfectly happy cruising around on the blacks. Our favorite run(s) are Teocalli Bowl. From the bottom, take the Silver Queen lift to the High Lift (T bar). Make a left off of the top and traverse on the ridge a ways until it opens up and you can see the amazing powder below. Enjoy the best run of your life before you have to make the 15 minute hike out to Paradise Bowl. It’s totally worth it.
You can also skin up the mountain before lifts open in the morning or after they close at night. You have to get a pass but it’s free AND you can bring your dog. We had so much fun doing this one morning and the dogs loved it too. The ski shop at the base area rents AT set-ups if you don’t have your own (I didn’t), but I’d recommend asking them to show you how everything works if you aren’t going with an experienced friend!
Mountain biking, hiking, trail running, etc.
There are a few hikes/bikes/runs you can do directly from town – they aren’t terribly difficult, but if you don’t have a ton of time, they are good options and you can make several different loops. They are: Woods Walk and Tony’s. You can pick up trail maps at most places in town, and we also liked this website and this one. There are also several trails that are in a short driving distance from town. I also want to explore the trails on the mountain. We haven’t done any mountain biking here, but really want to do a trip next summer – it seems like there are tons of great beginner trails! There are a few bike shops in town with really affordable rental programs, too (about half the price as a daily rental in Denver)! It’s also an excellent place to see the Aspens turning if you can time it right (as you can see in our photos above, we were about a week too late!)
One of the best parts about CB (but really, all the parts are the best). For a small town, there are so many good restaurants. I actually haven’t eaten anywhere that wasn’t amazing. I crave Ginger Cafe (asian) on a regular basis. No trip to CB is complete without at least one meal there. We also love The Guild cafe (at the end of Elk) for coffee, breakfast, and lunch – SO MANY baked goods. Camp 4 Coffee is great for coffee and a good place to work if you have to. Painted Pony Cafe may look a bit weird, but they make some bomb sandwiches. The Dogwood is an excellent place to grab a drink while you are waiting for a table elsewhere. And then there are the classics: The Last Steep and Secret Stash. On the mountain, you have to hit up the Avalanche Bar and Grill and get an Avalanche Warning drink… if you plan to do nothing else for the rest of the day.
Have fun, walk around town, talk to the locals, and spend some time outside! We hope you love it as much as we do!