Weekend adventure: Crested Butte
Summer’s almost over, but that you can still have one last hurrah over Labor Day weekend. Crested Butte is your destination. Just a short drive over McClure and Kebler passes, this town is a Colorado classic that you shouldn’t pass up.
“Colorado’s wildflower capital” sits in a valley at around 9,000 feet, surrounded by the Elk Mountains. The Victorian storefronts look like they’d still fit into the mining town of the 19th century — that is, if miners ate sushi and shopped at Patagonia.
Known for being laid-back and full of adventurous folks, Crested Butte is a cradle of outdoor adventure and innovation.
For instance, in 1960 two ranchers from Kansas, Dick Eflin and Fred Rick, bought a ranch northeast of the town. But by the winter of 1962, they had opened a ski area on Crested Butte Mountain with Colorado’s first gondola. This area grew into the present-day resort town of Mount Crested Butte, home of Crested Butte Mountain Resort.
Crested Butte was also integral to the development of the modern mountain bike. When the town’s roads were unpaved (as they were until the 1980s), the locals tried to save their cars by experimenting with two-wheeled travel. They dug some old, 35-pound cruiser bikes out from their garages and started riding them on the roads. Then a few inventive folks took these “Klunkers” to the mountains. They decided to ride over the 12,705-foot Pearl Pass to Aspen, 40 miles over the hill.
That love of the outdoors still permeates the town, which is now rich with cafes, restaurants, gear shops, hotels and nifty local art galleries. Here are just a few of the excellent activities the town has to offer.
If you’re into fly fishing large rivers, small backcountry streams, wading or float fishing, you can pursue four great trout species. All in the same day, you might catch a rainbow, brown, cutthroat and brook trout. Dragonfly Anglers and Crested Butte Angler offer guided trips.
TAKE A WALK
Hiking in Crested Butte is excellent. Starting in late May and going through early to mid-October, the hiking season is short but sweet. In the summertime, the landscape is carpeted with wildflowers, and golden aspens shine in late September and October. The Gunnison National Forest, which includes five Wilderness areas, gives you pristine conditions and memorable experiences. For a challenge, summit Mount Crested Butte or hike over West Maroon Pass back to Aspen.
SPIN YOUR WHEELS
Many of the rides in Crested Butte are long and epic, but even the shorter rides have incredible mountain views. The area is saturated with natural beauty, and one of the best ways to see it all is on a bike. If you’re in good shape, you can roll 30 to 50 miles in a day. Anyone — intermediate or otherwise — should take a ride up Schoffield Pass to 401 Trail. It’s a classic ride for a reason.
For folks who aren’t tired out from their day’s outdoor activities, the town is packed with restaurants, bars, theaters and hotels.
But if you’d rather escape to some isolation, the surrounding area has many campsites, where you can cook your own dinner and stargaze for nighttime entertainment.
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