Deep in the heart of the Colorado Rockies lies the town of Crested Butte.
A quaint 1880s mining community turned ski town, Crested Butte is a place that lives and breathes outdoor adventure.
Here you’ll find small town charm combined with wild mountains and jaw dropping beauty. The great part? A short weekend trip gives you a taste of all that this authentic mountain town has to offer.
But be warned! One visit is sure to leave you wanting more.
Crested Butte RV Travel Essentials
Crested Butte is located roughly in the middle of Colorado.
Coming from the east it’s a 4.5 hour drive from Denver, and a 4 hour drive from Colorado Springs.
Both routes require driving over mountain passes. These passes are on well traveled and paved roads that most RVs are more than capable of handling.
Coming from the west, it’s a 3 hour drive from Grand Junction. The nice thing about coming in to Crested Butte from Grand Junction, CO is that you won’t have to cross any mountain passes.
Where to Park Your RV in Crested Butte, CO
The Crested Butte RV Park is the only RV park in town – a small campground with sites offering water and 50 amp electric (no sewer hook-ups) in a quiet country setting alongside the Slate River.
If you’re not looking for all the amenities of an RV Park, you’ll have a few more options.
Other camping areas include three national forest campgrounds – Lake Irwin, Cement Creek, and Gothic Campground – as well as many dispersed camping spots on the forest roads that radiate out from town.
Your Itinerary: Day 1
You could easily spend all morning sipping a Mayan Mocha or a spicy Chair 9 Chai tea while munching on a homemade muffin.
But don’t linger too long, because Crested Butte has so much more to offer.
Travel Tip: On your way out of town stop at the Gas Cafe for picnic supplies. Stock up on trail mix and pick up sandwiches from the deli where they serve up fresh ingredients and daily specials.
The Mountains are Calling
Now that you’re properly fueled, it’s time to hit the trail. Crested Butte is a hiker’s paradise with an endless variety of trails for hikers of all ability levels.
One popular option for a short trail hike with impressive views is the Snodgrass Trail.
This biking and hiking trail travels through fields of wildflowers and in and out of aspen and pine groves.
All the while you’ll get stunning views of Mt. Crested Butte and the Gothic range.
Travel Tip: Crested Butte is known for its sudden afternoon rain storms during the summer months. The earlier you get out on the trail the less likely you are to get wet.
For a longer, more challenging hike travel eight miles up Washington Gulch Road through flower filled meadows, past dense evergreen groves, and to a plateau with wide open views of the valley below.
Here you’ll find the Washington Gulch Trail.
This eight mile out and back trail can be hiked in its entirety for a fairly intense workout with some steep ups and downs.
You could also hike it in sections, leaving one car parked at the trailhead near the Gothic Campground. If you’re just looking for an out and back that’s possible too. It’s only 1.5 miles out to the view point.
Each way you’ll enjoy amazing views of deep valleys, towering peaks, and brightly blooming wildflowers.
A Thrilling Ride
After all that hiking it’s time to give your legs a rest on an exhilarating chair lift ride up the mountain.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort may be known for its massive snowpack and impressive winter terrain, but it’s also a popular summer playground.
During the summer months two chair lifts travel up the mountain.
Choose from the Silver Queen, which climbs nearly to the top of the mountain and drops you off at the start of a steep trail to the summit. Or the Red Lady Express which carries you part way up the mountain providing access to numerous biking and hiking trails.
Tickets for both lifts cost $20/adults, $17/youth, or get an all day ride & bike ticket for $39/adults, $33/youth
At the top you can either ride the lift back down, or choose from the wide variety of hiking or biking trails.
The Red Lady has a bike carrier system that will shuttle your bike to the top, leaving you with a thrilling downhill ride.
No bike? No problem. Rent a bike at the Evolution Bike Park. They offer full and half day rentals as well as lessons.
Colorado Mountain Cuisine
All this activity will surely leave you hungry.
Don’t worry, Crested Butte has you covered.
Start with a selection of small bites and handcrafted drinks at Montanya Distillers. Munch on a cheese platter while sipping a Strawberry Jive made with fresh strawberries, muddled basil and mint with a generous splash of their house made Platino Rum.
Next head over to the Coal Creek Grill in the historic Forest Queen Hotel. Grab an outdoor table next to the Slate River and enjoy some tasty home cooking.
Try an Elk Burger, Piñon Crusted Rainbow Trout, or a thick slice of Colorado Lamb Meatloaf for a taste of true Colorado mountain cuisine.
Finish off the night with a serving of homemade ice cream at Third Bowl.
This small batch ice creamery offers unique flavors such as honey lavender, strawberry marshmallow, and cowboy coffee.
Pair your choice with a fresh made waffle cone, and don’t forget to buy a hand packed pint to go!
Your Itinerary: Day 2
After sleeping in and a leisurely breakfast at your RV, head on over to the Sunday morning Farmers Market.
From 10-2 every Sunday the first block of Elk Avenue is packed with booths selling fresh produce, hand-crafted art and jewelry, and artisan cheeses.
Stroll the market and pick up some locally grown peaches, grass-fed beef, and scrumptious baked goods. Or treat yourself to a bouquet of fresh cut flowers and and a jar of Colorado wildflower honey.
Travel tip: Bring along a cooler filled with ice to store your purchases after the market so you can spend more time in town.
A History Lesson
Also on Elk Avenue is the best place to learn about local history. The Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum.
Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum is located in one of the oldest buildings in Crested Butte, dating back to 1883.
You could spend hours exploring the historical exhibits on coal mining, skiing, and mountain biking. Don’t miss the popular model town and railroad that offers an amazingly accurate glimpse into what the town looked like during the coal mining era.
Travel Tip: the museum staff are knowledgeable and passionate about the area. If you have questions about anything related to Crested Butte, past or present, this is a great place to get the answers.
Be sure to stop at the Museum Store on the way out. Browse the shelves of books and souvenirs, along with their impressive collection of vintage signs and historical photos.
Continue strolling down Elk Avenue past the vibrant Victorian storefronts that house many shops and galleries.
Whether a shopper or a browser, you’re sure to enjoy this fun and funky main street filled with local stores. You’ll find everything from high end, one of a kind jewelry, to that perfect magnet for your fridge collection.
Take the Plunge
After all the shopping and strolling around town, end the day with a short hike and relaxing swim.
Lake Meridian (sometimes called Long Lake) is a hidden gem popular with the local crowd.
You’ll find the trailhead off of Washington Gulch Road, 1.5 miles from where it splits from Gothic Road. The trail and parking area are on the left just past a small subdivision of houses.
You won’t see any signs of the lake from the trailhead, but don’t worry!
A half mile trek up a steep wooded hillside quickly opens up to an astounding view of a long narrow lake. Claim a spot on the shore and dive into the refreshing water.
Most people come to the lake only for a swim, but there’s also a trail that snakes along the west end of the lake and climbs up to the ridge.
Looking for more?
- Time your visit to attend the annual Wildflower Festival.
- Take a scenic drive up to Kebler Pass for views of the West Elk Mountains and Ruby Range.
- Hike the Scarp Ridge Trail high above Lake Irwin for dramatic views of the Raggeds Wilderness.
- Rent a Jeep or ATV and explore the many 4WD roads in the area.
- Free music! Catch a Monday night Alpenglow concert at the pavilion in town, or one of the Wednesday night shows at the mountain.
- Enjoy an afternoon of fly fishing in one of the areas rivers and streams. For a guided fishing adventure contact the folks at Alpine Outside where they can supply you with all the necessary equipment.