Travel Colorado: Crested Butte


Summer or winter, Crested Butte is a Colorado gem.

Let me tell you a story. A couple of decades ago, a friend and I had planned a ski trip to this quaint little town. We booked flights on a start-up airline. A few days before our trip, we received a call to inform us the airline hadn’t yet been approved to land there.

So, we had two options: reschedule our trip or fly into Colorado Springs and the airline would pay for a shuttle to Crested Butte. We opted for the latter. They provided a limo for all of the displaced passengers, complete with champagne. Score!

When we reached the first pass, we all piled out into the snow to help put chains on the tires. Then a few long and winding hours later, we arrived in Crested Butte as the sun came up. Tired from the champagne and the curves, we slept a few hours and hit the slopes.

Skiing at Crested Butte.
Skiing at Crested Butte. Photo Credit: Trent Bona


There’s a reason this former coal mining town is called “The last great Colorado ski town.” Those runs are a dream: great powder, small crowds. During that infamous trip years ago, the airline offered to book us a ride back to Colorado Springs. We declined and hitched a ride with the mayor, a self-described “former hippy,” who happened to be heading that way.

That’s the beauty of this place. While other ski resorts have grown bigger, fancier and pricier, Crested Butte has stayed purposefully simple. Personal.

Some of our friends love spending New Year’s Eve there. Instructors glide down the hill for the torchlight parade, using only torches to guide them. Then, fireworks.

It’s spectacular during the other seasons, too. My husband and I left the kids at home for a long weekend in August. Our route took us over Kebler Pass, a two-lane, gravel road that traverses stunning Aspen stands. In Crested Butte, we hiked the wildflower-laden ski hills, watched mountain bikers and wandered the town. Just perfect.

And so much for kids to do, too!

Three girls in ski gear at Crested Butte.
Smiles. Photo Credit: Alex Fenlon

Getting There

It is just south and west of Colorado’s center—about four hours’ drive from Colorado Springs; slightly longer from Denver.

Throughout winter, Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport has flights  from Dallas, Houston and Denver. Summer service is offered from Denver and Houston. Rent a car or grab one of several shuttles for the 30-minute ride to Crested Butte. Once there, take advantage of the FREE bus system, the Mountain Express.

Click here for more details.

Four Great Places to Stay

The Lodge at Mountaineer Square: Luxurious accommodations at the base of the mountain, near the ski lifts.

The Grand Lodge: Affordable hotel rooms (some of which are pet friendly) on Mt. Crested Butte.

The Plaza: Great for groups and families and just 100 yards from the ski area’s main lift, the Silver Queen.

Pioneer Guest Cabins: Looking for something different? Travel 8 miles from downtown Crested Butte to these darling cabins.

Three brightly colored buildings in downtown Crested Butte.
Downtown Crested Butte. Photo Credit: Chris Segal

Five Great Eateries

Secret Stash: Voted best pizza in Crested Butte every year since opening in 2002. For something different, try the Notorious F.I.G. Winner of the World Champion Pizza Challenge, it has mozzarella, bleu & asiago cheeses, thinly sliced prosciutto, dried black mission figs and a drizzle of truffle oil.

Ryce Asian Bistro: Great flavors, ample portions and fantastic selection of appetizers.

Brick Oven Pizzeria & Pub: Thirty draft beers on tap. Pizza, burgers, subs, salad bar and gluten-free options.

Nicky’s Mini Donuts: Mini donuts cooked fresh throughout the day and made to order with more than 24 toppings to choose from.

Third Bowl: Small batch, made-from-scratch ice cream. Flavors change daily, but include things like Blackberry Bergamot and Pineapple Serrano.

Five Must Dos

Ski: This is what Crested Butte is known for. It also has a “fantastic” adaptive ski program, according to one COSMB contributor.

Evolution Bike Park: This place is great for all bikers from beginners to experts, featuring 30 miles of single track on the resort. Participate or just watch!

Hike: The hiking season is short (May-Oct), but beautiful. Known as the wildflower capital of Colorado, Crested Butte features hikes of every length, level of difficulty and terrain.

Wander Downtown Crested Butte: Funky and fun, just being here is fun. Ride the free bus for an overview. Then, hop off and check out the cute shops and galleries and grab some food.

Dog Sledding: Athletic dogs will take you over 11,000 feet into the remote wilderness near Crested Butte. Cosmic Cruisers is a family-friendly activity, and even kids can drive the sleds. Partial tours or all day tours are available.

Crested Butte in summer, awash in wildflowers.
Summer. Crested Butte, awash in wildflowers. Photo Credit: Dave Kozlowski

Four Family Friendly Activities

Trailhead Children’s Museum: A 2,700-square-foot facility at the base of Mt. Crested Butte with hands-on activities for the kids.

Summer Adventure Park: In summer, family activities abound: mini golf, rock climbing, bungee trampolines, the Coke Zero Gravity BagJump and the Tin Cup Mining Co., where kids can prospect for gems just like the miners of yesteryears did. Winter? Try mini golf, bungee trampolines that provide a turbo-charged, gravity-defying ride up to 30 feet in the air, or a climbing pinnacle with a 28-foot, 6-route tower with auto-belay.

Summer Camps: Camp CB Adventure Camp is designed for kids between the ages of 3-14. Children may take chairlift rides, nature hikes, try the Adventure Park, sports and more. For ages 3-4, the Mini Camp program allows counselors to adjust the same activities around their interest and energy level.

Mountain Adventures Summer Program: Designed for kids 7-14, this summer day recreation program allows boys and girls to explore the Gunnison Valley Mountains, raft rivers, paddleboard lakes, climb crags, hike trails, and take in the scenery by foot, bike, or paddleboard with a fly-rod in hand or while high on a cliff!

Have you been to Crested Butte? Comment below with your favorite places to stay and things to do!