February 13, 2024 6:10 pm

Duane L. Coker

Ah, Crested Butte – a hidden Gunnison Valley gem nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and my home away from home these past 6 years. Discovering Crested Butte, whether in the winter or summer, is a true delight!

This quaint, picturesque town transforms with the seasons, offering an array of activities that cater to adventure-seekers, nature lovers, and those simply in search of tranquility.

Whether you’re planning to visit in the bloom of summer or the frost of winter, Crested Butte promises an unforgettable experience. Let’s dive into what makes this place a must-visit, no matter the time of year!

Summer Shenanigans

Hike to Your Heart’s Content

Hiking is one of the sure paths to discovering Crested Butte!
Hiking near Crested Butte is as good as it gets!

Summer in Crested Butte is like stepping into a painting, with wildflowers carpeting the valley in a riot of colors under the clear blue sky. The town is famously known as the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado,” and for good reason.

Trails like the Snodgrass Trail, on nearby Snodgrass Mountain, offer panoramic views and are dotted with vibrant wildflowers – a true hiker’s paradise. Whether you’re a casual walker or a seasoned trekker, there’s a trail with your name on it here.

Here are a couple of my favorite hiking spots:

  • Snodgrass: during the summer, you can start your hike at either the trailhead off of Washington Gulch Road or, at the other end, at the trailhead located near the start of Gothic Road (above Crested Butte Ski Resort). The views of Mt. Crested Butte, and the surrounding area, are really stunning and the trail is easy to moderate  difficulty.
  • Judd Falls: This trail starts just past the town of Gothic (a bus actually runs to the trailhead during summer months) and offers great views of the surrounding mountains, including Gothic Mountain, and, of course, a waterfall at the end of the trail.  Another advantage of checking out Judd Falls is that you go through the town of Gothic, which is the summer headquarters of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.  The RBML has famously conducted high mountain studies since 1928 and they offer tours and information about the site, and Gothic Townsite, at the Visitors Center daily during the summer.  Times for the tour can be found on the RBML’s website.

Mountain Biking Madness

Mountain biking in the Gunnison Valley offers everything from snow-dusted passes to sandy high desert.

For the adrenaline junkies, Crested Butte is a mountain biking mecca and is often touted as the place “mountain biking” was invented.

With hundreds of miles of trails, there’s terrain for every skill level. The 401 Trail is an absolute must-ride, providing thrilling descents and breathtaking views of the Gothic Mountain.

During the summer, don’t miss the Lupine Trail, which travels along the hillside above the Slate River offering amazing views of Crested Butte, the surrounding mountains and the river.  During late June and July, the wildflowers on both sides of the trail can reach waist high, or higher, and are a reason in and of themselves for checking it out.

Crested Butte Ski Resort offers “lift assisted” mountain biking after the snow has melted each summer.  For adrenaline junkies, bombing the steep downhill trails is a real rush, but the resort offers a number of trails for beginners and intermediate downhill mountain bikers, too.

Don’t have a bike? No worries! There are plenty of rental shops ready to gear you up for your mountain biking adventure.  Big Al’s Bicycle Heaven in downtown Crested Butte offers a wide range of rentals for summer and winter.

Fly Fishing and Whitewater Rafting

Superb fly fishing in the Gunnison, East, Taylor and Slate rivers.

If you prefer water over land, Crested Butte, and the entire Gunnison Valley, has you covered.

The crystal-clear rivers are perfect for fly fishing, offering serene spots to catch trout amidst stunning scenery.

For those looking for a bit more excitement, whitewater rafting or paddle boarding on the Gunnison River offers a heart-pounding experience as you navigate through rapids surrounded by rugged mountain landscapes.

Paddle boarding the Gunnison River near Crested Butte.

Three Rivers Resort in Almont, just 15 minutes from Crested Butte on the road between CB and Gunnison, offers both:  white water rafting and float fishing on the Gunnison and Taylor Rivers.

The rafting and fishing are both excellent and well worth a day of vacation, especially if the legs need a rest from hiking and biking.  Paddle boarding a river, even more so when the flow rate is high, can be very exciting, too, and is completely different from paddling on a lake or ocean.

Floating the river, however you decide to do it, is always rewarding and also offers a great chance to see local wildlife, including bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer and bald eagles.

Winter Wonderland

Skiing and Snowboarding Bliss

When winter blankets Crested Butte in snow, the town transforms into a skier’s and snowboarder’s dream.

Crested Butte fun!

Crested Butte Mountain Resort  boasts an impressive array of slopes for all levels, from gentle greens for beginners to extreme terrain that challenges even the most experienced. It’s known, along with Jackson Hole, as having the most inbounds extreme terrain in the country.

Another bonus:  Because Crested Butte is remote compared to a lot of the Front Range resorts in Colorado, the lift lines are famously short here, meaning more time carving down the mountain!  If you can manage a trip that doesn’t straddle a holiday, you’ll have a chance to bag as much vert as your heart desires!

The Crested Butte area also offers some of the best Backcountry Skiing and Splitboarding anywhere.  If you’re new to the area, check out Irwin Guides  and take advantage of their backcountry savvy, which extends to the entire area.  CB also has one of the best, local avalanche forecast centers in the country, the Crested Butte Avalanche Center.  Check the forecast before you head out and, as always, be safe!!!

Nordic Skiing and Snowshoeing

Not into downhill? The Nordic Center in Crested Butte offers miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

It’s a peaceful way to explore the winter landscape, with trails winding through quiet forests and open meadows. Plus, it’s a great workout and a fun way to stay warm!

CB prides itself on maintaining pristine trails and it just doesn’t get much better!

Winter Biking

Fat Biking is a natural transition for CB’s mountain bike crowd.

Yes, you read that right. Fat biking is a thing in Crested Butte, and it’s as fun as it sounds.

Crested Butte regularly hosts Fat Bike festivals and has hosted the Fat Biking World Championships.

These bikes with oversized tires are perfect for cruising on snow-covered trails. It’s a unique way to experience the winter scenery and adds a whole new dimension to biking.

Après-Ski and Cozy Nights

After a day full of activities, there’s nothing better than relaxing with a warm drink or indulging in some après-ski fun.

Downtown Crested Butte is brimming with cozy cafes, lively bars, and restaurants that offer everything from gourmet meals to comfort food. Check out our Crested Butte and Gunnison Dining Guide here.

If you’re just looking for amazing cocktails and delicious snacks, you should also check out the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin just off the main drag in downtown CB.  It’s a really intimate, cozy place and I’ve never been there when either a cocktail or small bites didn’t wow me!

A Nice-To-Have Items for your trip to Crested Butte

Let’s face it, if you’re traveling to Crested Butte in the Winter, it’s likely to be cold.  Summers are nice, with warm days and cool nights.  Regardless of the time of the year, here are a few of our favorite things for a trip to CB:

  • A mini phone tripod will help catch all those amazing pics!

    Mini Phone Tripod – Whether your in CB during summer or winter, photo opportunities abound.

This is a great mini-tripod, that will work with any phone (some of the older ones used the lightening port as the attachment, which will not work with newer iphones).

Just be careful taking selfies as those last couple steps backward, to set up the perfect shot, could involve a serious drop of one of our incredibly photogenic peaks!!!


Hot Hands for warming those fingers and toes!

Nothing ruins a good time like frozen digits!

Whether you’re walking around town or out for a fun snowshoe tour, these hand and toe warmers will keep you focused on the beauty of Crested Butte and not on your frozen fingers or toes!


  • Stay Hydrated!

    Yeti Yonder water bottle – Staying hydrated is always important, but, when you’re at over 8,000 feet above sea level, and the environment is bone dry, with near zero humidity, hydration is the key to feeling good on your vacation.  This is especially true if you participating in any of the great multitude of opportunities to be active.  Most of us don’t live at this altitude, and breathe a little harder when we’re there, which can dry you out even faster.

The Yeti Yonder water bottle is light, comes with their super cool Chug Cap, and is BPA-Free.

If I’m going to be active, I even mark some lines on these bottles with a sharpie to remind me how often, and how much, I should be drinking to keep functioning at my best.

  • So many uses!

    Buff Merino Neck Gaiter – Winter in CB often comes with brisk, tip-of-the-nose chilling winds and, because of the dry, high desert climate, the summer can be a bit dusty. Both seasons feature bright, strong sun that can cause a burn even with regular application of sunscreen.

These Buff Brand Merino Gaiters are warm in the winter and cool in the summer, provide some relief from the sun, and, being merino-wool based, they also don’t get stinky on the 3rd day of your trip.

In Conclusion

Crested Butte is a year-round playground for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Colorado Rockies. Whether you’re soaring down a mountain bike trail under the summer sun or carving fresh tracks in the powdery snow, this town offers an unforgettable escape from the everyday. So pack your bags, bring your sense of adventure, and come see what Crested Butte has in store for you. Trust me, you won’t want to leave!

About the Author

Avid backcountry splitboarder, camper, overlander, traveler, foodie, trained sommelier, and lover of tech and gadgets!

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