I’m a Colorado local and in this guide, I share my picks for the best things to do in Crested Butte.
We will cover year-round Crested Butte activities, including outdoor recreation, interactive history, and day trips. With these insights, you’ll understand why Crested Butte is my favorite mountain town and one of Travel Lemming’s top places to travel in 2023.
Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. Thank you!
26 Best Things to Do in Crested Butte
Crested Butte Mountain Resort
Hit the slopes in “the last great Colorado ski town”
With more than 1,500 skiable acres, Crested Butte Mountain Resort ranks as one of the best ski resorts in Colorado. Visitors will find groomed trails for all skill levels, though the majority are best suited for advanced skiers and riders. Two terrain parks and uphill access routes add even greater variety.
Private and group lessons are available at Crested Butte Ski Resort, as are gear rentals. For ski-in, and ski-out access, book one of their luxurious on-site properties.
Crested Butte Wildflower Festival
Hike countless trails in “Colorado’s Wildflower Capital”
Regarded as “Colorado’s Wildflower Capital,” Crested Butte is a very popular Colorado destination in the mid to late summer. Every July, the town hosts a 10-day Wildflower Festival that features guided hikes, plus various workshops and art classes. Learn firsthand about the region’s botany, birding, geology, and more at this beloved community event.
Float along peaceful shores just outside of town
Paddleboarding is one of the best Crested Butte summer activities, and Meridian Lake is a prime location. After collecting your equipment rentals in town, you’ll reach this beautiful lake via a 10-minute drive and a half-mile hike. Though short, the trail is steep with a sizable elevation gain of 280 feet.
Once there, you’ll be treated to peaceful scenery and an afternoon of fun. Pack a picnic, take a cool dip, and grab hold of the rope swing for a splashy thrill. Aside from Meridian Lake, other nearby paddle destinations include the Slate River, Emerald Lake, and Lake Irwin.
Downtown Crested Butte
Pop into art galleries, boutiques, bookshops, and breweries
Full of charming attractions, a stroll down Elk Avenue is a must when visiting Crested Butte, CO. Here, you’ll find a variety of local shops and eateries, each held in colorful and historical buildings.
Several local art galleries are also found on Elk Avenue, all of which are part of the Crested Butte Creative District. On this main street, you’ll also find the National Historic District, a distinction received in 1974. As you wander, take in the Victorian architecture that reflects the mining town’s past.
Cycle singletrack in the town that birthed the sport
Crested Butte, Colorado is considered by many as one of the birthplaces of mountain biking. Since the ‘70s, mountain bikers have been riding the area’s singletrack. Some of these early enthusiasts came together to form the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association. It’s now the world’s oldest mountain bike club.
Today, fans of the sports dream of riding in Crested Butte, home to 750 miles of biking trails. New and seasoned riders will find plenty of scenic places to explore. For route recommendations and rentals, head to Handlebar Bike & Board.
Take a scenic drive to Colorado wine country
Kebler Pass is a portion of the West Elk Loop Scenic and Historic Byway. It connects Crested Butte with Paonia, an eastern mountain town known for its agriculture and culinary scene. Several wineries and farm-to-table restaurants draw summer visitors to the destination.
The scenic drive is accessible from May to November and is a popular leaf-peeping spot in the autumn months. Note that it’s largely a packed dirt road, though 4WD is not required. Several primitive campsites are found along Kebler Pass, perfect for pitching a tent or parking a camper van.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Marvel at the sky above and the dramatic landscape below
Found in Gunnison County, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park makes for a great day trip from Crested Butte. It’s located roughly two hours from the mountain town and is one of the best national parks in Colorado.
The park is famed for its steep, deep, and narrow canyon, providing stunning views. Things to do include hiking, rock climbing, rafting, and stargazing from one of the Colorado’s most scenic campgrounds.
👉 Don’t miss: On your way to the national park, stop at Curecanti National Recreation Area for even more outdoor fun.
Explore a former mining town, now inhabited by a scientific community
Twenty minutes north of Crested Butte lies the famous ghost town of Gothic. During the mining boom of the late 1800s, the town had an estimated thousand residents, plus 200 buildings. Today, several of the original structures remain.
In Gothic, you’ll also find the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab. Every summer, the research center draws field biologists and students from around the country. These scientists study historical data and evolutionary processes found in the local ecosystems.
Though set along a dirt road, Gothic is accessible year-round. Starting in June, the visitor center at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab is open to the public, too.
Crested Butte Adventure Park
Work out kids’ energy at this thrilling summer attraction
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (970) 251-7021 | Website | Hours: Seasonal, 10 am – 5 pm Wednesday – Sunday, Closed Monday – Tuesday | Entrance: $29 adults and children 5+, $20 under 5 | 👉 Book Crested Butte Mountain Resort
Crested Butte Adventure Park is one of the best summer activities at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Children will love these attractions, including a bungee jump trampoline and rock climbing wall. There’s also Tin Cup Mining Co., an interactive gem panning experience. Unlimited play is accessible with a full-day ticket.
Crested Butte Museum
Examine artifacts that share local history and town pride
Located along Elk Avenue, the Crested Butte Museum is set within the town’s old general store. Artifacts lie within cases and along the walls, depicting all that made Crested Butte the place it is today. Mining history and Wild West days are discussed, as are the mountain bike and ski industries.
The town’s long-time residents are highlighted, too, pictured in a series of black and white portraits. The charming, miniature display of Crested Butte also exemplifies the town’s pride.
Things to Do in Crested Butte in Winter
Camp 4 Coffee
Pick up a pastry and cup of joe from either cozy location
Start your snow day adventures with a visit to Camp 4 Coffee. This local cafe has two locations, one in the more-so residential Crested Butte South, and another off downtown’s Elk Avenue.
The southern location has a small indoor seating area, complete with stocked bookshelves. The Elk Ave. shop offers grab-and-go service, though, on a warm winter day, it’s lovely to hang out on the patio. Be sure to order their house-made baked goods, which are just as popular as their coffee.
Book a Bed & Breakfast
Stay in a renovated, historic suite while on your ski getaway
What could be more charming than a bed and breakfast stay in a snowy mountain town? In this Coloradoan’s book, nothing competes.
You’ll find several local bed and breakfasts in Crested Butte, including Scarp Ridge Lodge. The blue boutique hotel appears rustic from the outside, maintaining its former saloon façade. Inside, you’ll find a saltwater pool, steam room and sauna, a full gym (Peloton included), and a personalized in-room bar. Talk about a luxury ski getaway!
Purple Mountain Bed and Breakfast is another solid choice. The adults-only stay is set within the previous Big Mine mining office. Now renovated, it features six comfortable rooms, an outdoor hot tub, a hot chocolate bar, and daily craft beer tastings.
Crested Butte Nordic Center
Experience the “nordic ski capital of Colorado”
In addition to the “last great ski town” and “wildflower capital,” Crested Butte claims one more grand title: the nordic ski capital of Colorado. This is due to the Crested Butte Nordic Center, a premier nordic skiing destination featuring more than 30 miles of groomed trails.
Ski equipment rentals, lessons, and backcountry tours are available on-site. After a day of shuffling through snow, enjoy a five-course dinner with a view at the Magic Meadows Yurt. The cozy, heated space can seat up to 40, though reservations are required.
Cycle across groomed trails in the Gunnison Valley
In addition to skiing, the Crested Butte Nordic Center allows you to experience fat biking. Get your fat bike rental from The Alpineer, then explore its 6 miles of groomed, beginner-friendly trails. You’ll find these at Town Ranch, the Recreation Path, Riverbend Connector, and Teocalli Connector.
The Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association also grooms trails throughout the Gunnison Valley. These include Gothic Road, Cement Creek Road, Snodgrass Mountain, and The Club at Crested Butte. The best part? Accessing both organizations’ trails is completely free!
Sea Level Spa
Rejuvenate with a variety of traditional and unique services
You’ve likely noticed a trend: Crested Butte is all about outdoor recreation. But even the greatest of enthusiasts need a break from time to time. Located on Elk Avenue, Sea Level Spa is the perfect place to rest and rejuvenate.
Services include various styles of massage, reflexology, and oxygen bar sessions. The spa also offers unique energetic healing treatments via Shamanic and electromagnetic techniques.
The Secret Stash
Party with the locals at this après ski destination
Another way to relax? Obviously, with a cold one in hand. The Secret Stash, an Elk Ave. mainstay, is a visitors’ and locals’ après ski destination. The lively atmosphere makes for a great place for a beer and a slice.
The robust menu also includes cocktails, salads, pasta, wings, and more. True fans opt for the “Booty & Bling” order, featuring a 16” booty call pizza, piled high with meat and cheese, plus a bottle of Cristal and a 420 bling hat. Yes, that’s the vibe — and you’re going to love it.
Center for the Arts Crested Butte
Attend a variety of events at this visual and performing arts venue
Perhaps art, culture, and literary lectures are your preferred post-ski ambiance. At the Center for the Arts Crested Butte, a visual and performing arts venue, events occur year-round.
Its calendar ranges from film screenings to concerts, writing workshops, and knitting circles. If you’re a fan of the finer things and a bit of booze, there are “drawing and drinks” sessions, as well as “watercolor and wine” nights. Surely, you’ll find something that piques your interest.
Take a horseback ride through a winter wonderland
Fantasy Ranch hosts horseback rides in all seasons, but there’s something extra special about clopping through the snow. One-hour winter excursions allow visitors to ride around Almont, a small community found 20 minutes south of Crested Butte.
Take in canyon, river, and valley views while keeping an eye out for local wildlife. Often, visitors will see elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and bald eagles on their ride. If you’re nervous about the cold, note that the midway rest stop features hot chocolate around a warm fireplace.
Things to Do in Crested Butte in Summer
West Elk Loop
Drive along the Elk Mountains, stopping in mountain towns and scenic parks
The West Elk Loop Scenic and Historic Byway run along the Elk Mountain range, forming a lasso-shaped route that connects several Colorado mountain towns.
Farthest north, you’ll find Carbondale, followed by Paonia, Gunnison, and Crested Butte when heading clockwise. The byway also passes through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Curecanti National Recreation Area, and two of Colorado’s best state parks.
👉 Love road trips? Check out my 10-day Colorado itinerary!
Sample local flavors and shop for artisan goods
From late May to early October, the Crested Butte farmers market pops up on Elk Avenue. Stop by on Sundays to sample goods from local farmers and artisans. Vendors include Buckel Family Wine, Ellen’s Pickled Products, and Bees Company jams and preserves.
Businesses from Paonia, the agricultural neighbor of Crested Butte, add to the market selection. Stop by booths from Mountain Oven Bakery, Big B’s/Delicious Orchards, Twisted Root Organic Farm, and more.
Cast a line into alpine lakes and Gold Medal waters
Crested Butte features several stocked rivers and reservoirs, plus some of the best fishing lakes in Colorado. Some of the local’s favorite places to cast a line include the Taylor River, Blue Mesa Reservoir, and Peanut Lake.
The nearby Gunnison River is an especially lucky fishing spot, known for the United States’ largest Kokanee salmon. The migration occurs every September, though year-round, you can enjoy the river’s Gold Medal waters.
This title is designated to places that produce 60 pounds of trout per acre. And, at least a dozen trout must measure fourteen inches or greater — enough to feed a family!
West Maroon Pass
Trek to Aspen, a famed Colorado destination with plenty to do
A popular summer backpacking route, West Maroon Pass connects Aspen to Crested Butte. The strenuous 8-mile trail gains 2,165 feet in elevation, passing through wildflower fields and aspen groves. Views of the Colorado Rockies amaze, and you’ll likely spot wildlife, too.
Travel to Marble via an infamous, yet scenic mountain pas
Joining Marble and Crested Butte, Schofield Pass is known as the most deadly pass in Colorado. But don’t let that deter you from visiting! This warning is directed at off-road vehicle drivers, who should be highly experienced if attempting this route.
Those less accustomed to backcountry terrain should consider biking or hiking the 14-mile pass. Backpackers are welcome, too, as dispersed campsites are available throughout. The difficult trail rewards visitors with stunning views of Emerald Lake, Devils Punch Bowl, and the iconic Crystal Mill.
Hike this seasonal trail for summer wildflowers and autumn colors
Not to be confused with Snodgrass Mountain, Snodgrass Trail is 7.2 miles in length and gains just over 800 feet in elevation. Its long, winding descents make it a popular pick among mountain bikers, too.
Please adhere to seasonal trail closures, as the path is only accessible from late spring through fall. These seasons are the best times to visit regardless, as you’ll hike past wildflower meadows and dense aspen forests.
Be amazed by the blankets of wildflowers
The Walrod Loop Trail is a moderate 4.5-mile route that gains 1,020 feet in elevation. It’s one of the best wildflower hikes in Crested Butte, drawing crowds during the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival. Bright fields of flowers and mountain views make for spectacular photos. Caves and a creekside descent add to the scenery.
Judd Falls Trail
Venture to a scenic waterfall on this easy-going hike
A family-friendly trek, Judd Falls Trail is just 2.2 miles in length and gains 462 feet in elevation. It takes hikers past pines and aspens, leading to a lovely waterfall and mountain overlooks. Local herds of cows and the occasional hiker will keep you company on the summer trail.
FAQs About What to Do in Crested Butte, CO
What is Crested Butte known for?
Crested Butte is known for its outdoor recreation, including alpine and nordic skiing, mountain biking, and hiking. It’s also beloved for its history, downtown district, and central location. Other nearby mountain towns include Aspen and Paonia.
Is Crested Butte worth visiting in the summer?
Crested Butte is worth visiting in summer. In July, the town hosts the annual Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, featuring art classes, workshops, and guided hikes. Mountain biking is also highly popular in the summer months, as is fishing and paddle boarding.
I hope this guide has helped you find plenty of things to do in Crested Butte, CO!
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