This Colorado mountain town holds your next fall adventure
Crested Butte is world renowned for its summer wildflowers; but visiting in the fall is where the real magic happens. Cooler temperatures, crystal clear rivers and breathtaking mountain views are only a few of the reasons why you’ll want to add Crested Butte to your fall destination bucket list. Whether you’re looking to get out and explore the many trails in the area, wade into the cool waters in search of trout or relax and simply enjoy the fall colors, the town of Crested Butte shines brightest in the off season.
FOR THE LEAF PEEPER
For the best fall colors near Crested Butte, head 16 miles west to Kebler Pass. This high elevation mountain pass, topping out at 10,007 feet, winds through the Gunnison National Forest and connects Crested Butte to Paonia. Head up during peak season as the state’s largest aspen grove is set ablaze with shades of gold, crimson and orange with rewarding views of the West Elk Mountains. Plan for about two hours of driving from one side of the pass to the other. Unless inclement weather is present, this two-wheel drive dirt road is accessible by most vehicles.
FOR THE MOUNTAIN BIKER
For a fun, intermediate ride that starts and ends close to downtown Crested Butte, check out the Lupine trail system. The two sections of the Lupine Trail (named Lupine 1 and Lupine 2) were built in 2011, making them relatively new to the area. For bikers wanting to add some mileage and ride back into town, continue on Slate River Road from the end of Lupine 2 to Gunsight Bridge. From here, the singletrack trails of the Lower Loop trail system can be taken back into downtown Crested Butte, totalling a little over 11 miles.
Crested Butte’s most famous mountain bike trail — the 401 Trail — is located north of town up Gothic Road, and offers a fun yet challenging ride with plenty of elevation gain, fast downhill and spectacular mountain views. The 401 is commonly ridden as a 13.6-mile loop, but can also be ridden as an 8.3-mile shuttle to cut out the dirt road climb. Although this trail is most popular in the summer, fall brings cooler temperatures and fewer crowds for an enjoyable ride.
FOR THE FLY FISHER
Crested Butte offers world-renowned fishing waters, making it an excellent getaway for those wishing to hook a few brook, brown, rainbow or cutthroat trout.
Anglers should head to the Taylor River headwaters north of Taylor Reservoir. Countless brook trout call these waters home. Numerous feeder creeks and beaver ponds found along the main stream of the Taylor River provide some of the best high country fly fishing waters in Colorado.
The Crested Butte backcountry also offers endless opportunities for backcountry fly fishing. Stop by local fly fishing shops Crested Butte Angler or Dragonfly Anglers for suggestions, supplies or a guided tour.
WHERE TO STAY
For a fun and unique place to stay right downtown, check out the Cristiana Guesthaus. This quirky, yet cozy European-style chalet welcomes you with fresh cookies and complimentary wine during happy hour. Take a glass to the second story balcony and enjoy views of Mount Crested Butte at sunset.
The Nordic Inn is located at the base of Crested Butte Mountain Resort, and is the longest operating lodge in Gunnison County. Recently remodeled, the Inn offers comfortable and luxurious accommodations with secure bike storage and bike cleaning station. Grab s’mores supplies and enjoy hanging out at the fire pit after a day of adventuring.
Both of these options offer pet friendly rooms and complimentary breakfast.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
For a nice sit-down breakfast spot, start the day at Paradise Cafe. For a quick grab and go breakfast burrito, check out Rumors Coffee & Tea House, an espresso bar that doubles as a bookstore.
After a long day of exploring Crested Butte, get your pizza fix at Secret Stash. You can’t go wrong with so many fun specialty pies to choose from such as the Texas Biggin’, Notorious F.I.G. and The Killa Vegan. If tacos are more your thing, check out Teocalli Tamale for fast, simple tacos, burritos and tamales.
After dinner, head to Montanya Distillers for a craft cocktail. The distillery specializes in American rum, and offers a cocktail for every palette — including “zero proof” mixed drinks for those who prefer non-alcoholic beverages. Try the Caldera: Platino Rum infused with cucumber and mixed with honey lavender syrup, lime, mint and jalapeño.
This story was originally published in October 2020.