Crested Butte is good for the soul. I saw a pillow that said that in one of the local shops and couldn’t agree more. While alpine skiing and mountain biking have put this Colorado town on the map, it’s the laidback vibe that makes it worthy of your next vacation: It's been described as a surf town in the mountains.
It’s hard to believe a town this size possesses so much magic, but it does. Here are 10 things you don’t want to miss if you visit.
We had to weave around partiers to avoid all the fun entertaining chaos at this brakeless bike race, held each summer during Crested Butte Bike Week, as it comes down from the top of Kebler Pass into the heart of the town. This is the world’s oldest mountain bike festival followed by a party the whole town joins in on, with both riders and spectators in costume.
Happy Hour at BONEZ
Known for tequila, tacos, and trouble, BONEZ gets serious praise for strong margaritas that use only natural sweeteners. Not to be forgotten are the two-for-one tequila shots during happy hour, which includes everything behind the bar, even the pricey stuff.
Dinner at The Sunflower
This farm-to-table eatery is a local favorite for obvious reasons and usually requires reservations. A frequently rotating menu uses fresh, local ingredients. Order the flavorful risotto, tender lamb, and the apple crisp.
Order a Dozen Donuts at Niky’s
After seeing crowds of people with pink bakery boxes in hand, we had to see what all the fuss was about. Niky’s Mini Donuts are made fresh throughout the day with a dozen flavors including the Bee Hive, Cinnamon Sugar, Cotton Candy Crunch, and Death by Chocolate.
Hike the Lupine Trail
With over 2 million acres of public land, Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley offer endless opportunities to get outside. On this 10.7-mile loop from town, bug spray and sunscreen are a must. Bring your camera to snap views of the wildflowers, Nicholson Lake and mountains (including Aspen). Crested Butte is the official Wildflower Capital of Colorado, so being able to see all the bright and beautiful wildflowers throughout the hike was a literal breath of fresh air. Download the free CBGTrails app for maps of area trails. If you're looking for a hike closer to town, Lower Loops and Woods Walk are great options.
You’ve earned these post-hike cocktails back in town. Specializing in locally made, rum-based cocktails, and light bites, the distillery’s must-try drinks are the cucumber and cranberry tinged El Pepino Martini (order it on the rocks, a summertime preference) and the spicy, pineapple and habenero-based Senorita, along with the animal fries (Chilean sweet potato fries topped with all kinds of goodness to refuel you after the hike) and a seared ahi tuna bowl. Rum at Montanya’s is craft-distilled by hand from American-grown sugar cane and Colorado mountain spring water.
We earned our carbo loading at Secret Stash, the town’s best pizza spot and a staple since 2002. The wait will probably be long, and even longer if you want an outdoor table in the summertime. Start with the White Wino, a frozen slushie that the menu promises is “perfect for a raucous book club brunch.” They even have a specialty pizza called the Texas Biggin.
Part of the joy of eating outside was seeing the town’s free year-round shuttle system. Like the town itself, the shuttle is anything but normal. When new buses are introduced, the locals are asked to submit proposals for how the buses should be painted. Each one is unique and adds to the allure of Crested Butte.
For Sunday breakfast, it’s hard to pass up this casual local favorite that serves up worthy breakfast burritos, bakery items, traditional breakfasts, and also has a full bar. What else could you want?
Golf at The Club at Crested Butte
If you’ve never golfed at 9,000 feet of elevation, do yourself a favor and schedule a tee time. The Robert Trent Jones Jr. 18-hole Championship Course is set at the base of Crested Butte Mountain (a 12,162-foot peak in the Elk Range), which almost makes it hurt a little less when you shank the ball for the fourth time. It’s the only golf course in town, but golfing across 160 acres of pristine wilderness is something you won’t want to skip out on during your visit.
The Elk Mountain Lodge, a historic, quaint bed and breakfast originally built in 1919 to house the town’s miners, is located just two blocks from the main drag, Elk Avenue. The owners will likely be the same folks checking you in and cooking your breakfast.
We made the 4.5 hour, 230-mile drive from Denver to Crested Butte, but there are direct flights via United from Houston and Denver right into the Gunnison airport. In the winter months there are additional direct flights from Dallas. Gunnison County consists of four small mountain towns—Gunnison, Almont, Crested Butte, and Mt. Crested Butte.