Check this out for a little perspective on the remoteness of Crested Butte: Despite its location about 12 miles from Aspen as the crow flies, the shortest distance via car between the two towns is approximately 100 miles in the summer when the mountain passes are open. In the winter weather, the passes are closed and the drive is about 170 miles, which is directly due to the fact that Crested Butte is served by only one major road, Highway 135, that dead-ends into the town and the adjacent Gunnison National Forest.
Because of this, as the locals put it, anyone who comes to Crested Butte really wants to come to Crested Butte. As any experienced traveler knows, this is exactly the sort of thing that makes a town special, the fact that anyone you see had to go out of their way to get there. No one’s driving through, no one’s going on a whim or because there’s a cheap flight.
Still, its reputation precedes it. I had heard so many people in Denver rave about it, because of the reasons above as well as the natural beauty of the area, that I had to block out a weekend to check it out. My timing was perfect in that it is prime wildflower season in Crested Butte, the valleys dotted with yellows and oranges, purples and reds. The sky was blue and the air clean, and we could still see the piles of snow high up on the surrounding peaks.
The major attraction in Crested Butte is, obviously, the mountain playground at your disposal. Biking, hiking, and camping are the main ingredients for a great weekend, followed by a nice, extended happy hour. The apres culture doesn’t melt away with the snow, mind you!
There are tons of options for camping, from the popular Oh Be Joyful to the more remote campsites near Gothic Mountain. I’d recommend the latter after experiencing both (although there was nothing wrong with Oh Be Joyful. In fact, the photos from the hike below are from the Oh Be Joyful trail that leaves from the camp sites). Take 135 through town until it dead ends into a dirt road and follow it for a few miles. You’ll pass a couple lakes and eventually see a marked pay-per-site campground with about 4 spots. Keep going past that, less than a mile, and you’ll come to another set of sites that are free. This is where we camped, and you can see our plot in the final photo of the collection below.
After all the dry weather and fires we’ve seen raging in Colorado over the past few years, it was absolutely amazing to be immersed in a green valley, seeing the flowers reaching up for the sky. That’s got to be a metaphor, or something.