Full disclosure: out of everywhere I have ridden my bike, Crested Butte tops the list as my all-time favorite location. I’ve ridden all over the United States, and while there are many places I still want to visit inside our nation’s borders as well as abroad, Crested Butte is currently my favorite place in the world.
When I first learned to mountain bike in Wisconsin, Dean, the man that taught me to ride, used to rave about this place called Crested Butte. I eventually learned that he and a group of friends would take a trip out west every year or two, and almost every single time they went they traveled to Crested Butte. At first I thought that was ridiculous: if you only get to visit the Rocky Mountains once a year, why the heck would you go to the same place almost every time?
I didn’t understand it at the time, but after visiting Crested Butte a couple of times myself, I eventually realized why: if you only get to the visit the Rockies once a year, there’s no point in wasting time on anything less than the best.
Obviously, the main draw of any mountain bike destination is the trails. And does Crested Butte have trails! Hundreds of miles of epic singletrack trails lie in the mountains surrounding the town, some of which begin right out of downtown.
There are so many trails to choose from in Crested Butte–and that number is growing all the time, thanks to a very active local mountain bike club. I can’t even begin to detail all of these world-class rides but here are a few of the best:
Trail 401 is probably the best-known trail in Crested Butte–and for good reason! The singletrack descent is fabulous, and the views are… well, they’re basically some of the best mountain views I’ve ever seen from a mountain bike! For more information, be sure to read my detailed 401 ride report.
Next up on the list is the Reno / Flag / Bear / Deadman’s loop. While the scenery isn’t quite as fantastic as 401, the riding is, if anything, better. This loop provides a better singletrack-to-gravel-road ratio, and the trails just seem to have more variety and better flow than 401.
One of the trails that starts right from downtown is the Lower Loop. While this is actually more of a trail network/system than just one solitary trail, the Lower Loop provides some of the most beginner-friendly singletrack you can find at an elevation of 9,000 feet. Even if you’re not a beginner, these trails are still very fun and offer some gorgeous views! For more information, check out this article.
Crested Butte is no longer just home to massive big-mountain trail rides–it is quickly becoming a great location for gravity riding as well! Crested Butte Mountain Resort has really stepped up their bike park in recent years, so if you have a long-travel rig, be sure to pack that as well! For more information on the DH scene, check out this article.
There are dozens of excellent restaurants, pubs, and cafes in downtown Crested Butte, and it’s pretty hard to go wrong.
However, one place I would definitely recommend experiencing is the Brick Oven Pizzeria & Pub. In addition to excellent pizza and Italian food, they also have a great selection of craft beer.
If you’re looking for a place to grab a coffee in the morning or a delicious breakfast, be sure to check out Paradise Cafe.
While I personally don’t think Crested Butte is nearly as snooty and pretentious as many other Colorado mountain towns (such as Vail, Aspen, and Breckenridge), downtown can still feel pretty touristy. If you’re like me and that vibe gets on your nerves after a while, be sure to drop by the Gas Cafe on the edge of town for a bite to eat. As you might guess, this is a diner attached to a gas station, and it has that slightly rough around the edges diner feel that dissolves any sort of pretentiousness and makes you (well me, anyway) feel right at home.
Any mountain bike destination worth its salt has a variety of campgrounds to choose from, and Crested Butte is no exception. Which campground you choose depends, at least in part, on what trails you are most interested in riding, as many of the campgrounds have trails directly adjacent to them.
There’s also a pretty popular hostel in the town of Crested Butte. For clean beds and hot showers at a reasonable price, this is the place to go! More information is available on Orbitz.com.
For posh accommodations, check out one of the many hotels, lodges, or condos up at Mount Crested Butte including Elevation Hotel & Spa.
When to Visit
Since Crested Butte is at such a high elevation, the window of opportunity for a good mountain biking trip is pretty narrow. Some of the high trails don’t melt out until June or even, at times, early July, depending on how much snow they receive during the winter. Even then, I’ve mountain biked through snow on the way up to 401 in late August! The snows can return in October (or even earlier) but, again, it depends on the year. I’d say that the best time to visit would be from mid June to mid September.
If you’re the type that enjoys company on the trail, Fat Tire Bike Week, the annual mountain biker pilgrimage to Crested Butte, is usually held during the last week of June. If, on the other hand, you like to the have the trails relatively uncrowded, just avoid that week and you should be fine!
So what are you waiting for? Start planning your summer mountain bike getaway to Crested Butte now!
For even more information on where to stay, eat, and events to attend, be sure to check out this travel guide from local rider and Singletracks contributor GimmeAraise.