With its quaint setting at the base of a picturesque mountain, the town of Crested Butte seems straight out of storybook. I am thrilled to recap our recent trip and share a mini guide to visiting this charming town in the summer!
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It seems a very cliché Dallas thing to go to Colorado in the summer. But now I see the reason so many in our area vacate the 100 degree temps in July and head west: it is absolutely beautiful! Not only that, a Colorado vacation is pretty effortless. I didn’t plan any activities in advance and literally threw in a bunch of tees, jeans, and fleeces in our suitcases the night before (which is very unlike me but also very refreshing!).
But as newcomers to the Colorado summer vacation thing – without any family ties to certain area – how does one choose where to go? You obviously can’t go wrong with any of the resort towns towns like Telluride, Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek or Aspen. But there was something a bit more tucked away about Crested Butte and that was appealing to us. Yes, it’s harder to get to by plane (United does fly to nearby Gunnison), but for us it was a 13.5 hour drive which is really about the same as driving to 30A.
Crested Butte has that authentic Rocky Mountain small town feel. Founded as a coal mining town, Crested Butte doesn’t have as ritzy a vibe as some other ski towns, which greatly appealed to my husband who is always worried about over-spoiling our girls. But the town is still very nice, clean, and extremely safe.
Where to Stay
I didn’t understand this before we booked this trip but there are two popular options: rent a house in town (at the base of the mountain) or rent a condo/hotel on the mountain (near the ski resort). Both have advantages. The nice thing is the town’s cute painted buses are free and run every every twenty minutes so you can go back and forth to both areas easily if you don’t want to drive. You can put bikes on the bus, too!
We chose to stay at the Lodge at Mountaineer Square on top of the mountain which is part of Crested Butte Mountain Resorts. It was more of a condo with two bedrooms and a large living, dining, and kitchen area. Housecleaning everyday was a plus for us and we also liked being in the resort area with the pool and easy access to the outdoor activities like biking and the Adventure Park for kids.
I think both areas are safe enough to let older children walk around in pairs or groups.
What to Do
This was probably the highlight of our trip! We loved listening to great music overlooking the rocky mountains just steps from our hotel. There is food (hot dogs/hamburgers) available to purchase as well as alcohol. Bring blankets or chairs and get a spot before the concert starts at 5:30 on Wednesdays.
We happened to be there during the annual Crested Butte Arts Festival (which was amazing) but there are always things going on in the culture scene. Check this calendar.
My husband quickly picked up on the fact that mountain biking is the skiing of the summer. I am not sure if it’s popular in other resort towns but it seemed everyone was mountain biking in Crested Butte. Adults and children who can ride a bike well can do take part in this activity. My husband rented his bike and equipment at Flat Iron and they were really helpful, but there are several places near the lifts.
Rent bikes for the week or day or even half day. If you stay in town you will probably use them more. But if you stay at the resort you can bike to town and put them on the bus to go back up. They have a very nice recreational path for biking down the mountain and around Rainbow Park.
Definitely study up on the various trails here where you can filter by level of difficulty. Here are some trails we hiked as well as other highly recommended trails:
- Crested Butte Mountain – There are a number of easy to difficult hikes on the mountain. Walk straight up or take the ski lift to higher elevations. The Adventure Park office can give you a trail map and tips. One fun route is to make a pit stop at the bar on top of the mountain.
- Judd Falls – This classifies as an easy family hike, but it’s rocky! So don’t wear flip flops and be prepared for some challenges for littles. But we all did it and the waterfall at the end was worth it.
- Long Lake – There are two ways to get up to Long Lake (which is at the top of a mountain). One is short and steep and one is a tad longer and more like a trail so not challenging. Beautiful views.
- Woods Walk – Easy hike.
- Anthracite Mesa – Pretty steep, but really cool. Probably not for littles.
- Three Lakes Loop – My friend, Renee, says this is her boys’ favorite hike. It’s a bit confusing so make sure to read up on it. They take fishing poles and have lunch mid-hike.
We rented paddleboards at CB Sup and drove to Lake Irwin to paddleboard. I highly recommend this! You could spend half a day or a day there if you brought a picnic lunch, fishing poles, etc. There is a place where children can jump off the rocks into the lake, too.
Near the ski lifts!
Several places offer rentals and angler excursions.
White Water Rafting
Three Rivers Resort came highly recommended. The water levels were really low when we were visiting and my husband said the girls have been on plenty of float trips;). He didn’t want to pay unless they were going to experience true white water rafting, but hopefully next time!
You can ride the ski lifts just for the view. Or take up to hike! Another highlight of the trip.
This was right next to our hotel! This is a tad pricey but tickets are good for an entire day – and each ticket includes one lift ticket. On Wednesday nights the park is open until 7 to coordinate with the outdoor concert on the mountain. We let the girls wait in line for things while we sat and listened to the concert. If you want to avoid lines, go to the park in the morning.
They can choose from several of the activities above. We didn’t do these but nice if you need a break while on vacation!
The town hangout for parents of littles! Bring bikes, scooters, balls. And it’s just a few blocks from the downtown area.
Lots of cute shops on Elk street, but my girls probably went into Pooh’s Corner a dozen times. Such a neat little toy shop and the owner is so sweet and patient with the gobs of children coming in and out each day.
Where to Eat
The nice thing about our hotel is that it had a full-size kitchen so we ate some easy meals there to save money. We ate at some great restaurants, too. Mostly child-friendly places, but I’ve included a few date night options based on readers’ recommendations.
We preferred eating at restaurants with patios so we could enjoy the cute little town even more!
Secret Stash Pizza – salad bar and the special pizza with figs were amazing!
Pitas in Paradise – Wait and pounce for an outside table to enjoy people watching
McGill’s – for breakfast (Paradise was also recommended)
Ryce – Fried rice is amazing!
Ginger Cafe – go early for a table outside
Brick Oven Pizzeria – We didn’t go here but looked like another fun outside patio place.
Teocalli Tamale – Order the counter place that’s easy for lunch.
Third Bowl Ice Cream – Unique flavors like Honey Lavender but we also like the classics at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
Sunflower – probably the most highly recommended local place that’s also a coop. Good for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Soupçon – date night place!
Elk Avenue Prime – Another date night place.
Slogars– family-style with fried chicken came highly recommended but we weren’t in the mood for this type of food.
View more photos and videos from our Crested Butte trip on DoSayGive’s Instagram page. (Click the “Travel” highlights icon in profile.)
Will we go back? I sure hope so! We would love to return in the winter, too, and take our girls skiing.
Have you been to Crested Butte? Share your recs below! And thanks to all my friends and readers who gave us some of these great recommendations!
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