Photo: Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock

12 Reasons Crested Butte Is Colorado's Coolest Mountain Town

Student Work Insider Guides Food + Drink
by Brian Lewis Sep 20, 2015

1. We’ve got outdoor activities for every season and every interest.

Obviously you can ski in the winter and mountain bike in the summer. Digging a little deeper reveals family-friendly whitewater on the Taylor, (and not-so-family-friendly waterfall drops at Oh-Be-Joyful), the epicenter of Colorado fly-fishing in Almont, SUPing on pristine mountain lakes like Irwin or Lost Lake, peak bagging and climbing in the Raggeds or Maroon Bells, horseback riding, snowshoeing, dog sledding and a lifetime’s worth of trails for hiking and running.

2. It’s got the best après-activity scene around.

When you’re done with whatever activity you chose for the day, you’ll find more quality dining and drinking spots than any small town rightfully deserves. Sit your mud-splattered bike shorts on a stool at Brick Oven Pizzeria and choose from over 30 taps of craft beer. Once quenched, go clean yourself up (or not, locals don’t care) and wander down to Ginger Cafe for elevated pan-Asian or across to Sunflower for a farm-to-table “supper” experience where upwards of 90% of food is sourced from Colorado. Finish the night with PBR and shots at Kochevar’s Saloon — a building so historic that beer taps can’t even be installed.

3. There’s more wildflowers per square inch than possibly anywhere in the world.

It’s no accident that CB was named the Wildflower Capital of Colorado by the state legislature. Want to be blown away by meadows exploding with columbine, mule’s ears sunflower, paintbrush, lupine and dozens of other species I’ll never learn the names of? Simply plan a visit for July or August, drive down any road leading from town and prepare to fill your memory card.

4. You can hit up the Crested Butte Film Festival.

Crested Butte Film Festival, breakfast at McGills. Elk Ave Crested Butte,Co #visitcrestedbutte #Crestedbutte #cbfilmfestival

A photo posted by Visit Crested Butte (@visitcrestedbutte) on

Colorado has no shortage of film festivals, but only this one pairs a diverse lineup of documentary, narrative and outdoor adventure films with an accessible, snob-free atmosphere whose sole mission is spreading cinematic love to the masses. Extra credit for coinciding with peak fall color season should you need to balance your movie-induced vitamin D deficiency with golden, aspen-filtered sunlight.

5. 750 miles of mountain bike trails.

With every ability level and riding discipline covered, if you can’t find a trail to ride here, you’re doing it wrong. Don’t like peddling uphill? Take the lift at Evolution Bike Park. Want to bomb down tight singletrack with wildflowers violently slapping your handlebars? Get on the legendary 401. It’s still snow-packed up high? Try the sage desert trails of Hartman Rocks. Don’t know what the hell you’re doing? Go for an easy spin on the Lower Loop and you’ll be window shopping at the bike shop before your sweat has dried.

6. There’s a legit cocktail scene.

Thai One On (coconut, basil, lime, rum)

A photo posted by Amy Glickson (@amyglix) on

When you’re ready for a break from beer, you can’t do much better than the inventive and exotic infusions at Dogwood Cocktail Cabin. Or if you don’t think butternut squash, sage and cinnamon have any business fraternizing with vodka, maybe you’d prefer some award-winning rum fresh from the second-floor still at Montanya.

7. Free camping at Oh-Be-Joyful.

Pitch your tent next to towering mountains and fall asleep to the babbling of the Slate River — all while being close enough to town to grab a coffee at Camp 4 in the morning. Free camping usually means zero amenities, but for some reason, the BLM decided to provide picnic tables and vault toilets and still charge the exorbitant price of nada. But, if you’re feeling karmically inclined — or just like the idea of fresh toilet paper — maybe drop a few bills in the donation box.

8. Nothing beats an end-of-the-road location.

This is why we 💙 Crested Butte. 📷: @chipppyyy

A photo posted by Travel Crested Butte (@travelcrestedbutte) on

Highway 9 through Breck is a parking lot in the summer. And sure, Vail is gorgeous, but try to escape the sound of truck traffic on I-70. CB is on the way to, well nowhere, so you won’t be bothered with all of that nonsense. Unless bike jams stress you out — in which case maybe you should keep away after all.

9. It’s got the most mind-blowing fall color you’ve ever seen.

Here’s a question for your next pub trivia night: what’s the largest living thing on earth? Blue whale? Giant sequoia? Kanye’s ego? Nope to all three. It’s a grove of aspen trees, all connected underground by a massive system of roots and sharing the same DNA. And one of the largest groves in the world is at Kebler Pass — only a few miles outside of Crested Butte. Whether you care about that little factoid or not, take a drive up the pass in mid-September where you’ll treated to a golden spectacle of happy little trees that would have made Bob Ross’ afro start smoking.

10. There’s stores you actually want to shop at.


A photo posted by Kimbre Woods (@kimbrekimbre) on

Sure there’s a handful of ubiquitous T-shirt and souvenir shops, but between Big Al’s Bicycle Heaven, Mountain Earth Whole Foods and The Alpineer, I actually don’t mind browsing around Elk Avenue while afternoon showers clear. And I challenge you to find me a better small-town bookstore than Townie Books.

11. Bikes. EVERYWHERE.

Racks overflow on Elk Avenue, rental houses come with townies in the garage and two-wheeled sculptures pop up all over town. CB is an absolute mecca of bike culture. So do yourself a favor…leave the car, take the Cannondale. (#sorrynotsorry for that horrible Godfather pun.)

12. There’s day trips for days.

Care to explore Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park — one of the deepest, narrowest canyons on the continent? Or maybe have a look at the quarry that supplied the marble for the Lincoln Memorial? Want to take a dip in Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado’s largest body of water, surf some waves at the Gunnison Whitewater Park or indulge in a Riesling or Pinot Noir tasting on the West Elk Wine Trail? I would go on, but shouldn’t you be packing the car already?

Discover Matador