Distance – 227 Miles
Time From Denver – 4 Hours
The Route – A few options… The fastest option is 285 South to Gunnison then up 135 to CB. From BV you could take Cottonwood Pass if it is open. A slightly longer but very senic route would be 70 west to Leadville > BV > Cottonwood Pass > Crested Butte. Check Google!
Nights – 2 Nights
Pit Stops – Leadville & Buena Vista
Photo-Ops – Twin Lakes, Cottonwood Pass, Lake
Sleeping Arrangements: Under The Stars or Airbnb
Since falling in love with CB last summer we have made 3 trips and plan to head back again this fall. Here is a quick run down of everywhere to go and then a longer story about our first trip to CB!
Where to Eat
Breakfast: If you’re headed up the mountain or looking for a yummy quick breakfast head to the Gas Cafe . Don’t be deterred by the fact that this is literally inside a gas station the breakfast sandwiches are amazing. Perfect for a hangover too! For a coffee & a pastry or a quick to go meal downtown head to Mountain Oven. For brunch on a patio, we love The Sunflower and Coal Creek Grill.
Lunch: Mountain Over and The Daily Dose also offer grab and go menu items perfect to take on a hike, as does the Gas Cafe. For a yummy lunch or brunch on a beautiful patio head to The Sunflower. Their Pimento Cheese BLT is to die for! The Tequila sangria is also so light and refreshing. For cheap and fast tacos Teocalli Temale is the spot, like a local Willys, Moe’s, Illegal Petes… you get it. If you can snag one of the few outdoor seats get a few tacos and margs to share.
Dinner: Secret Stash, hand down my favorite pizza in Colorado and I eat A LOT of pizza. We always order The Woodward and the “Big Ass Margarita” it’s the perfect meal. A trip to CB is not complete until you eat here. The Secret Stash sister restaurant, Bonez, also serves great Mexican dishes and delicious margs. For a more upscale experience head to Django for large tapas. My parents are still drooling over our dinner here. The Brussel Sprouts are some of the best I have ever had and the Halibut was superb as well.
South CB: We ended up in South CB to meet with our wedding planner and wound up at Tassinong Farms. This wine bar offers wine on top and some great local beers. We opted for a cheese plate (duh) but the salads all looks so good!
Sweets: Ice cream from Third Bowl or a yummy pastry from Wildflower Sweets under the Secret Stash.
Sunday Farmers Market – Sunday is the farmers market along Elk Avenue (main street) with lots and lots of vendors so you can shop, eat and explore all Elk Avenue has to offer.
What to Do
Shop: The Gypsy Wagon – this Texas transplant has amazing woman’s clothing and accessories as well as home goods and gifts. For more clothing (teens to 30s) check out Retail Therapy. For sporting goods and outdoors gear check out Dragonfly Anglers, Alpineer and Chopwood Mercantile.
Hikes: From the little town of Gothic there are some great hikes. Judd Falls is a super easy hike that takes you through wildflower fields to a beautiful waterfall. For a longer hike near Gothic check out Rustlers Gultch.
Another short hike is Long Lake. There are 2 ways to get to the lake. You can take the longer super easy trail (road) or go straight up, and I mean straight up. The straight up is like a scramble but will only take 10 mins or so to get up. Once you reach the lake you will see beautiful wildflowers and a beach for swimming!
Kebler Pass is drop-dead gorgeous. Scarpes Ridge loop is a great hike with some steep elevation gains but gives you spectacular views. Pay close attention to the LOOP as we missed the right side trail and did the very vertical descent as our ascent. If your coming in the fall be sure to drive down this road as well its STUNNING. I can’t wait ot go back this fall!
Travel Crested Butte has really great guides to all the hikes in the area!
Any outdoor activity you can think of CB has it! We are planning a Ski trip for this year so yall posted on that!
Where to Stay
Airbnb – As always if we are going to stay inside we prefer Airbnb. For a wedding this summer we found this adorable cabin right off Elk Avenue. Unless you are skiing I would opt to stay in town. Actually, even if I was skiing I would stay in town because the transport around town and to the Mountain Village is super convenient and free!
Camping – There are a number of designated and dispersed campsites around CB. VisitCrestedButte.com has the most amazing camping guide, check it out here.
Other things to note
CB is mountain town living! There is only a small grocery store and an Ace Hardwear so the larger stores are located in Gunnison. It may be wise to hit up a grocery store prior to getting to town. Acme Liquors across from the grocery store is great and has a huge selection!
CB is super easy to get around with great public transportation to take you from town to Mountain Village and all the way to the town of Gothic for some great hiking.
Peak Fall Foliage is historically around the end of September, while wildflowers peak mid-July
Our First Adventure to CB
4th of July in Crested Butte was our goal but we were determined to take our time getting there. Since The 4th was on a Monday we had all weekend to get there. We left early Saturday morning after visiting some friends in Breckenridge. We stopped for groceries in Frisco before heading up to i70 to Leadville.
Leadville – Was our first stop and we hit every trinket shop, outdoors outfitter, gallery and thrift store in town. Be sure to check out the local outdoor company Melanzana for some super cozy fleece wear. We didn’t eat in Leadville but I have heard great things about High Mountain Pies. Learn more about Leadville here.
Just down the hill from Leadville on 25 South is Twin Lakes. Here we stopped off at to take pictures, and walk the dogs around. Staying on 82 will take you up Independence Pass to Aspen. But our mission was CB!
Continuing down the hill we stopped in Beuna Vista for lunch, we put our names down at Eddyline Brewing and strolled through the new South Main Street.
Ever been to Seaside, FL? Better yet ever seen the Truman Show? Well, that same idea of a perfectly planned pastel community has been applied here. It’s beautiful! But it’s like being back in Florida with Seaside on one street and Rosemary Beach on the other. In the middle of South Main is a huge park that host concerts and festivals. Grab a marg from The Beuna Vista Adventure Hub and stroll around. PS. Eddyline is bomb.com
Our next stop was Goat Farm for some local cheese but with a mix weather report we drove up Cottonwood pass to find a dispersed camping spot for the night.
For the TL: DR version of the next 3 paragraphs – we drove for 6 hours looking for the perfect camping spot and boy did we find it! (scroll for perfect camping spot photos)
Well here are the facts of camping spots on Cottonwood Pass. There is lots of dispersed going from BV to the top not so much going down. Going down to CB there is lots of reserved camping and since it was a holiday weekend they were totally booked. Once we reached the lake we were far too committed to turn around so we continued on to CB, confident we would find a spot before nightfall.
I had read about some spots on Cement Road so we headed there, first. Cement Road lead us down very long and bumpy road into this tiny valley. We literally drove looking for spots till we droped of Google Maps and the road and river basically became one. After a 32 point turn and a bump ride out of the tiny valley, we pulled into the one designated camping spot to ask for help. The camp host told us they had heard Lake Irwin Camp up Kebler Pass had a few open spots left. She said it would be at least a 30 minutes to get there, so at 6:45 with nightfall approaching we decided to give it a shot. And it was totally worth all 6 hours of driving.
The pass was stunning. We closely followed two other cars hoping they were not looking for campsites as well. When we pulled in to the designated camp ground we knew we had found our spot – beautiful lake, gorgeous views…. but the campground leader wasn’t in sight. We looped to check for opens spots and at last, there was one. The spot was kind of in a depression, next to the road, and without great views… not ideal but it would be fine. However, something told us to keep driving… and right around the bend the trees opened to the most beautiful view I have ever seen with a super exposed but PERFECT camping spot waiting for us. We were elated, excited and ready to set up camp just as the fog of the day was rolling in.
We have since returned to this special spot and plan to return again this fall. Really the photos do it justice!!