Co- Authored by Jeff Game
The Beatles cruise by in their yellow submarine – a pack of Elvis’ fly down a dirt hill past cheering crowds along Elk Avenue – while a newly married couple bikes their way past your view of majestic snow-capped mountains in the distance to an awaiting wedding reception at the base of a twirling sky lift. Just another summer day in Crested Butte.
Located about 4-8 hours hiking distance from Aspen, Colorado, Crested Butte and its sister city of Gunnison give off affirming community vibes with a populace of hipster outsiders, former hippies, artists, creators and modern-day connoisseurs of the great outdoors.
Crested Butte welcomes you in with open arms, vastly unpretentious like their swanky neighbors in Telluride or Aspen. The beautifully expansive vistas with actual purple mountains majesty and a sound quality of life have become the escape hatch for those inhabiting the chaos of our modern-day urban jungles and suburbia submission dwellings. Many who have experienced a full Crested Butte escapade, now call it home.
Mountain bike expert and instructor Andy Shabo, who is a former transplant, now local, waxes poetic when describing his new hometown, “We’re at the end of the road – it’s hard to get here- someone probably told you about it. So, when you finally find us, it’s pretty magical.”
Blanketed with snow for more than half the year, summer in Crested Butte and Gunnison is all about the great outdoors, shaking off those winter cobwebs and soaking in as much sunshine and adventure as you can. We got our Crested Butte summer adventure on during bike week in June – a weekend filled with funky costumes, adult beverages, music, amazing Colorado sunsets and even our new favorite sport of fly fishing.
Great Wide Open
When we travel together, we tend to do a lot of the same things, and naps can play a big part in any getaway. This trip, having only three days to fit in loads of fun, we were determined to get off our tushies and explore the great wide open that is Crested Butte.
Our first morning in town we met our fishing guide Patrick from Willowfly Anglers at the Three Rivers Resort, tucked alongside the peacefully flowing Taylor River. Even though we were excited about trying something new, we were both thinking of giving this lesson an hour at best. A few hours later, the laid back and big fishing brained Patrick helped us fall in love with the relaxing and yet competitive nature that is fly fishing. Pun intended here…we are hooked.
The biking culture in Crested Butte is no joke and a two-wheeled way to experience the 750 miles of bike trails in the mountain valley. After all, mountain biking does have its origins in Crested Butte in the 70s, as locals ventured down old mining trail and single-tracked dusty backroads. All the while each year creating better and more durable version of bikes.
Since we are both novice mountain bikers, we sought the help of our new friends at the Back Country Bike Academy. Our biking instructor Andy is a former pro circuit BMX rider and all-around great teacher. Andy made us as comfortable as we could be, whizzing through narrow, rising trails, overlooking the Slate River, gazing out at the never-ending vistas that resemble a great beer commercial.
If you’re looking to do some relaxing in more of an herbal way, marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2014, with several successful dispensaries in Gunnison and Crested Butte.
With so many tasty marijuana edibles, sodas, and vaporizers to choose from, legal dispensaries have become a multigenerational and booming business in Colorado. So says the owner of Soma Cannabis Chuck Reynolds, “Our oldest customer is 93, and he started smoking pot in the 1930s. We see a good number of parents and their legal aged kids coming in, and even three generations together, which I always find amazing!”
Looking for a more traditional way to enjoy the chronic? The folks at the Inn at Tomichi Village offer a separate and cozy smoke room for guests seeking a more discrete way to legally light up.
Rolling with Homeys
Coming in a close second to Fourth of July weekend, Bike Week in Crested Butte is a big to do, bringing thousands to the area for wacky costumed-filled bike competitions of all kinds. The ever crowd-pleasing and traditional Chainless World Championship draws hundreds of thrill-seeking riders that go chainless for seven grueling downhill miles through Kebler’s Pass, while flying down the final hill onto the streets of Crested Butte, as thousands cheer on the wacky racers.
Getting your festival funk on at the Crested Butte Musical Festival is a great summer hang with locals while checking out an eclectic lineup of indie-folk, pop, country and opera that grace the grand Mirror Palace stage all summer long. We took in the festive opening night crowd for the very talented folksy Trout Steak Revival show. Listening to some cool tunes was a great way to kick off the summer concert series
Living in a Foodie Paradise
Quietly over the years Crested Butte has built a seriously diverse food scene in downtown, overflowing with abundant locally grown ingredients, along with innovative chefs.
You know a restaurant is that good when you have to go back and try it again. Sunflower is one of those kinds of restaurants with a relaxed atmosphere, home baked goods and mac & cheese you may need to try two days in a row. Bonez is fresh Mexican food done right, with local standout favorites like Mexican pot roast, tempura battered lobster tacos and their signature heavy pour margaritas. Asian-fusion is the name of the game at Ryce, with delicate handmade pork dumplings, fiery fried rice with chopped jalapeños, and Thai curry noodles made an impact on our taste buds. With their motto, “legalize marinara,” a station of the cross belly-pleasing must try is the delectable pizzas at the Secret Stash. The “mac daddy” is a Big Mac in the form of pizza, with shaved ribeye, thousand island dressing, American cheese, lettuce, pickles on a sesame seed crust…mic drop!
For us, travel is about unique experiences and discovering hidden gems that lie beyond the popular “must see” cities around the world. While Crested Butte may be a small dot on the Colorado landscape, as a millennial traveler it beckons to be discovered. Every season makes for the perfect time to visit this mountain-top beauty with endless activities to delight the daredevil in you and jaw-dropping vistas that will literally take your breath away.
Crested Butte managed to check every box on our list as a top millennial destination – great food, amazing people, beauty beyond our imagination, top-notch activities and a youthful sense of excitement. Our hope is that Crested Butte hangs onto its “OG” status for decades to come and continues to charm travelers who stumble upon this picturesque mountain wonder.