All hard feelings from the earlier wrong turns quickly shake free with the trail dust as we begin pedaling across the hillside meadows of the Lupine Trail. It’s past the summer peak of the purple flowers that turn these south-facing slopes into a living Monet masterpiece. But the scene is still quintessential Crested Butte: rolling trail through vast wilderness, panoramic snowcapped peaks ringing the horizon, only minutes above the thriving yet classically laid back downtown.
Like most Colorado ski towns, Crested Butte is probably best known for its epic winter offerings. But those who visit in the summer know they’ve tapped its true beauty. Clear of Summit County crowds, free of Aspen pretense, playfully funky, Crested Butte overflows with options as a glorious wilderness playground.
It’s the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, and CB also happens to be the self-proclaimed birthplace of mountain biking (as is Marin County, California). The two-wheeled potential is what draws me and my kids to the Lupine Trail. As 9- and 12-year-old veterans of Colorado Springs singletrack, it seems they’re ready to experience a new level.
Locals consider Lupine an after-work ride, an easy-intermediate route to turn the cranks and shake off the cares of the day—or a connector to reach farther flung epics. The flowy singletrack leads us through alternating meadows and quietly cool groves of towering aspen. We roll alone over long stretches, occasionally leapfrogging other small packs of riders. I watch with amused pride as my 9-year-old grinds past a pack of sea-level 20-somethings on a rugged doubletrack ascent.
After skirting the valley, we descend, cross the Slate River and catch the Upper Lower Loop back toward town. We’re pelted with hail before we can take cover in a spruce grove to pull our rain shells from our packs. But as soon as we do, the downpour ends, and we stop again to peel off our outer layers. It’s an alpine riders’ baptism for the grommet adventurers—and a perfect opportunity to savor the view.
Late-afternoon sun illuminates the fluted face of the eponymous mountain standing sentinel over the valley. I can’t help but gawk as we descend into the orderly historic streets of town and pause for a snack along Coal Creek.
“Do you want to catch the bus back up?” I ask the kids. We’ve already ridden 13 miles, and it’s an all-uphill 3.5 more back to our condo in the ski-base area of Mount Crested Butte. I’m thinking a good thing has finally come to an end.
“Yeah, we could …” my daughter starts, exchanging agreeing looks with her brother. “But we’ve got to finish our loop.”
So we pedal on, me grinning all the way home.
Where to Eat
There’s no shortage of delicious dining of all styles in Crested Butte. Here are some of our favorites.
The Secret Stash
Arguably the best pizza in the state. The vibe is granola-chic meets Himalayan Zen-funk—they call it Stashosphere. Get there early to avoid waiting for a table. Then get the Notorious F.I.G., and reach a higher pizza plane. secretstash.com
Ryce Asian Bistro
Chinese? Korean? Thai? Why choose? Ryce does them all tastefully with a side of hip decor. Request a table on the shady patio or along the garage-door-lined wall overlooking Coal Creek. ryceasianbistro.com
Third Bowl Homemade Ice Cream
Consider it craft ice cream, and save room for flavors you’ve never even thought of: blueberry cardamom, green chili chocolate, honey lavender. Can’t decide? Get a scoop on top of a delicious homemade doughnut. Yep, it’s a dangerous place. thirdbowlhomemadeicecream.com
Where to Drink
When the rum has claimed international awards, including Best White Rum at the World Rum Awards, UK 2015, and there are free tastings? Must-go! Get exotic with an Indian spiced Maharaja. Bring the kids for mocktails and small plates. montanyarum.com
Brick Oven Pizzeria & Pub
The huge, street-side deck is unbeatable for sunny afternoon beverages. With 30 beers on tap, including cask ales, options are abundant. brickovencb.com
Look for the license plates, and you’ll find your caffeine fix. Grab a breakfast burrito before hitting the trail for a quick, affordable option. And no, you won’t find Starbucks in CB. camp4coffee.com
Where to Play
The short, easy Judd Falls near Gothic delivers big scenery. Or ride the Silver Queen lift, then finish by foot to reach the spectacular vista from the top of Mount Crested Butte. Find an excellent hiking guide at travelcrestedbutte.com.
The trail options are epic. Yes, the 401 Trail is listed everywhere, and yes, it’s truly bucket list worthy. Hit the Evolution Bike Park for 30 on-mountain miles of lift-served downhill. The grin-to-dollar ratio makes the lift ticket purchase well worth it. bike.skicb.com
Take in the paradisiacal scenery from high elevation Lake Irwin or Emerald Lake. If you’re flatwater experienced, float the gentle Slate River. Get rentals, lessons and guided tours at CB SUP. cbstanduppaddle.com
Where to Stay
There are two geographic sides of Crested Butte. We recommend Mount Crested Butte, the on-mountain, ski resort center and hub of hotel and condo options. The Lodge at Mountaineer Square offers luxury mountain style in options from studios to four-bedroom suites (skicb.com). For comfortably upscale hotel accommodations, head for the Elevation Hotel and Spa (elevationresort.com).
If it’s historic charm you’re after, stay Downtown at the center of the shopping, dining and nightlife scene. Try the adults-only Purple Mountain Bed & Breakfast for historic chic coziness (purplemountain.squarespace.com) or the Old Town Inn for family value (oldtowninn.net). Find all the options at downtowncrestedbutte.com.
There’s always something to celebrate in the Butte, including these highlight festivals:
Bike Week: June 22-25, cbchamber.com/events/cb-bike-week
Crested Butte Music Festival: June 23-Aug. 5, crestedbuttemusicfestival.org
Crested Butte Wildflower Festival: July 7-16,crestedbuttewildflowerfestival.com
Crested Butte Wine & Food Festival: July 26-30, cbwineandfood.com