“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” John Muir
Unlike the leisurely, prolonged days of summer, there’s a very succinct moment when golden hues blanket the Colorado Rockies. Wildflowers bid farewell, and without much warning, nature changes course. If you arrive too late, the landscape gives a sharp nod to winter. So this year, we decided to revel in autumn’s magic not once, but twice, during the month of September. Pandemic withstanding, the outdoors were calling. We hiked and relaxed and ate our way through two weekend getaways.
First on our itinerary, Crested Butte. Nestled a few hours southwest of Denver, this spunky mountain town is home to renowned aspen trees, ski + hiking routes, quaint restaurants, and historic, colorful buildings. The people are much like you’d expect: hospitable, unpretentious, and very friendly. Elk Avenue — CB’s main drag — is vibrant and charming in a way that only human experience does justice. Shops, art galleries, breweries, and restaurants line the sidewalks. It’s where hometowners and travelers mingle together. From homemade ice cream to authentic Nepalese food, there’s no shortage of places to grab a bite and bask in the sun.
Below, you’ll find my short (but sweet) Crested Butte guide. Happy travels.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at the Elevation Hotel and Spa. It’s well-worn, but modern, tucked right below the gondola. Given current circumstances, it felt quite safe and equally clean. Our spacious room had a small but fully-equipped kitchen — ideal for noshing on late-night pizza, brewing a cup of tea, and storing the baby’s milk. Because of the hotel’s location, you can lace up your hiking boots (or clip into your skis) right out the main entrance. We didn’t use the spa, but it has rave reviews. The only downside is that the best spots to eat, drink, etc. are in town, which is either a 45-minute walk, 5-minute bus ride, or short drive. If you opt to walk or bike, there’s a recreational path across from the hotel.
Otherwise, there are plenty of VRBOs and Air BnBs to choose from. Keep in mind that most lodging is at the base of the mountain, not in town. Here is a helpful article to get started.
WHERE TO HIKE
As you can image, there are endless trails to explore. We hiked the Snodgrass Trail (dogs in tow and our baby strapped to my dad’s chest), but there are many trails to blaze. See here and here. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can backpack from CB to the beautiful, neighboring town of Aspen. We hiked roughly two miles out and two miles back — ideal for a mid-morning outing. Groves of aspens line Snodgrass’s well-marked, moderately steep path. Inevitably, it’s an autumn wonderland. But if you hike this trail in the summer, lush wildflowers paint the slopes. Regardless of the season, the panoramic views of Mt. Crested Butte are nothing short of picturesque.
WHERE TO SHOP
+ Clothing: Little Sparrow and the Nest (for kids), Milky Way (contemporary clothes and gifts), Lavish (gifts, jewelry, and a variety of clothes for babies), and Favor the Kind (clothes, hats, home decor, and jewelry).
WHERE TO EAT
Our first meal in CB was take-out from Secret Stash. We ordered a few hearty pies to go, including their vegan pizza. For good reason, it’s a popular locale in town. For coffee, tea, and matcha, we dipped into Rumors Coffee and Tea House — a homey coffee shop and library — as well as T-bar. I went back, twice, for matcha from T-bar. For ice cream, Third Bowl. Their small-batch, unique flavors are made from scratch. The best bagels, hands down, are from Butte Bagels (be sure to arrive early!). We grabbed bagel sandwiches before our drive home.
For a truly idyllic, farm-to-table dinner, Sunflower is delightful. The chef sources most ingredients in the valley, and the menu changes frequently. We sat on their back patio, under a canopy of strung lights with live music in the background. It was lovely. The following night, we ordered take-out from Sherpa Cafe. Understated on the outside, this family-owned restaurant prepares authentic Indian/Himalayan food. We had saag with tofu, chicken tikka masala, curry, dahl, and basmati rice. Highly recommend. A few other suggestions: Pitas in Paradise (casual lunch spot), Bonez, and the Slogar.
Keep in mind that many of these restaurants close in between seasons (late-Oct, through November).