Crested Butte in summer is fantastic! From hillsides overflowing with wildflowers to its historic downtown and wonderful weather, there are plenty of amazing things to do in Crested Butte for everyone. To put it plainly, Crested Butte’s summer activities are endless. Perfect for families, couples, or just a group getaway for friends, if you’re an outdoor lover, then you’ll fall head over heels for the mountain town of Crested Butte.
The former wild west mining town is now one of the best places to visit in Colorado regardless of the season. Sitting just under 9,000 feet, Crested Butte attracts adventurists from around the world. And once you’re there, you’ll soon see why. Towering peaks and high-elevation lakes, like Lake Irwin, beckon people to visit and enjoy its scenic views.
Regardless of how you choose to spend your time here, one thing is for sure, a few days in Crested Butte is about as far from a bad idea as you can get!
Crested Butte in Summer – Best Things To Do
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How To Get To Crested Butte + Closest Airport
Located a little less than 5 hours from Denver’s International Airport, getting to Crested Butte may be a drive, but it’s a beautiful drive at that. If you are wanting an airport closer to Crested Butte, set your sights on Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC), located 30-40 minutes from Crested Butte in Gunnison, CO.
Regardless of which airport you fly into, you’ll need to rent a car to get to Crested Butte or look into what shuttle services are available from either the Denver International Airport or Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport.
How Many Days Do You Need In Crested Butte In Summer
For your first time to Crested Butte, do your best to get a long weekend of 3-4 days. There is so much to see and enjoy, especially if you love to hike and mountain bike! And while summer is an amazing time to visit, during our visit in July, we encountered daily afternoon showers and thunderstorms. So, having a few more days helps you get to all the things you want to do and see, regardless of afternoon rain storms.
When looking where to stay in Crested Butte, know you can stay in or around the Downtown Crested Butte area or up by the Mount Crested Butte Ski Valley. Crested Butte and all its summer activities can be a little spread out, so finding a centrally located accommodation can definitely save you on commute time.
If you want to be in the heart of downtown, accommodations like Purple Mountain Bed & Breakfast & Spa, Elk Mountain Lodge, and Public House Lofts are great options! However, if you’re looking to stay up by Mount Crested Butte (some 10-15 minutes away from downtown) you should for sure check out Mountain Getaway, The Lodge, and Timbers.
For more accommodation options in Crested Butte, check out the latest availability and pricing.
Oh, and Crested Butte has AMAZING campgrounds and dispersed campsites. So, if you are looking to tent camp or head out in the RV, we use Campendium to locate our first-come-first-serve campsites in Gothic and Irwin Lake.
1. Hit The Crested Butte Hiking Trails
Whether you are looking to conquer peaks or enjoy something a little more leisurely, hiking in Crested Butte is a can’t-miss summer activity. The scenery is just too gorgeous not to get out in the hills and mountains to enjoy.
When hiking in the summer, plan to start early as afternoon showers tend to roll in during the summer months. We’d hate for you to get caught in a storm on the trail! Some of our favorite hiking trails as well as some other top-rated ones are below!
- Judd Falls: 2.2 miles | rated as easy | 462 ft elevation gain
- Rustlers Gulch (OUR FAVORITE): 9 miles | rated as moderate | 1,791 ft elevation gain
- Scarp Ridge (SECOND FAVORITE): 3.9 miles | rated as moderate | 1,430 ft elevation gain
- Oh-Be-Joyful: 13 miles | rated as hard | 2,148 ft elevation gain
- Green Lake Trail: 8.5 miles | rated as moderate | 1,814 ft elevation gain
TIP: A great app to locate hiking trails suited to your needs as well as getting directions to trailheads is AllTrails. We love this app and can’t recommend it enough!
As always, when hiking be respectful of wildlife, stay on the trails, and pack out any trash or waste. We want to keep Colorado beautiful, don’t we?! An easy rule of thumb, leave it better than you found it.
2. See How Many Wildflowers In Crested Butte You Can Find
Did you know that Crested Butte is the wildflower capital of Colorado? During the summer months, late June and through July, wildflowers like Columbines, Lupines, Sunflowers, and Larspurs are in full bloom all over the hillsides. If you want amazing views of wildflowers, head over to Gothic or find a hiking trail to traverse.
3. Blaze the Moutain Biking Trails of Crested Butte
If you’re looking for something a little more adrenaline-inducing than hiking, consider mountain biking. Crested Butte has many mountain bike-friendly trails scattered around the area. And if you’re needing to rent a mountain bike, have no fear! You can pick up a rental in town before heading out to the trails.
Speaking of trails, below are some top-rated and fan-favorite mountain bike trails around Crested Butte for you to try out!
- 401 Trail: 13.6 miles
- Lupine Trail: 10.7 miles
- Teocalli Trail: 17.4 miles
- Reno-Flag-Bear-Deadman: 18 miles
- Strand Hill: 9.2 miles
4. Wander Down Crested Butte’s Historic Main Street, Elk Avenue
Elk Avenue is the beating heart of downtown Crested Butte. From art galleries and souvenir shops to boutiques and amazing restaurants, Elk Avenue is a great place to spend a few hours. Colorful Victorian storefronts line the streets for several blocks and while the town has greatly improved since its coal mining days, one this is for sure, Elk Ave holds a whole lot of charm and things to do!
For any of you history buffs, be sure to sign up for a Historic Walking Tour. The Crested Butte Museum offers guided tours on Wednesdays and Fridays, where visitors are escorted up and down historic Elk Avenue learning about the past and how Crested Butte came to be what is it today.
5. Get Your Fill of Live Music At Alpenglow & Live From Crested Butte
One of our favorite things to do in Crested Butte in summer is listening to live music. Alpenglow is a live music concert series held on Monday nights at the Center of Arts outdoor stage in downtown Crested Butte from June to August.
Separately, at the base of Mount Crested Butte in the Ski Valley, “Live From Crested Butte” puts on a summer concert series on Wednesday nights from June to August. If you can time it right, both are great evening events to see in the summer!
6. Rent a Paddle Board & Head To Lake Irwin
If you’re looking to get some time on the water in Crested Butte (which you totally should), renting a paddle board in town and heading up to Lake Irwin should be on the top of your list for summer activities in Crested Butte!
Lake Irwin is located about 20-25 minutes outside of Crested Butte. Sitting at over 10,000 ft in elevation, Lake Irwin is a stunner! A scenic reservoir that is surrounded by peaks and forests. Spending a day paddling around Irwin Lake and enjoying a picnic lunch is one epic way to spend one day in Crested Butte!
7. Find An Amazing Patio
One of the great things about Crested Butte is its restaurants. Many of which have great patios to enjoy the day from. Whether you want to grab a drink or meal, below are some of our favorite restaurants in Crested Butte with patios.
- The Secret Stash: Amazing Pizza
- Bonez: Mexican
- Public House: Brewery and American eats
- Montanya Distillers: Rum distillery
- Kochevar’s Saloon: The oldest bar in Crested Butte
- Camp 4 Coffee: Coffee bar
- The Dogwood: Fantastic cocktails
- Sunflower: Farm-to-table
Tip: When dining out in Crested Butte, reservations are highly recommended
8. Go White Water Rafting On The Taylor River
Looking to get that adrenaline pumping? Then you’ll want to book a white water rafting trip down the Taylor River! Offering varying levels of intensity, a trip on the Taylor River is perfect for those adventurous souls or for a family looking to make a unique memory! The Taylor River weaves through Taylor Canyon taking you past steep canyon walls and if you’re lucky, you may be able to spot a bighorn sheep or two!
9. Take a Scenic Drive Around Colorado
In terms of scenic drives, you have two options near Crested Butte – 1. Kebler’s Pass and 2. West Elk Loop Scenic Byway. Kebler Pass is the shorter of two scenic drives, but both are great options if you are looking to take a break from all your adventuring!
Kebler’s Pass is a 30-mile winding mountain road that’ll take you from Crested Butte to Paonia State Park. Whereas West Elk Loop Scenic Byway is a 250-mile loop, taking you to Paonia wine country, near the rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, through the town of Gunnison, and back into Crested Butte.
10. Experience a Crested Butte Festival
When visiting Crested Butte in summer, see if you’re able to time your visit with one of the below festivals. They’re good fun and a little extra something special to make your trip to Crested Butte even more fun than it’s bound to be!
- Crested Butte Art Festival: August
- Wine & Food Festival: July
- Crested Butte Wildflower Festival: July
- Crested Butte Farmers Market: Sundays from May to October
Gunnison’s Cattlemen’s Days, while not in Crested Butte, is a fun Colorado Rodeo located just 30-40 minutes away in the town of Gunnison. Taking place over a weekend in July, seeing a Colorado rodeo is an experience, to say the least!
11. Visit Scenic Gothic, a Former Ghost Town
Located 20 – 30 minutes outsides of Crested Butte, you’ll find the town of Gothic. Gothic was once home to a booming silver mine from 1879 to 1896. With the collapse of the silver boom, this once bustling mining town closed shop and with its mine gone, the town’s 1,000 inhabitants abandoned Gothic.
Today, you can still visit Gothic which is home to the Rocky Mountain Laboratory, an organization researching climate change and the area’s wildlife and wildflowers, and one small coffee shop. The drive to Gothic is nothing short of beautiful so it’s definitely worth a trip if you have the time!
TIP: A visit to Gothic can be combined with hiking to Judd Falls or Rustler’s Gulch as you’ll have to drive through Gothic to get to either of these trailheads.
12. Go Fly Fishing
Crested Butte has some of the best fishing in the entire state of Colorado! If you’re an angler or just an aspiring one, consider booking a fly fishing trip! Places like Dragonfly Anglers and Crested Butte Angler have experienced guides that can take you or a few of your friends out for a day of fishing. Both companies offer various types of fishing trips so pick the best one for you and enjoy!
Have More Time?
Located 2 hours away from Crested Butte is one of the lesser-known and least-visited National Parks in the United States, Black Canyon of The Gunnison. Black Canyon of The Gunnison south rim park entrance is located a little ways off the West Elk Scenic Loop, so if you’re looking to tackle this scenic drive while in Colorado, you can swing into the National Park.
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– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)