Monday, July 20, 2015

Crested Butte: A Chill Mountain Town

If you read my last post you already know we spent the Fourth of July in Crested Butte. For those unfamiliar with Colorado, Crested Butte is a quaint little mountain town southwest of Denver.

Crested Butte was founded in the late 1800's as a supply center for the area before it became a mining town in its own right. In a valley at the base of Crested Butte mountain is Elk Street with a number of cute shops and delicious restaurants, flanked on both sides by several streets lined with beautiful houses - both old and new. Crested Butte is a quintessential, chill, mountain town straight out of a dream.

Unlike Vail, Beaver Creek, and other ski resort mountain towns, the downtown is separated from the ski mountain, so it's more small town, less condo buildings and resort hotels. We stayed in a little downtown cottage we found on airbnb and the location could not have been more perfect for us - steps from Elk Street but along a quiet alley. Our host was gracious and very knowledgable about the town.

Our first evening we hitched a ride on the free bus from downtown up to the mountain for the One World Music Festival and caught two bands (below, The Leftover Cuties) before we headed back down to get some sleep before the race.

After we finished the Gothic to Crested Butte 1/3 Marathon we had to take part in the 4th of July festivities. Let's just say Crested Butte takes the holiday seriously.

The parade features groups from around the area, and as far as we could tell, pretty much anyone who wanted to participate. The sidewalks along Elk were packed with spectators and the restaurants were jammed. After the parade there's a town water fight - which the fire department gets in on. The town kids loved it; we enjoyed it from afar. 

We were pleasantly surprised by all the great food and drink in such a small town! A few of our favorites - Teocalli Tamale, Secret Stash Pizzeria, Third Bowl Handmade Ice Cream (delicious vegan options!), First Ascent Coffee, and Montanya Distillery.

Sunday mornings are for the Farmer's Market. And since we always seek out Farmer's Markets, we couldn't miss this one. It's not huge but it is a good size with plenty of options including artists selling paintings, photography, jewelry and more; bakeries with sweet treats; farmers with everything you need - including one farm that specializes in all varieties of garlic - and a winery or two. We picked up a few veggies before heading out on a hike. 

Crested Butte is known for world class mountain biking trails, but the hiking trails aren't bad either! We only tried out two while we were in town but both were wonderful. Snodgrass Trail is perfect for wildflowers and a view of Crested Butte Mountain - unless it's raining like it was on our hike, but then you feel like you've been transported to a rainforest!

Lower Loop is reachable via the Woods Walk trail which starts right at the edge of downtown. You know what that means: no car needed. With beautiful valley and mountain views, and a trail right along the river, it would have been great for an easy-ish trail run if our legs hadn't been shot after the race! Definitely something we'll do if we go back. The one downside is that because it's easily accessible from town it can also be very crowded. 

From our two hikes, the two tips I'll pass on are: 1) Take layers & rain gear - we went through a rainstorm on Snodgrass Trail and the temperature varied by 10+ degrees during the hike, 2) Watch for mountain bikers - unless you're on one of the few hiking-only trails, you will encounter numerous mountain bikers and while hikers technically have right of way, it's just easier for us to move out of the way. Here's a quick list of hikes near Crested Butte.

Of course we made one last stop at First Ascent Coffee before heading out of town for some breakfast and coffee. We grabbed a half pound bag and a loaf of bread to take home with us, which did not last long enough. Thankfully we can order the coffee online and feel like we're back in Crested Butte when we enjoy a cup on our deck. If you stop here, be sure to head upstairs for a seat on the balcony with mountain views.

We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend in Crested Butte and while the small town 4th of July celebrations were entertaining and the race was incredible, it would be nice to go back sometime when there isn't a big event to better experience the laid back vibe, new trails, and more great food.

What adventures have you taken this summer? * Is there a town in your state you haven't been to but want to explore? 

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