July 1-8, 2018
The last time we visited Crested Butte, was 23 years ago for a family ski vacation. Arriving here in the summer is a totally different experience. The mountains are covered with wild flowers and the green of the trees and blue skies are so vibrant that every picture one takes looks like a postcard. On this return visit we had an added bonus in that we now have family living here, which greatly helped with local knowledge. There’s nothing like exploring a town and surrounding areas with a local. If all of this doesn’t sound good enough, then add to the mix that we arrived in time for the 4th of July celebrations. We were excited that a perfect week lay ahead.
We pulled up to Crested Butte RV Resort (the only one in town) and I have to admit I had a moment of doubt. The access to the campground is through an industrial looking part of town. But as we pulled in and were assigned our site all that melted away by the fantastic views of the mountains. The campground owners were very welcoming and I must say we had the best site in the park. I love a campground with a view.
We met up with Barbara and Morrie (Barbara is Leo’s cousin) who have been living in Crested Butted for the past five years and are avid hikers and mountain bikers. They offered to take us hiking which is one of our favorite things to do. Their very friendly German Shepherd, Sookie, also came along for the hike. The hikes in this area can be quite challenging and I have to confess I had a hard time adjusting to the altitude and the steepness on some parts of the trails. Our first hike was on the Meandering Trail of Mount Crested Butte where we traversed the mountain’s ski slopes for a 1000 ft climb and a 6 mile round loop. This hike takes you through fields of wild flowers as well as tall “mule’s ears” that at first looked like corn to us. This is a single track trail where you are walking through a profusion of color and textures and where you can spot the delicate columbine blossoms that is the state flower. The locals are very serious about their Wildflowers in Crested Butte , and I can see how identifying all the different species could get addictive. Occasionally a mountain biker crossed our path on the trail and it was a bit of a tight rope walk to make room. I would rate this hike as intermediate due to the steepness of some parts of the trail and the altitude (over 10,000 feet at the highest point) but the views were spectacular, making it a very enjoyable hike.
The next day we picked a shorter but equally amazing hike. The Horse Park Ranch to View Point trail, a 4 mile round trip, with a 500 ft climb hike. This trail takes you through the largest aspen grove in the world. We learned that aspens are all one organism, and this particular grove is second only in the world in size to another single organism which is the Great Barrier Reef. This place had a surreal quality to it with these beautiful trees and their distinct white bark with small, almost round leaves as well as the surrounding open meadows where the beloved wildflowers show their colors.
One interesting spot in the trail was a very intricate beaver dam and the felled trees around it. I had never seen one or the meticulous job these beavers do to to bring down a tree.
We arrived at a view point with panoramic views of Marcellina mountains. The trail is wide enough for two to walk abreast but it has to be shared with horseback riders so one needs to look where you step or you might end up bringing back some unwanted “gift” on your shoes 😄. This hike in my opinion is a must do walking in the woods type of adventure, a very special experience.
After two days of hiking we were ready for a break and just in time for the 4th of July celebrations. The town of Crested Butted puts on a parade at 11AM through Elk Avenue which is the main shopping and commercial street of the town. We were lucky that Barbara and Morrie are friends with a real estate office owner and their office happens to be right on Elk Avenue and they invited us to set up our chairs along the parade route the night before, assuring us front row seats. The realtor also provided food and drinks for everyone, it’s hard to beat a parade, great seats, and free food. The parade was lots of fun and colorful and it brought out thousands of people along the route. This year the fireworks display, which takes place in the evening, was canceled because the threat of wildfires is extremely high due to a persistent drought throughout this part of the US.
But that didn’t diminish the celebrations which continued when we returned to our campground in the afternoon. The campground owners where celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary (and had a float in the parade announcing it as such), so they had planned a party at the RV campground and the main celebrations where located right next our site. All of the camp guests where invited to join as well as many of the owner’s local friends. They provided yummy food and drinks. Overall a very enjoyable 4th of July. We stayed up talking to our neighboring RV’ers until late in the evening. One of the great things we enjoy about RVing is meeting interesting people from all over the country.
This week had many highlights but our hike to the summit of Mount Crested Butte is hands down unforgettable. To reach the Peak we took a short cut by hopping on the Silver Queen Express chair lift to within a mile of the summit. You may think it’s only a mile to go but think again. The hike is strenuous navigating rocks in a mostly single track trail. The last 200 feet were mostly rock climbing. Leo, Barbara and Morrie went on to the top of the summit at 12,162 feet. I have to confess the rocks defeated me and I stayed at about 11,800 feet at a vantage point complete with a bench where I could watch their ascent to the top. From Leo’s account these last 200 feet was mostly crawling up on all fours, but the view at the summit was spectacular as there was not a cloud in the sky, and the visibility seemed endless. The summit it self was about a 10×10 space, and there were many climbers on this day, given the beautiful, warm, sunny weather, so after a few pictures with his cousins they started the trek down.
This hike will go down as one of the most unique and truly fun hikes we’ve ever done. We finished our hike with a delicious lunch at the base of the mountain at Butte 66. This place has a wonderful deck with panoramic views of the mountains and great for people watching as they come storming down the hills in mountain bikes, very relaxing.
The week at Crested Butte went by way too fast for us. We hiked , we biked, but we also enjoyed the wonderful little town and strolling down Elk Avenue with it’s array of restaurants, shops and art galleries. We celebrated a bon voyage dinner with Barbara and Morrie at a fabulous French restaurant Soupçon . The website for this restaurant needs a bit of help but trust me the food will not disappoint!
I’ll just leave you with a video of our hike to Mount Crested Butte, truly the highlight of this week. Enjoy!