Beginner’s Travel Guide: Leaf Peeping in Crested Butte

aspen lined trail in crested butte colorado

Leaf peeping in Crested Butte totally lives up to the hype. But the options can feel a little overwhelming, the lodging expensive…and the trails a little steep. Crested Butte’s beauty is the result of a lot of big mountains erupting straight up out the valley it’s situated in. I was worried about finding beginner-friendly hiking with the views I was after. But I was wrong!

It’s also warm enough to still eat outside (as long as you bring a jacket), and most restaurants downtown greatly expanded outdoor dining to help folks be more safe during the pandemic. My partner and I visited at the end of September for four days and were able to travel responsibly, enjoy stunning scenery, and have plenty of date nights, too!

Purchase a detailed four-day itinerary with:

  • Local tips and tricks
  • Turn-by-turn trail guides
  • Road trip stops
  • Clickable packing list

Once you purchase the guide through PayPal, you will immediately receive an email with a link to the pdf.

Getting to Crested Butte from Denver

Crested Butte is in the southwest corner of Colorado. There is an airport in Gunnison, which is 40 minutes south of Crested Butte. Driving there from Denver is a little over four hours.

It’s a beautiful trip, particularly over Cottonwood Pass. Most of the drive is on two- to four-lane highway. It’s paved the entire way, but does involve driving over a few mountain passes that are steep and curvy. Take your time and you’ll be fine!

Where to stay in Crested Butte

By the end of September, the nights are getting close to freezing, which is too cold for me to want to camp. Gunnison is a bit too far to be making daily trips into Crested Butte so I wouldn’t recommend staying there.

Crested Butte lodging is bananas expensive, so your best bet for more affordable lodging is Crested Butte South. You still have to drive into Crested Butte, but it’s a very manageable 15-minute drive. There’s also a bus that runs between CB South and downtown Crested Butte.

When to go to Crested Butte for leaf peeping

The “peak” of the aspen trees changing color is typically at the end of September, but varies each year depending on the weather. This year, September 17 – October 1 is predicted to be Crested Butte’s peak.

If you can go during the week, DO. Crested Butte is a world-wide destination for its enormous aspen groves. It is packed on the weekends. I went during the week, though, and the trails were nearly empty. Town was a bit busier, but we only had trouble finding a spot for dinner on Thursday night.

Best beginner-friendly leaf peeping trails

There are so many options for hiking in Crested Butte it can feel kind of overwhelming. Plus, a lot of trails are super steep or tricky to get to. These three options are very beginner-friendly in distance and hilliness:

The Snodgrass Trailhead in Mt Crested Butte is the best bang-for-your-buck trail for leaf peeping close to town.

Kebler Pass is what gets all the fuss. Try the Three Lakes Trail. It”s one of the best hikes I’ve ever done, but confusing to navigate. Buy my complete itinerary for a turn-by-turn guide (with pictures).

Purchase a detailed four-day itinerary with:

  • Local tips and tricks
  • Turn-by-turn trail guides
  • Road trip stops
  • Clickable packing list

Once you purchase the guide through PayPal, you will immediately receive an email with a link to the pdf.

The Brush Creek Trailhead is an easy stop before or after dinner, depending on how early you eat.

Complete Four-Day Itinerary

If you’re interested in detailed trip-planning information, download my detailed four-day itinerary for just $15. In clickable pdf form, you’ll have an easy-to-understand, beginner-friendly guide to making the best of your leaf peeping trip to Crested Butte.

Worried about how hilly the trails are in Crested Butte? I’ve got pictures. And turn-by-turn directions! What happens if you accidentally miss the Jack’s Cabin turn-off? I’ve got you. Where do you get an early but quick breakfast in Crested Butte? You guessed it, in the guide!

Purchase a detailed four-day itinerary with:

  • Local tips and tricks
  • Turn-by-turn trail guides
  • Road trip stops
  • Clickable packing list

Once you purchase the guide through PayPal, you will immediately receive an email with a link to the pdf.

Questions?

Contact outdoorbeginner at gmail dot com! I want to make sure you’re totally comfortable with the guide. Purchasing the guide comes with text messaging support as well.

2 thoughts on “Beginner’s Travel Guide: Leaf Peeping in Crested Butte

  1. That guide looks really helpful. Great work.

    I’m curious, what condition are the conifers in these days, in that area? The bark beetles have killed so many trees on the west slope, and they’ve spread into Utah. Have they hit the Crested Butte area?

    Thanks.

    Like

    1. Thanks! Pine beetles are in Crested Butte, but not to the extent of other parts of the state. There was an infestation at the Baxter Gulch trailhead that will remove (or maybe already has removed, I don’t live in CB unfortunately!) ~100 trees, but the area definitely doesn’t seem as hard hit as other parts of the state I’ve seen.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Like

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