There are only a handful of small towns that make me want to sell my house and move, without a second thought. Crested Butte is definitely one of those towns. Sure, it’s a touristy ski town, filled with stores that cater to people who are only briefly pretending to have left their city lives behind. But Crested Butte has done a great job holding onto its authentic, wild west, mining-town feel.
I rolled into town via CR 12 over Kebler Pass, a summer-only dirt road that arrives on the west end of the business district. CR 12 becomes Whiterock Avenue, which bypasses Crested Butte’s main street (Elk Avenue) by two blocks, so you’ll need to detour north to find storefronts like these.
Crested Butte’s old City Hall is located right next to my parking spot, at Elk & 2nd. The 1883 building now houses an art gallery. The Butte’s modern city buildings are located on the other end of town.
Coal Creek cuts through the middle of Crested Butte. This time of year (June, when the nearby snowpack is melting) the creek is powerful, but surprisingly, flooding isn’t very common.†
Just off Elk Avenue, you can’t miss one of Crested Butte’s most noticeable houses, the famous License Plate Residence. The house doesn’t have permanent residents — it’s a vacation rental home, that goes for between $150 and $300 a night, based on the time of year.
Even though it’s a private home, no one complained as I took a few pictures. I imagine anyone who stays here comes to expect a lot of gawkers and a little less privacy than at other rentals around town.
I spent a while wandering around Crested Butte’s boardwalk sidewalks…
… and peering down its narrow alleys and passageways. The building on the left is the old City Hotel, later known as the Western Hotel, built in 1890. It now houses a fishing shop.
One of Crested Butte’s most beautiful structures is on Maroon Avenue, just a block north of Elk. Union Congregational Church was built in 1883, with the belfry completed in 1890.
… and old sheds in alleyways can be found all over the town, as you complete your tour on foot.
During the planning stage of my vacation, I had considered spending the night in Crested Butte. It would have been great to spend more time in the town, but lodging here is quite expensive. Since I couldn’t find anything in my price range, I settled on Gunnison for my overnight stay. It’s just as well, since I had enough time left in the day to see a few more interesting places before settling in for the night.
[tmt_info =””]Before leaving Crested Butte, consider a brief side trip up to the community of Mount Crested Butte — which is tucked below the mountain of the same name, and is home to Crested Butte Mountain Resort. The ski area also has hiking trails that are accessible in the summer, including one that takes you to the top of the mountain.[/tmt_info]
Leave Crested Butte on the only paved road out of town, CO Hwy. 135, which heads south towards Gunnison.
On the way out of town, you’ll pass through a wide valley surrounded by beautiful mountains. Watch for this tire swing near the side of the road.
[tmt_info =””]This area is even better in autumn, when the aspen trees turn. See what it looks like in late September, here.[/tmt_info]
Here’s a time-lapse dash-cam video of the drive south from Crested Butte on CO 135, then north on CR 742 to Taylor Park Reservoir: