by Steve Mokan, Chasing Epic Owner
Alright, before I get started, I have to come clean: despite owning a company (Chasing Epic) that does mountain bike vacations to seven different destinations across the western US, Crested Butte has always been my favorite. And it always will be my favorite. Nowhere else in the Rocky Mountains will you find such a unique, hospitable town with world-class riding and scenery out the back door. There’s a reason we do several scheduled and private trips a year in Crested Butte- everyone loves the riding, but comes back for the town.
When the folks at MTB Home asked me to put together a plan of attack for a long weekend in CB, I was more than happy to give away some of my secrets.
My wife and I have been visiting multiple times a year for over ten years, and I was lucky enough to work for Crested Butte Mountain Resort as a graduate marketing intern the summer I was in grad school at CU, so I feel somewhat qualified to give out advice. Some of this information will be new to you, and some will likely just reiterate what you already know to be true.
Either way- put these elements together over a three or four-day weekend, and you won’t be disappointed. If you come along on one of our 4-day trips in Crested Butte this summer or fall, I can guarantee you’ll experience some of this firsthand… but trust me, there are some untold secrets as well.
First things first… Food
I know everyone has their favorites, which is why I’ll keep this to a few high-level recommendations and a pretty sweet little “lunch hack”. Crested Butte is chock-full of restaurant choices, and everyone has their favorites. These are some of mine.
Your first night, get pizza: Whether it’s the Secret Stash or the Brick Oven, you can’t go wrong. But here’s a strategic tip that my wife and I figured out a long, long time ago: grab pizza (and beers, of course) the first night, but order a large pizza each. Eat what you want for dinner, and then get the rest wrapped up in aluminum foil… you’ll have a pretty sweet- and light- lunch for riding the next couple of days.
You earned those calories: After a long ride, check your Strava app… I’m willing to bet you burned close to 2,000 calories. Time to replenish your body with calories, but we’re not talking about the most healthy of choices here. Check out The Slogar (call 970.349.5765 to make a reservation!) for some of the best family-style fried chicken this side of the Mississippi. Make sure you earned it earlier in the day though, because otherwise you’re not going to feel so good about yourself when you finish the complimentary ice cream!
Fuel up in the morning: There are a ton of breakfast options in Crested Butte, and they’re all fantastic. For coffee, the obvious recommendation is the time-honored classic choice, Camp Four. For a sit-down meal, check out McGill’s, Izzy’s, or the Paradise Cafe. If you’re in a hurry, you can never go wrong with a couple of breakfast sandwiches from the Gas Cafe (eat here, get gas!)–editor’s note, call your order in ahead 970.349.9656. Regardless of what you choose, make sure you eat enough to keep you going all day, you’re going to need it!
The Important Stuff: Rides!
As I mentioned before, Crested Butte has more riding than most humans can tackle in a month, much less a few days. For this section, I’ll assume that since you’re reading this blog post on MTB Home, you’re a fairly experienced rider that can handle his/her own when it comes to technical skills and climbing. Because as you should know, you’ve got to get up to get down; especially here in CB. If Chasing Epic were to do a 3-day trip (we only do 4-day itineraries in Crested Butte), this is what one might look like.
Afternoon, Day 1:
I like to “warm up” with a cruise up the main service road on the mountain, and catch Meander to Lower Meander on the “back side,” which swings around and spits you out in the Wild Horse neighborhood. From there, ride down through Mt. Crested Butte to the Lupine Trail, and enjoy one of the most scenic and swoopy trails in Colorado. From here, you can pedal over to the Lower Loop Trail, where a nice mellow singletrack brings you back into town. All-told, this ride should take a couple hours and involves some decent- but not too difficult- climbing.
Lots of options here, but for a full-day ride I recommend one of the classics: 403 to 401. This works even better (although some consider it cheating) if you can get someone to drop you off near the top of Paradise Divide where 403 starts, otherwise it’s a decent climb up Washington Gulch Rd. Either way, climb up and over 403- which includes an incredible downhill to Gothic Rd- and over to 401. From here, it’s a steady climb up to Schofield Pass, and then up to 401 itself. The 8+ miles of 401 will have you bragging to your friends on Facebook for weeks.
Feeling even more frisky? Once you’ve ridden Gothic Rd back down into Mt. Crested Butte, add on Snodgrass for good measure… but be sure you have enough in the tank!
Morning, Day 3:
My personal favorite trail in Crested Butte is Strand Hill, which is why I ALWAYS ride it regardless of how long I’m in town. You can start at the TH on Brush Creek Road, or you can ride it from Mt. Crested Butte by utilizing the Upper Loop and Upper Upper trails. Either way, once you’re out there, climb up the fairly steep dirt road to the beginning of the Strand Hill trail and enjoy the sweet, sweet downhill through the aspens and overlooking the East River Valley. If you have the energy, I’d recommend cutting over on Strand Bonus, and doing the top half again. You can thank me later.
A Few More Things
As I mentioned above, there are a ton of trails in the Crested Butte area, and these certainly aren’t everyone’s favorites. A few others you should check out if time allows:
- The Dyke
- Doctor Park
- Reno Flag Bear Deadman’s
- Green Lake
- Teocalli Ridge
There are two main areas to stay in the Crested Butte area: in town, or on the mountain. The out-your-back-door access to trails is fairly similar for both, so that shouldn’t be a concern. If you’re looking to rent a house or stay in a B&B, then in-town is your choice. If you have a larger group and want to rent a condo with friends, then the mountain is for you. Either way, there’s a free bus that runs between the two on a fairly regular basis, so getting around is as easy as it gets.
Everyone always asks me when they should go to Crested Butte, and my answer? Whenever you can. When it comes to riding, the main season runs from late June (depending on snowpack) until early October. My personal favorite times to ride CB are basically when we do trips there: 4th of July weekend, late July for wildflowers, and late September when the town gets quiet and the aspens are changing. This year we also have a mid-August trip that caters to women only, and it’s sure to be perfect then, too.
Steve Mokan is a long-time Colorado resident and the owner of Chasing Epic, a brand new adventure travel company that’s changing the face of mountain bike adventures. They cater to experienced riders and include everything you need for the vacation of a lifetime: boutique lodging, meals, high-end carbon bikes, guides, training programs, ride nutrition, travel planning, and a dedicated trip leader. Among their seven western US locations, they have four scheduled trips to Crested Butte in 2016, as well as the ability to customize private trips for groups of six or more.
We’re excited to welcome Chasing Epic to town and we look forward to seeing you guys and gals on the trail!