Tuesday, September 21, 2021

XC Colorado Road Trip - Part 2 - Crested Butte

My wife Kris and I took a 19 day road trip this summer to Colorado and back. This 4 part post series and the photos (and a couple videos) are from our journey. 

Part 1 - NC to Colorado Springs

Part 3 - Telluride

Part 4 - Salida to NC

Part 2 is our time in Crested Butte, CO. 

Read on for more commentary amongst the photos...

A rare rain shower in the valley on our way to Gunnison, then Crested Butte. The drive between Gunnison and Crested Butte is beautiful. 

Sunset along Elk Avenue, the "Main" Street in town that has all the shops and restaurants. Crested Butte is billed as the "surf town" of Colorado. It certainly had that laid back and unpretentious feel of a surf town. We loved it here. Something for everyone for all seasons - snow sports, biking, hiking, fishing, wildlife, etc - it has it all.

This is at the the beginning of the Snodgrass Trail north of Crested Butte. Crested Butte is known as the wildflower capital of Colorado. You can see why. We happened to be there at the right time, everything in full bloom. 

One of the reasons we drove to Colorado was I wanted to have my own mountain bike there. I have a 2020 Yeti SB130 made for Colorado trails. That paid off big time. Our first day, I mountain biked the Snodgrass, Lupine, Lower Loop combination of trails. I started right out of our VRBO condo in Mt Crested Butte. It was amazing, with beautiful views throughout and it took me right into town where I had Kris pick me up. Total of 20 miles and 1,700 ft of elevation gain. The next several pictures are from this bike ride.

That afternoon after lunch, we rented bikes for Kris, Jake, and William and I took them out on the beginner Lower Loop trail from town. They did great and got to see some of the beautiful views I had enjoyed that morning.

Here is Kris mountain biking the Lower Loop Trail

the family - Kris, Jake, & William. McIntyre is missing here but she arrived the next day with her boyfriend Dom on their eastward bound road trip from the west coast.

William on the Lower Loop Trail

Jake on the Lower Loop Trail


After riding on the Lower Loop Trail and dodging a brief rain shower, we rode some of the recreational path that goes through town and up into Mt Crested Butte. Lots of great biking options here for all levels of riders.

Along the rec path is a fun pump track and bike park with some fun jumps and features.

Niky's Donuts on Elk Avenue

The next morning, which was the 4th of July, we hiked one of the highly recommended hiking trails with a relatively flat and short distance - Brush Creek. The wildflowers once again amazed. Gorgeous views with a farm, a river, and the surrounding mountains. And we saw a coyote....see below.

a large Lupine flower

The coyote we spotted along the river.

That afternoon, I mountain biked the world famous 401 Trail Loop. 14 miles and over 2,100 ft elevation gain. I topped out around 11,300 ft elevation. It's touted as a must do ride for mountain bikers. It's no slouch and it kicked my butt. Yes, my lungs and heart were about to burst on the climb up and I had to stop for rest several times with that altitude.

Pictured here is Emerald Lake, which is on the way up Gothic Road just before the single track section of 401 that takes you downhill. 

At over 11,000 ft before heading downhill.

Snapshot of my route, and the moment I was at the top. The ride down was heavenly.

The first 2.5 minutes of the video above are some highlights from the downhill section of the 401 Trail.

This guy was on his way up the single track. Respect!

Back at the car, looking up to where I had ridden down from. 

The tiny town of Gothic, Colorado.

The next morning, I mountain biked at Strand Hill, a shorter loop close to town which provided for a great recovery ride given the rides and hiking I had done the previous two days. It was just over 7.5 miles with just below 1,000 ft elevation gain. 

That afternoon, it was time for a family hike and casual afternoon together, so we drove back up Gothic Road and did the short hike to Judd Falls, then went to Emerald Lake for a lakeside late lunch and swimming.

Judd Falls

William, Dom, McIntyre, & Jake

Another reason I wanted to drive to Colorado - I wanted to have my Toyota 4Runner there to drive on these backcountry roads. That also paid off. This is Gothic Road north of Mt Crested Butte, narrow with cliff drop offs. Low 4x4 engaged!

Emerald Lake

A few pics from Elk Avenue that evening. Secret Stash Pizza was very good along with an amazing hard working kitchen and wait staff. Ryce Asian Bistro was also very good Thai food.

We all decided on an epic hike for the next day, also our last full day in Crested Butte. There are many to choose from, but I chose Scarp Ridge to Red Lady based on advice from a friend and other web site recommendations. 

We started out early to beat the usual summer afternoon thunderstorm and lightning threat, and started just above Lake Irwin, hiked up Scarp Ridge, and to the summit of Mt Emmons (also known as "Red Lady"). It was a total of 9 miles, with over 2,500 ft elevation gain. We topped out at over 12,300 ft elevation. It was a challenging hike for everyone and had unreal views, including 360 degree views at the top and overlooking the town of Crested Butte. Check out this pictures...

The Summit of Mt Emmons (Red Lady)

Overlooking the town of Crested Butte

It got a little chilly up top. Layers!

End of the day post hike beer reward at Brick Oven Pub.

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