How to spend a summer weekend in Crested Butte, CO. Family-friendly hikes, beautiful camping spots and where to grab a cold beer in town!
Crested Butte, CO is often described as the last true ski town in the state and I have to say, there is something truly special about this town and the surrounding area. You feel secluded and part of a secret little world that not many others are part of.
To make things even better, two of my best friends got to join me for a weekend of camping and hiking in Crested Butte. All of the photos you will see in this post are courtesy of one of those friends, Caroline, who happened to be the only one of us with a decent camera at the time.
We took a long weekend in July and we were lucky enough to catch the tail-end of wildflower season. For those who don’t know, Crested Butte is considered the wildflower capital of Colorado and is regarded as one of the best places IN THE WORLD to see wildflowers. They even have a Wildflower Festival each year, which we missed by a week.
We drove down on a Thursday afternoon, which took us about 5 hours with all of the road construction and traffic that day.
There are a few campgrounds near the town of Crested Butte and we had originally planned on staying at the Lake Irwin Campground and Recreation area but in the summer, you really need to plan ahead and reserve something and we didn’t really think to do that.
Fun fact: Lake Irwin has dispersed camping if you continue up the road past the main campground and the attendant will potentially fail to inform you of this, as she did with us. These sites are FAR more beautiful than the sites around the lake. I highly recommend you check them out before paying for a spot near the lake.
So despite our best efforts, we did not end up staying at Lake Irwin. After asking around for some advice from the locals, we finally ended up at Lost Lake Campground, which is about 13 more miles past the turnoff for Lake Irwin. THIS PLACE WAS A GEM.
The ranger on duty was so helpful and kind and we happily took a dispersed camping spot that she recommended after she told us all of the regular sites were full. So not only did we score an amazing location but it was FREE. The only downside was HUNDREDS of mosquitos but you’ll get those anywhere in the summer. Get used to it.
After settling into our campsite, we took a hike around Lost Lake and explored the nearby trails for a few hours. Some of the trails aren’t very well marked but you can find your way back pretty easily.
Since we arrived late in the day and had to drive around to some different campsites, we didn’t have much time to do anything else before it was time to start a fire and cook dinner. I had anticipated a grate over our fire pit since I though we were going to stay in a less primitive site but we made do with what we had!
The following day, we woke up early and cooked some breakfast and prepared for a hike I had planned to Green Lake.
The most frustrating thing about the Green Lake Trail, is that there are literally no signs or markers to signify any kind of trailhead at the beginning of the hike and there are no signs at any point along the way either. Luckily, I found an amazing description of the route from Travel Crested Butte that really helped us figure out where to start and what to look for to ensure we were going the right way.
Green Lake Trail information and tips:
- This is classified as a moderate hike, which was certainly true for my friends who had flown in from Indiana two days earlier and hadn’t fully acclimated yet. I found it to be a really pleasant and fairly easy hike, speaking as a person who hikes nearly every weekend in the summer at high altitudes.
- It’s about 5.5 round trip from the “trailhead”, but we parked at Lake Irwin and just started from there since we were a bit unsure where the trailhead was. The website above explains it well, but we still had difficulty finding it due to lack of signage.
- There is over 1,300 feet of elevation gain on this hike. I felt this was a good amount of elevation gain to give my friends a true “Colorado hiking experience”, while still keeping them alive.
- WATER, WATER, WATER. Take LOTS of it. This trail is exposed every step of the way and it was really hot in July when we went with nearly no break from the sun.
- SUNSCREEN, SUNSCREEN, SUNSCREEN. See above. Wear a hat.
You actually hike on a rough 4×4 road for a lot of this hike and there is private property on either side for a good long way up. If you do happen to take this trail, please respect the privacy and the property of the residents in this area and stay on the trail. Once you come into view of the waterfall, you’ve basically made it out of the private property area.
The trail splits at a certain point and you keep left for Green Lake or you can veer right, which will take you up another trail to Scarp Ridge. Once you come to this fork, the final ascent is only about another 20 minutes or so and the incline is fairy mild.
Once Green Lake finally comes into view, you cross a field of loose rocks and boulders to get to the water’s edge.
The water was SO blue and amazing. We dropped our gear and just sat near the lake for about an hour, eating sandwiches and marveling in the beauty. We were not, however, brave enough to take a dip. That water was cold.
After we ate, we packed up and headed back down the trail. There was even some snow still present near the lake, but not enough to really block the trail.
Once we got back to the car, all three of us had a hankering for a nice, cold draft beer so we headed into town to grab one at The Eldo, which is seriously a perfect spot to just take in the views of the town from above the street. They have a fantastic balcony and even better fried pickles.
After indulging in beer and pickles, we headed back to our campsite for our final night.
NOTE: listen to your husband when he tells you the technique for chopping firewood. I did not do this and nearly took off my left thumb. Luckily, the ranger at the campsite had some bandaids that got me though the night but it was actually pretty bad.
I’ll spare you the photos.
I hope to be able to go back to this magical place at home point with my husband. It’s one of my favorite places that I’ve been able to explore in Colorado, even if it was only for 2 short days. It will always hold a place in my heart and since my friends were able to come with me, it made the weekend all that more fun. I loved being able to play tour guide on the way down there and answer their questions about a place I’m head over heels for.
Until next time, Crusty Butt!