Crested Butte may be a huge winter destination, but in my opinion, fall is the most breathtaking time to visit. The fall colors may vary by year, but in general, October is when the leaves turn those beautiful golden colors. Crested Butte has dozens of amazing adventures, here are 7 things to do in Crested Butte to really take in the fall beauty.
Drive Kebler Pass
Kebler Pass is a 30 mile dirt road that runs west of Crested Butte to Highway 143. Though the road is dirt, the road is accessible by almost any vehicle including RVs, although some turns are tight so it might not be the best idea for long trailers.
The pass is open from May to October but it is without a doubt most beautiful to visit in the fall colors of October. It’s not surprising, considering that Kebler Pass is home to one of the largest Aspen Groves in the US.
Kebler Pass is definitely one of the most scenic roads in the world and is an absolute must do in Crested Butte.
Hike the Three Lakes Loop
Few hikes reap so much reward for so little effort. The hike brings you to 3 lakes (as the name says) in only a 4.5 mile trek.
This hike is a loop and I recommend hiking it clockwise. To do so, start at the trailhead marked Beckwith Pass and Trail #842. As you drive up county road 706 to get to the hikers parking lot, you will see the trailhead on your left. You’ll reach a few junctions on this trail, all of which you’ll stay on the Three Lakes Trail/Dollar Lake. In October, this section of the trail will be surrounded by an unbelievable grove of tall, orange aspen trees.
The first lake you hit, Dollar Lake, is the most stunning. The fall tones of the mountainside across the lake reflect on the water making for a picture perfect destination.
After that, you will continue along the well marked trail with incredible panoramic views of the Ruby Range above Lost Lake Slough. I’ve said this a dozen times, but the fall colors truly make this view go above and beyond.
You’ll pass a waterfall and one more smaller lake before finishing at Lost Lake Campground, the third lake.
Hike (or Bike) the 403 Trail
While the 401 is much more iconic than the 403 , the view overlooking the mountain range across the valley is far more spectacular.
From the viewpoint, you can see the 401 trail that runs parallel to the valley. The view in itself is amazing but the colors of yellow and orange aspen trees scattered along the hillside makes it even more breathtaking.
This trail can be mountain biked but it is for experienced mountain bikers only. If you hike it, it is only about 2 miles roundtrip when starting and ending at the 403 trailhead, which can be accessed from Washington Gulch Road (not recommended for RV’s). If mountain biking, you can choose to make it a loop by riding the 403 down to Gothic road, riding left up Gothic road, and then heading all the way down the 401 (see below).
Mountain Bike the Famous 401 Trail
The 401 may be famous, but it isn’t easy. The 401 is filled with hundreds of aspen trees making it perfect to ride in the fall.
To do this trial right, start from the very top of the valley. You can park at the lower 401 trailhead and bike up the dirt road to the start, you can park at the upper trailhead and ride back to your car after your downhill the 401, or even better, if you have 2 cars or a friend, you can shuttle the two trailheads. There are also shuttle services in town, which means this trail can get pretty busy on the weekends in summer, however, when we rode it mid-week in the beginning of October, we didn’t see another mountain biker. If you are riding from the 403 to the 401 you can head back a number of different ways. See TrailForks for more info.
Tip for RVers: Driving up Gothic Road is much wider and smoother than Washington Gulch Road if you you are trying to get close to the top of the trailheads. While camping is great on Washington Gulch (see below), it’s a long bike ride to get to the 403 trailhead. If we had known, we would’ve driven the RV up Gothic Road instead.
Get Dinner at Brick Oven Pizzzeria
Not a fall activity but after experiencing the top fall adventures in Crested Butte, dinner at Brick Oven is a must. Because, let’s be honest, dinner never tastes as good as it does after a long day of adventuring.
The pizza here was absolutely delicious (perhaps it was due more to our exhaustion but nevertheless)! We got one pizza with thin crust and one with thick crust and both were great.
Get Dessert at Third Bowl Homemade Ice Cream
Finish off your amazing meal with some ice cream at Third Bowl. This homemade ice cream satiated our sweet tooth with unique flavors and fluffy texture.
The only negative was that the ice cream was a bit expensive but it was otherwise awesome.
Free Camp on Washington Gulch Road
Washington Gulch, the dirt road where the 403 trail start from, is a free camping heaven. As this road lies in national forest, you are allowed to camp here for up to 14 days, before you must move 6 miles. In addition, the location is incredibly scenic. Many of the free campsites deliver views of a large monolith, Gothic Mountain.
At the beginning of the road, the road is very smooth but the further out you get the more bumpy and steep it gets. Get more info about this free campsite at Campendium.
Did we miss your favorite thing to do in Crested Butte in fall? Let us know in the comments below!