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7 Things To Do In Crested Butte In October: Epic 1 Day Itinerary

things to do in Crested Butte in October

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.

Kebler Pass is dirt but passable by nearly any vehicle

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, things to do in Crested Butte in October
The constantly beautiful views as you drive Kebler Pass

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.

Three Lakes Loop, things to do in Crested Butte in October
This hike is a total fall wonderland

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.

Three Lakes Loop, things to do in Crested Butte in October
Having a picnic at picture-perfect Dollar Lake

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.

Three Lakes Loop, things to do in Crested Butte in October
Fall tends to bring a special magic to the mountains and it’s especially true here

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.  

403 Trail, things to do in Crested Butte in October
Spectacular views from the top of the 403 trail

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 make it even more breathtaking.

403 Trail, things to do in Crested Butte in October
Fall colors while descending the 403

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.

401 Trail, things to do in Crested Butte in October
Riding Gothic Road after finishing the 401 trail

To do this trial right, start from the very top of the valley.  You can park at the lower 401 trailheads and bike up the dirt road to the start, you can park at the upper trailhead and ride back to your car after you 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 Pizzeria

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.  

Main Street Crested Butte, things to do in Crested Butte in October
The cute town of Crested Butte from Brick Oven Pizzeria

The pizza here was absolutely delicious (perhaps it was due more to our exhaustion but nevertheless)! We got one pizza with a thin crust and one with a 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.  

Third Bowl ice cream, things to do in Crested Butte in October
Third Bowl ice cream shop in Crested Butte

Free Camp on Washington Gulch Road

Washington Gulch, the dirt road where the 403 trail starts from, is a free camping heaven.  As this road lies in the 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.

Washington Gulch Rd, things to do in Crested Butte in October
Views of Gothic Mtn make this probably one of the most scenic campsites in the US

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 or check out our blog Guide to Free Camping in the USA.

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Did we miss your favorite thing to do in Crested Butte in the fall? Let us know in the comments below!

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