12 Crested Butte Hikes that You’ll Never Forget

Crested Butte is a magical mountain town with a collection of the best hikes in Colorado – especially if you’re looking for gorgeous wildflower hikes.

Crested Butte hikes range from an easy hike to a waterfall to a challenging hike over Maroon Pass all the way to Aspen.

If you’re looking for high-quality hiking recommendations in Crested Butte from a local, then you’ve come to the right place. I’ve called Colorado home for over 13 years and have hit the trails all over the state.

As a local hiking pro, I want to help you explore the best Crested Butte hikes like a local, not a tourist.

About this Guide to Crested Butte Hikes

Inside this local guide to Crested Butte hiking trails, you’ll find expert advice about:

  • The best time to visit Crested Butte
  • Tips for finding the prettiest Crested Butte wildflower hikes
  • The best Crested Butte hikes, broken down by difficulty
  • Where to eat and where to camp in Crested Butte
  • Beautiful mountain passes nearby to visit
  • Additional Colorado travel planning resources

Where is Crested Butte?

Crested Butte is located on the Western slope of Colorado, about a 4-hour drive southwest of Denver.

It’s a nice escape from the crowded Front Range, although you certainly won’t be alone in this outdoor Mecca. So, click here for the full map.

Map of the best hikes in Crested Butte.

When to Visit Crested Butte

Crested Butte is a great destination all year-round. In the fall, the aspens change to stunning gold all over town.

Winter in Crested Butte is wonderful for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, while spring brings the start of mountain biking season.

And, of course, in summer, the wildflowers explode everywhere, blanketing the town in striking colors.

Crested Butte Wildflower Hikes

Known as the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, Crested Butte in summer is a fantastic place to find wildflower hikes. Some of the top Crested Butte wildflower hikes include Judd Falls, Lower Loop Trail, and Oh-Be-Joyful.

The Aspen to Crested Butte hike over West Maroon Pass is also an incredible wildflower hike when it’s in bloom (usually from mid-July to August).

Peak wildflower season in Crested Butte is typically late June through July, but you’ll see some early bloomers in May and late bloomers all the way into early September.

Some of the wildflowers you’ll find in Crested Butte include lavender columbine (the Colorado state flower), purple larkspur, yellow Aspen sunflowers, and red Indian paintbrush, to name just a few.

The Best Easy Hikes in Crested Butte

Even though these Crested Butte trails are easy, they are a great intro to one of the most gorgeous mountain towns in Colorado.

1. Judd Falls

One of the most popular Crested Butte hikes is the short trail to Judd Falls. It offers great views of Gothic Mountain, along with being one of the best mellow waterfall hikes in Colorado.

Distance: 2.2 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 462 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Time: 1 hour
Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

View of Judd Falls and the end of one of the best hikes in Crested Butte.

2. Meridian Lake (aka Long Lake)

This lovely hike is one of the top things to do in Crested Butte. The trail takes you to the beautiful Long Lake where you can take a dip, and it also offers wonderful views from a ridgeline that wraps around the lake.

Distance: 2.5 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 512 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Time: 1-1.5 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

3. Whetstone Vista Loop

The Whetstone Vista Loop makes its way through an aspen grove up to an overlook of Whetstone Mountain. When the aspens turn golden, it becomes one of the great fall hikes in Colorado.

Distance: 2.7-mile loop
Elevation Gain: 521 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Time: 1-1.5 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

4. East River Trail

While the East River Trail is easy, it goes through some truly spectacular landscape with wide open valley views most of the way. Tons of Aspen sunflowers turn the hills bright yellow in the summer.

Distance: 4.3 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 324 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Time: 1.5-2 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes

5. Lower Loop

Lower Loop is a great chill trail that winds along the Slate River. Although it’s longer, the elevation gain is fairly minimal.

You’ll encounter excellent views of Gothic Mountain, and maybe even catch a reflection of it in Peanut Lake along the way.

Distance: 7.3-mile loop
Elevation Gain: 479 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Time: 2.5-3 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes

The Best Moderate Hikes in Crested Butte

These moderate Crested Butte hiking trails are perfect to stretch your legs and explore more of the area.

6. Green Lake Trail

Green Lake Trail starts right in town at the Crested Butte Nordic Center. Eventually, you’ll start climbing up Mt. Axtel and head through the timber until you reach the lake.

If you like, you can jump in before turning back to the trailhead.

Distance: 8.5 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 1,814 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated Time: 4-5 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

7. Baxter Gulch Trail

While the Baxter Gulch Trail begins quite close to town, it ends up taking you through a beautiful landscape with plenty of wildflowers during the summer.

The steep switchbacks near the start are worth it for the views as you climb (don’t forget to look behind you). Once you reach a high alpine meadow, you’ll also get a nice perspective of Whetstone Mountain.

Distance: 10.4 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 2,089 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated Time: 5-6 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes

View of the magical wildflowers you'll find while doing the best Crested Butte hikes of them all.
Summer in Crested Butte

The Best Challenging Hikes in Crested Butte

While these Crested Butte hikes are physically challenging, they are also incredibly rewarding with lots of spectacular views.

8. Mount Emmons (Red Lady) via Copley Lake

The summit of Red Lady, aka Mount Emmons, provides panoramic views of Crested Butte, Scarp Ridge, and Oh-Be-Joyful valley. Copley Lake itself is a slight detour from the main trail, but it’s worth it for a secluded pit stop.

Distance: 10.4 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 3,391 feet
Difficulty: Challenging
Estimated Time: 5-7 hours
Dog Friendly: No

9. Copper Creek Trail to Copper Lake

You’ll start this hike at the Judd Falls Trailhead, but then take an old 4×4 all the way to Copper Lake. The mountain views are awesome, as are the wildflowers when they’re in season.

Local Tip: The trail includes several stream crossings, so you might want to bring a second pair of shoes, because you will most likely get wet.

Distance: 12 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 2,431 feet
Difficulty: Challenging
Estimated Time: 6-6.5 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

10. Oh-Be-Joyful Trail

One of the must-do Crested Butte hikes is Oh-Be-Joyful Pass. As you head uphill, you’ll see Democrat Basin followed by mountain views of Peeler Peak, Garfield Peak, and Schulykill Mountain across the wide-open valley.

Distance: 13 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 2,148 feet
Difficulty: Challenging
Estimated Time: 6-7 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes

View from Oh-Be-Joyful Trail in Crested Butte.

11. East Maroon Pass

If you’ve already done West Maroon Pass and want to head back the way you came, try the route less traveled via East Maroon Pass. This trail is less crowded and longer, but is just as beautiful.

Distance: 16 miles point-to-point
Elevation Gain: 2,064 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Estimated Time: 6-8 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

12. West Maroon Pass (Aspen to Crested Butte Hike)

This amazing Aspen to Crested Butte hike should definitely be on your bucket list when visiting Colorado!

Instead of the 100-mile drive between Aspen and Crested Butte, you can take a 12-mile hike over West Maroon Pass for incredible views through one of the prettiest places in Colorado.

You can also turn this into one of the best backpacking trips in Colorado by doing the entire Four Pass Loop through the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

Distance: 12 miles point-to-point
Elevation Gain: 2,920 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Estimated Time: 6-8 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes, on-leash

View of the mountains and a lake during fall as you hike from Aspen to Crested Butte.

Where to Eat After Hiking in Crested Butte

If you’ve built up some serious hiker hunger after these Crested Butte hikes, here are some tasty spots to grab a bite:

  • The Last Steep: Burgers & pub grub $$
  • Secret Stash: Specialty pizza $$
  • Bonez: Tacos, enchiladas, & margaritas $$

Where to Camp in Crested Butte

You have several options for camping near Crested Butte, including:

  • Oh Be Joyful Campground
  • Washington Gulch Dispersed Camping
  • Lake Irwin Campground

SUP Rentals Near Crested Butte

If you want to hit the water to cool off after your Crested Butte hikes, you can rent stand-up paddleboards at Wheelies & Waves, with locations in Crested Butte and Gunnison.

Here are a few places to go SUP near Crested Butte:

  • Emerald Lake
  • Lake Irwin
  • Lost Lake
  • Taylor Reservoir
  • Blue Mesa Reservoir

Beautiful Mountain Passes Near Crested Butte

While you’re in the area, there are a few beautiful mountain passes nearby that make fantastic scenic drives in Colorado. These stunning mountain passes include:

Additional Colorado Hiking Resources

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Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure. She'd rather be dirty than done up.