Crested Butte

Crested Butte is renowned as an MTB-paradise. It is a funky ancient mining town that nowadays earns its living from tourists. It is high, situated at 2715 metres. People come to Crested Butte to bike, hike and ski, look at wild flowers, exhibit art, etc. Mountainbiking is important in Crested Butte. There is a mountainbike museum and hall of fame. The state of the trails is announced on the web pretty much as ski slopes are in ski resorts.

Crested Butte Mountainbike trails
The riding is splendid! There are a lot of trails, they are fun and the scenery is beautiful.  However, the best trails are sometimes quite far. Apart from the trails close to the town it is often several hours riding before one is on singletrack. In fact many seemed to ride a car to the trails. A major drawback is that many trails are what the Americans call multi-use trails: i.e., there may be motorcycles and the obnoxious ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles).

We spent the first two nights in the International Hostel. Then, we moved out to camp in a spot eight kilometres up the Slate River Road. In July there were many campers, most had come to enjoy the singletrack, but some seemed to live more or less permanently in their trucks. Crested Butte could be reached in half an hour by some pretty good singletrack.

Lower Lower and Upper Lower

There were some nice singletrack between our camp site and the town of Crested Butte, which we rode daily. Fun mildly technical trails traversing the western slopes of the Slate River.

Going back to the tent carrying food and beer we preferred the easy Lower Lower Trail.  Going in to town we preferred the Upper Lower Trail.

The two trails are often ridden as a loop. We met absolute beginners, but also local riders having a ride after work in racing speed.

Lower Lower Trail

Meadow on Upper Lower

Thicket on Upper Lower


Snodgrass is a trail between  Mount Crested Butte and Crested Butte. It begins just above Mt. Crested Butte on the Gothic Road. One leaves the road, climbs a ridge, traverses south and then descends on twisty singletrack through wood and meadows down to Washington Gulch Road.

Snodgrass is a perfect way to back to town after riding Trail 401.

Upper Upper

There are several trails that cling to the southern slopes of Mount Crested Butte: Upper Upper Loop and Upper Loop, and Tony's Trail which leads back to Crested Butte over some open country.

The Upper Upper Loop has some pretty difficult sections, switchbacks, roots and rock gardens, the last part down to the Brush Creek Road is rather steep, a challenge in ascent.

The Upper Upper Loop is a perfect short ride, particularly when a thunderstorm is looming as one can get back to Crested Butte quite fast.

Upper Upper Loop

Trail 401

Trail 401 is the most famous Crested Butte trail. It is a  very beautiful trail over looking the valley of East River and Gothic. The singletrack starts at Schofield Pass. There are two approach roads from Crested Butte. One may go the Slate River road, across the Paradise Pass (3466), through the Paradise Basin, to Schofield Pass (3264).  Or one may head up to the trail head via Mount Crested Butte, and Gothic to Schofield Pass. Many Americans take their cars to Gothic and start riding there. Gothic is a former ghost town that has come to live again with the advent of tourism.

The 401 begins at the Schofield Pass. The first section is a steep climb though meadows and coniferous forest. Some bits demand considerable climbing skills. One ascends to a shoulder at approximately 3460 meter. Here is an intersection,  the  left path goes to Maroon Pass the right is trail 401.

Now, one is rewarded for the climb with down hill riding on a narrow path with plenty of switchbacks. It clings in a long traverse to the high slopes above East River gradually losing altitude. In July one is surrounded by walls of wild flowers. The last section down to Hustlers Gulch goes on wide switchbacks, back and forth across the steep slope. Here one may cross a stream and head for the Schofield Pass road or continue the traverse on the Trail 401 another 8 or 9 kilometres to  Gothic.

Paradise Basin

Ascent  from Schofield  Pass

The highest point, 3460 metres

Surrounded by wild flowers

Traversing the slopes  high above  East River


Teocalli Trail

The Teocalli Trail is another of the famous Crested Butte trails. It is quite far. From Crested Butte it is approximately 22 kilometre before one is on singletrack. One rides up the Brush Creek Road, and the West Brush Creek Road, to where it ends. The road gets progressively more difficult. Up in the West Brush one has to ford the stream and there are some pretty rocky ascents.

Once on the Teocalli trail one climbs to the Teocalli Ridge traversing the slope.  It  is  a rather strenuous climb. The fun begins when one reaches the watershed. Now, the trail follows the crest. Here are steps and drops. Views are splendid. After approximately four kilometres one drops down to the Brush River Valley on a rather technical descent. Some bits are lose with plenty of roots.

The Teocalli Trail was great fun. However, it would have been more fun if there had not been motorcycles. For some incomprehensible reason dirtbikes, that tear up the trail and make a horrible noise, are permitted.

Fording the Brush Creek

Beginning of the Teocalli Trail

Gaining Altitude

Riding the Teocalli Ridge, Pearl Mountain in the background

Teocalli Ridge

Rapid descent

Road block in the Brush Creek Valley

Reno Divide

The Reno, Flag, Bear is another much talked about Crested Butte trail. Getting to it involves a  30 kilometres ride on road, first on the highway to Gunnison, then on a dirt road up the Cement Creek Valley to the Reno Divide. This was one of the occasions we really wished  we had had a car. By the time we reached the  Reno Divide a thunderstorm was looming over us, it looked as if we were  going to get wet and cold and  possibly  electrocuted.

So we chose to just ride the Reno divide to the Dead Man Gulch Trail, to ride its famous switchbacks.

Dead Man Trail Switchbacks
The Reno Divide was a fine undulating singletrack, gradually losing altitude. However, the Dead Man Trail switchbacks  were a disappointment. They might be challenging on a motorbike, but were easy on an MTB.

The day was marred by the presence of an enormous amount of motorbikes. Their riders were surely friendly and polite, but they were tearing up the trail, not to mention that it is not much fun to be passed by forty roaring dirtbikes.

Would we go back to Crested Butte? Absolutely, there are some awesome rides, but we would sooner go to Durango, Frisco, and Winter Park.

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