Exploring Crested Butte on Two-Wheels

Words and Photos by Mike Smart of Leska MTB

Crested Butte (or CB) has 300+ miles of high-alpine riding in the Central Rockies region of the United States. Primarily known for winter skiing, Crested Butte has some of the countries best mountain bike trails – and views! Mountain biking in CB is quite special due to the short window of trail availability. With a base elevation of 9,000ft, snow covers the mountain trails a majority of the year. Many of the trails do not fully open until mid-July and then start to see snow in late-October. That’s not a lot of time to explore these epic trails – and why it’s even more special.

A quick online search will point you towards many of the well-known routes in CB. During my last trip, I discovered a brand new trail loop that was 25 years in the making – Baxter Gulch. According to Crested Butte News, “The project endured through multiple generations of town employees, 15 years of easement negotiations and eight years of construction. On August 2, 2018, the grand opening will celebrate the legacy of hard work characteristic of the Crested Butte community.” If you visit CB – put this ride on your list! Baxter Gulch is still an unknown gem – a search on Trailforks shows only 1 ride log in 2018 and not a single review!

This trail can be accessed from downtown CB and connects with the Para me Para Te trail and finally the Green Lake Trail back to town. It’s about a 15-mile loop and covers over 3,000ft of elevation gain above 9,000ft! The rocky and tight singletrack will test your suspension and bike handling skills. A favorite aspect of this loop was how different it was from many of the other available trails in CB. These trails make you feel like you are right in the middle of nowhere – a real backcountry experience. Whenever you stop to take a break, you’ll hear nothing but the true silence throughout the forest.

Once at the top of the mountain, take a quick detour to Green Lake for a mid-ride snack before ripping the 25+ minute downhill. You’ll get fantastic views of the mountains in the distance while having to focus on the east-coast-like rock gardens and technical sections. It’s a downhill that will leave you smiling and wanting to ride over and over again.

Recommendations for riding in Crested Butte, CO:

  • Pack a jacket – storms roll in fast when in the mountains and the chance for a rain (or hail) storm is likely every afternoon
  • Spare tube, hand pump, tire levers, valve core, patch kit, etc. Getting stranded in the backcountry sucks!
  • Extra water – you got through a lot when at altitude
  • Pack some snacks and enjoy the views. It’s nice to stop along the way, take some pictures, and enjoy one of your favorite snacks or beverages
  • Make sure that your cell phone is charged. You’ll be stopping a lot to take pictures 🙂 Download the TrailForks app so you never get lost
  • Grab a burrito from Teocalli Tamale and visit downtown Crested Butte