The Town of Crested Butte lies neatly in the bottom of a great, green valley surrounded by peaks. Smack in the center of the valley floor rises the monolith that gives the area its name: Mount Crested Butte.
The iconic shape of the butte dominates its surroundings. Everywhere in the valley, you can see Mount Crested Butte—and from its rocky peak, you can see everything else.
The ski resort creeps up the Butte’s north side, and during the summer a pair of ski lifts takes visitors up the slopes for hiking, mountain biking, and other adventures like disc golf, archery, and paragliding. At the top of the Silver Queen lift, a 2.5-mile round-trip hike will take you to the very tip of the mountain’s crest, a rocky finger pointing at the sky.
In August, I joined my wife and her parents for a scramble to the summit of Mount Crested Butte. Along the way, we were charmed by pikas, chipmunks, and ground squirrels, and we even watched raptors soaring across the valley—from above. The trail is carefully marked and well maintained by the resort, so even novice hikers can find their way to the top. That said, the short trail ascends over 800 feet, and near the tip, the path follows a narrow ridge of talus and scree. It is not for the faint of heart. Hiking poles supported our knees as we climbed and descended, and right before we reached the summit, we used our hands as well as feet.
We enjoyed spectacular views (and a Toblerone bar) on the small, stony summit. We could see all the way from the picturesque Town of Crested Butte to the Maroon Bells in the distance, with Whetstone, Gothic, Red Lady, and Teocalli Mountains in between—more peaks than I can name.
We took the “easy” way to the top, but once there we met an instructor with Irwin Guides; she had brought two intrepid climbers up the “guide route,” a technical assent requiring harnesses and ropes.
After scampering back down, hikers can choose their own adventure: ride the Silver Queen lift to the bottom; hike a couple of miles to the Red Lady lift and download there; or hoof it about 5 miles all the way down to the base of the ski resort.
Back on the valley floor, we remember standing on top of the crested butte, as we will each time we see its singular silhouette.