We finished up our week in Crested Butte with a few lake visits, some quality time at the river for Phineas, a picnic in the park, a night out in town, some wildflower sightings, and a wonderful afternoon visit with some friends. Pheww! Lots to do in this town. Let’s start with the lakes…
Lake Irwin is a high mountain lake nestled among the Colorado Rockies about ten-miles from Crested Butte. Practically everyone who knew we were visiting Crested Butte recommended that we check out this lake and adjoining campground. So one afternoon we drove up to see what the fuss was all about. Maybe we’ve become jaded by all that we have seen in the last year, but Lake Irwin didn’t impress us quite as much as we had expected. That’s not to say that it wasn’t a gorgeous lake surrounded by snow dappled mountains and hillsides filled with dark green evergreens. But it just didn’t have that wow factor for us. In many ways it was just another mountain lake. I know, I know…I am afraid we’ve become a tiny bit spoiled.
We hiked about halfway around the lake and checked out the adjacent national forest campground. It was a nice campground with some sites offering water views. We also spotted a fantastic boondocking spot behind the campground with an amazing mountain view. Unfortunately for us, there was not even a speck of cell phone service at the lake, so we won’t be staying there anytime soon.
The next lake we visited was Lake Meridian. This is one of those hidden gems that you have to hike through the forest to find. It’s not much of a hike, only a half mile trek up a very steep wooded hillside, but what you find as you crest the hill and step through the trees is astounding.
The lake occupies a long, skinny slice of land with steep banks on either side. The water is brilliant blue and the more gently slopped western bank is filled with wildflowers. After letting Phin splash around in the water for a bit we took the hiking/biking trail that led us around the lake and to the top of a ridge high up on the eastern side. From there we had an outstanding view. The big mountain on the left is Mt. Crested Butte, and below that you can see the housing developments clustered around the ski area. Off on the right side is the downtown area of Crested Butte.
After admiring the views for awhile, we headed back down to the lake where Phineas enjoyed another swim.
Not to be outdone by the lakes of Crested Butte, we also visited several mountain rivers. The Slate River is one of the major rivers in town. Its origins lie high in the mountains near Paradise Divide. From there it runs down through the Slate River valley, past the town of Crested Butte and eventually joins up with the East River before spilling into the Gunnison River. We took a drive up to where Washington Gulch Rd. meets up with the Slate River Rd. and followed the path of the river near it’s origin point and down through the valley.
A few miles from town we came to a trailhead on the side of the river. It seemed like a good place to stop and explore on foot. There was a nice footbridge that led across the river to a network of hiking/biking/cross-country ski trails.
The other river we visited a number of times was the one right in our backyard. I never could find the name of the river on any maps, so I suspect it might be one of those that dries out to just a trickle in the middle of the summer. It turned out to be the perfect Phineas play area with shallow water and a gentle currant. We took him down there a few days in a row, and then one day he decided to take himself. This dog just can’t resist the water.
Speaking of our backyard- more wildflowers have opened since we first arrived. Did you know Crested Butte is considered the wildflower capital of Colorado? They even have a Wildflower Festival the second week of July, and a Facebook page where you can keep up with what’s blooming right now around town. While we’re a little early for the peak display, we’re certainly not complaining.
In addition to all this dazzling nature, Crested Butte also boasts a vibrant historic downtown filled with restaurants and shops. We took advantage of the great selection of restaurants to eat out a few times during our stay. First at the Brick Oven Pizzeria where we enjoyed the best pizza we had eaten in a long time and a the nice atmosphere on their outdoor patio. Then one night we had a picnic in the park and finished the evening off with a stroll through town and homemade ice cream at Third Bowl. They had some adventurous flavors such as Goat Cheese + Fig and Cilantro Pineapple, but we were both boring and had Papaya and Blueberries & Cream. It was excellent, excellent ice cream.
Finally we had a delicious dinner at the Ginger Cafe. We sat outside on the patio for dinner and then had an after dinner drink inside at the bar. The food was fantastic, but the only photo I took was of my amazing Pineapple Arugula Mojito!
On our last day in Crested Butte we spent the afternoon with some old/new friends. Tater (Craig) is an old friend from high school who I havn’t seen in about fifteen-years. He and his wife Lauren live in Leadville and we thought we might meet up with them during the first week of July when we spend the week at Turquoise Lake. Unfortunately, they will be visiting Vermont while we are visiting the Leadville area. As luck would have it though, they were coming to Crested Butte for a wedding on our last day in town. How perfect. We had a great time with them on Saturday afternoon hanging out in our meadow- eating, drinking, and chatting. The time for them to leave for the wedding came too soon, so hopefully we will be able to cross paths again during our time in Colorado.
One last picture from Crested Butte. This sign was just too cute not to share. And probably necessary as we saw a ton of Marmots in the area.