Photo Essay: Four Perfect Days of a Crested Butte Fall
We’ve nailed the timing the last few years on our fall trip to Crested Butte – perfect weather, unreal trail conditions, and absolutely beautiful scenery with the aspens changing and turning to gold. Strangely enough, town seems to be getting emptier each year despite the social media hype for the “leaf peepers”, which doesn’t bother us one bit.
Definitely know this- our trip to Crested Butte is tough… it’s filled with rides that are bigger than most people do at home, and four days straight certainly wears on even the most fit riders. But ask anyone who’s been in CB with us, and they’ll all tell you – there’s a sense of accomplishment finishing a trip like this, and the descents are absolutely all-time. Trails like Strand Hill, Doctor Park, Trail 400, Strawberry, 403 & 401 are bucket-list worthy. And with everything coming together perfectly? It’s everything we hoped for and more.
Day 1: Upper, Strawberry and Strand Hill
This was a new trail combination for us this year, as it served to be our “intro ride” on the first day of a tough 4-day trip… but make no mistake, the punchy climbs on the Upper Loops and Strawberry still make for a tough one. Starting from Mt. Crested Butte, we would start on the Upper Loops (and 7 Bridges) to connect over to the Brush Creek drainage area… a good intro to rocky technical riding. From there we’d get into the fast and feature-filled Strawberry descent, before climbing back up Strand Bonus to Strand Hill, one of our personal favorite trails that drops through a golden aspen forest and is the perfect mix of tech, flow, fast, and slow. The total ride came in at 20 miles with 2600′ of climbing and just over 3000′ of descent.
Day 2: Crystal & Star Passes w/ Hunter Creek
We haven’t pulled this trail out since a couple of summers ago, as it’s usually one we ride with the crazy wildflowers between Crystal and Star Pass… but honestly, it’s good in any season. This ride always puts our crew to the test with the elevation gain and high altitude passes, but the adventure-style ride is always incredible. A 8+ mile climb up Cement Creek to Crystal Pass starts the day, and it’s all rideable if you’re up for the challenge. Once you’re up above 12,000′, the route becomes a little punchy (both up and down) and can lead to some super techy descents and a little “push biking” as well. That said, once you’re on top of Double Top and start the descent onto Hunter Creek, it’s pure bliss with a mix of chunk and flow that you’ll remember forever. All told we rode 20 miles with 3500′ of climbing/descending.
Day 3: RFBD and Doctor Park
Doctor Park is a bucket-list ride and one of the best downhills in the US… there’s virtually no arguing that point. But we make the day even better by starting with a shuttle high up on Reno Ridge, where we come into the Reno-Flag-Bear-Deadman’s ride at the top, and get the best of that loop before dropping over to Spring Creek. On the day we get three killer downhills (Flag Creek, Bear Creek/Deadman’s, and Doctor Park) while only having to conquer two climbs (Bear Creek and Doctor’s). The Flag Creek descent starts out the day pretty mellow and flow, a low angle ripper that skirts the namesake creek and offers a bit of tech near the bottom. Bear Creek is totally underrated as the middle section is essentially the definition of “techy flow”. Or is it flowy tech? Either way, it’s a perfect appetizer for the main course… Doctor Park. From open meadows, to rowdy tech, to the flow-tastic “Jedi Woods” section, into the high desert bottom 1/4, Doctor’s always brings the goods. Today’s ride clocked in at 25 miles with 2700′ of climbing and almost 5500′ of descent.
Day 4: Trails 403 and 401
We start the morning with a shuttle drop at the 403 trailhead, one of the best uses of shuttle vehicles on any of our trips… because without it, you’d have to pedal 8-10 miles up a steep, rough 4×4 road in order to complete the loop (not to mention riding back into town on Gothic Road after the 401 descent!). 403 starts with an overall “mellow” 1-mile climb to the summit, the only tough part is getting out of the truck and starting your ride at 10,800′! The 403 descent is steep, rooty, and fairly gnarly in sections, which makes it one of our favorites in the CB area. Once we hit the bottom, we take a left and climb Gothic Road to Schofield Pass (about 40 minutes), before hitting one last singletrack climb to the top of 401. From there, it’s 5+ miles of singletrack bliss with some of the most beautiful views you’ll ever see. And some pretty damn good riding too! We finished up the trip today with 13 miles, 2200′ of climbing and 4000′ of descent. All told for the trip we covered 78 miles with just over 11,000′ of climbing and 16,000′ of downhill!