The Colorado Rockies are famous for their jagged peaks with 58 of them towering above 14,000 feet and thousands of other smaller peaks in between. Our 8 day, 7 night village based hiking tour highlights a few of the best stops in the state with daily hiking recommendations and an iconic through hike in one of the most famously photographed mountain ranges, the Maroon Bells.
Your trip begins with three nights in the historic mining town of Crested Butte with daily picturesque hikes leading to secluded lakes or mountain peaks with incredible views and rainbow colored wildflowers along the way. Crested Butte is a small town with numerous local bed and breakfast accommodations or small mountain inns. We’ll arrange your stay at one of our favorites.
After three days of exploring the best of this quiet remote mountain town, you’ll drive (or hike) to a “little town called Aspen”. Here your continue with three additional days of iconic mountain exploration based from a glamorous hotel downtown. Complimentary hearty breakfasts are included throughout your tour with the exception of your last morning in Boulder and we’ll include a list of our favorite lunch pickup spots and dinner recommendations each evening.
Hiking to Aspen: To add to the adventure, you can consider hiking in one spectacular day from Crested Butte to Aspen. This requires a couple shuttles to and from the trail, plus a car shuttle service that will take your car to Aspen, and it adds $250/person (for 2 people) to the tour cost. It’s not for everybody, but we think it’s worth it! Let us know if you’d like to look at this option and we can review logistics and set it up for you.
If the rugged mountains of Colorado have been on your list of places to explore, now’s the time. Pack your hiking shoes, backpack, sunscreen and camera, ‘Colorful Colorado’ is ready for you.
Crested Butte – Arrive to sunny Colorado and begin your journey to Crested Butte where you’ll be greeted by stunning views and the classic western landscape. The drive from Denver is 4.5 to 5 hours and is best enjoyed in the daylight. You can also fly into the closer Gunnison airport shortening your drive to just under an hour. You’ll be greeted by your lovely hoteliers at one of Crested Butte’s conveniently located mountain inns and we’ll equip you with our list of favorite local restaurants for dinner.
If you do need to arrive later into Denver or would like an extra day, let us know and we’ll book your stay at an urban hotel in Denver or somewhere along your route to Crested Butte.
Crested Butte – After a simple delicious breakfast, you’ll hit the trail for the iconic hike of your choosing. Depending on weather conditions, today’s hike will take you to Green Lake, an energetic wooded climb to warm up your legs and lungs before heading higher into the alpine the following day. Another option is to explore the lower elevation and easier Lower and Upper town loops around Crested Butte which offer variable lengths at trail intersections depending on how you’re feeling and what you’re interested in for your first day in the Rockies.
Crested Butte sits at 8,909 feet so it’s important to take it easy while your body is initially acclimating. Lots of water and electrolytes are key to managing any type of acclimatization and thoroughly enjoying your time in the high desert.
Crested Butte – Today you’ll wake up to another delicious breakfast at your hotel or perhaps explore another local establishment such as A Daily Dose (a great spot for a quick pastry, nutrition filled smoothie or trail sandwich to go). Today’s hike boasts one of the most beautiful views in Crested Butte, Scarps Ridge. This is a 5 mile ridge loop that begins in lush wildflower filled meadows before poking above the trees and meandering along the panoramic Scarps Ridge to the eventual 12,216 ft. high point. If you prefer a longer day, continue east once you reach the ridge line towards Gunsight Pass, from there it’s a moderate scramble to the brightly decorated and iconic Red Lady peak (Mount Emmons).
This is also a great time for a multisport day with a local bike rental or water sport adventure (SUP or kayak) on Irwin Lake. After a great day in the mountains you’ll return to town for a celebratory beverage at a local brewery. Or depending on your day, you may already be ready for dinner at one of the many great local restaurants such as the notorious Secret Stash Pizzeria.
If you are planning to hike to Aspen tomorrow, it’s important to stock up on grub for tomorrow’s hike tonight. The local grocery store offers a variety of items or one of the nearby sandwich shops are sure to provide you with a delicious trail lunch if you prefer that route. Leftover Secret Stash pizza also makes a wonderful trail lunch or snack.
Aspen – Driving: There are a couple different routes to Aspen, east via the iconic Independence Pass route or west via Carbondale. If you drive over Independence pass, there are a few options including the Upper or Lower Lost Man trails, both view-filled hikes dotted with mountain lakes. The Carbondale route provides time to explore around Carbondale as you head into the Roaring Fork Valley and on to Aspen. Both drives take about 3.5 hours and are beautifully scenic.
Hiking: If you’ve planned to hike to Aspen and the weather and your body are cooperative, today includes a 10.5 mile hike from Crested Butte to Aspen. To begin your day, be sure you have the essentials (your caffeinated beverage of choice, food, water, layers, First Aid kit, etc.) before leaving your car in town and catching your already scheduled shuttle to the West Maroon Trailhead where you will hit the trail for the next 7-9 hours. The first 4 miles include a steady gain to the West Maroon Pass (12,500) at the base of the beautiful Bellview Mountain. From the pass it’s over 6 miles and 3,000 feet of down past glistening mountain lakes and classic Maroon Bell views — They are the most photographed mountains in America for a reason.
You’ll end your hike at Maroon Lake where you will catch a public bus to the Aspen Highlands Ski Resort. Once you regain cell service, give your hotel a call and they pick you up at and bring you into town and your accommodations for the next few days at the nearby and centrally located, luxurious 4-star Hotel Limelight (or similar). We’ll include our favorite dinner restaurants as the options in Aspen are endless.
If you are interested in hiking to Aspen please let us know as this requires shuttle reservations that must be made far in advance and at additional cost.
Aspen – Today the world is your playground. After a hearty complimentary breakfast at your hotel you’ll be fueled up and ready for the trail and further exploring the natural beauty in and around Aspen. The first hike we recommend is the classic Cathedral Lake Trail and Electric Pass. As it’s appropriately named, Electric Pass regularly sees lightning at its 13,500 foot elevation. Be sure to check the weather forecast before you depart and hit the trail early to avoid both the crowds (the lake is a popular hike) and the typical afternoon storms as the view of the Elk Mountain Range is well worth the effort on this trail. For an easier day, simply stop and enjoy some time at the lake before returning.
Other options for the day include exploring the Ute Trail right from your hotel or if you haven’t already, Lost Man Trail accessible from Independence Pass. After a full day on the trail you’ll return to Aspen for a delicious meal at one of the many incredible restaurants. Many restaurants suggest or require reservations. You’ll see these recommendations in our list of favorites.
Aspen – For your last full day in Aspen, we recommend returning to the beautiful Maroon Bells for the iconic Buckskin Pass hike. Often people’s favorite, this hike boasts stunning views of the Maroon Bells, Pyramid Peak and nearby Sievers Mountains with their jagged spires.
If a creek side walk sounds more appealing or you’ve already hiked the Maroon Bells on your travels from Crested Butte, Conundrum Creek and eventual hot springs is another favorite for today. To gain access to the hot springs is 17 miles round trip but you can easily make this day a shorter out and back with uncompromising beauty and enjoyment.
You’ll return to your hotel in Aspen for your final celebratory meal before packing up the next morning and heading towards the bustle and hustle of the Colorado Front Range.
Boulder – After breakfast you’ll say goodbye to Aspen and hit the road towards the Front Range of Colorado. There are numerous fun stops along your journey including a potential soak at Glenwood Hot Springs. After almost 4 hours you will arrive to the thoughtful and eccentric town of Boulder. Known for its iconic Pearl Street Mall, founding Farmer’s Market, beautiful Flatirons and many other unique features, Boulder is also an urban hiking mecca.
If you have time for an evening stroll, we recommend exploring the 3 mile hike to Royal Arch which beautifully frames the city below and is right outside your backdoor at your historic Chautauqua cabin.
Departure – After a hearty local breakfast of your choosing, it’s time to say farewell to the Colorado Rockies and begin your journey home.