One of our favorite activities in the height of summer is hiking from Aspen to Crested Butte. It sounds daunting… Just driving to Crested Butte takes several hours via Kebler Pass, but this day hike is not only doable — it’s downright cushy (well, once you get done with the hiking part). We like to call it Credit Card Camping because hotels are available at BOTH ends of this beautiful hike.
Starting from Aspen
Spend the night at The Little Nell for a comfortable night’s sleep in preparation for your adventure. Arrange for a Little Nell car to transport you to the Maroon Bells for your hike. Start early (we recommend 7:30 a.m.) to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms.
We suggest the West Maroon Trail, which is the shortest (11 miles) and most scenic route to Crested Butte through fields of wildflowers. Begin at the Maroon Bells, hiking first to Crater Lake before branching outward over West Maroon Pass. You will gain about 3,000 feet in elevation, topping out above 12,500 feet with stunning views of the mountain valleys around you. Expect a steady uphill for the first 7.5 miles, but the last 3.5 are downhill to the Crested Butte side. It takes roughly 6 hours to complete the hike if you are in fairly good shape, but times certainly vary.
Arrange in advance for Dolly’s Mountain Shuttle to pick you and your party up for the rest of the journey into town/your hotel. (Dolly will even meet you with a cooler full of beer.)
What to pack: Rain jacket, long sleeve shirt or jacket, hiking poles for stability, lunch and snacks, plenty of water, a change of clothes and any personal items you may need. (The Little Nell can pack a backpack for you filled with sandwiches, water, house-made energy bars and more. Just contact Room Service for this option.)
Once in Crested Butte, we stayed at Elevation Hotel and Spa, a pet-friendly hotel in the heart of Crested Butte Mountain Resort. There are a variety of hotel options though with a range of services and amenities. Tip: Make sure yours has a hot tub for soaking those tired muscles. If staying at the resort, there is a free shuttle bus which transports guests to the nearby town of Crested Butte where most restaurants and shops are located.
Dining in Crested Butte
What’s more fun than pigging out after a hard day of hiking/calorie burning? Crested Butte has tons of dining options for a tiny, remote town, and we love checking out its funky and fun establishments. We recently visited the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin, serving artisan cocktails like the Beatnik (vodka, beets, ginger). We also sampled their “fish and chips” — a playful version of the dish with salmon ceviche and salty potato chips.
From cocktails we followed our stomachs to the Ginger Cafe to gorge on Indian food (a special treat for these Aspen locals since Aspen has no Indian restaurants to speak of). Other Crested Butte favorites are the Secret Stash for mind-blowing pizzas; Soupcon for an intimate French-inspired meal; or Slogar for good-old American comfort food.
Crested Butte to Aspen
If you are hiking both ways (good for you, btw), arrange for Dolly’s Mountain Shuttle to transport you back to the West Maroon trailhead. From there, retrace your steps back to Aspen. Once at the Maroon Bells visitation area, take the free shuttle down to Highlands Ski Area. There, you should have cell reception or, if not, you can use the courtesy phone to call The Little Nell to come and pick you up. Hint: Arrange an in-room massage for the evening.
If you can’t bear the thought of hiking both ways, Dolly’s does offer a shuttle from Crested Butte back to Aspen for around $60 per person. Or, many guests choose to shuttle the hike with friends (one group hikes while the other drives, then they switch off).
Dining in Aspen
Feel free to contact The Little Nell Adventures for more tips and suggestions on local hikes.