Nordic Skiing

You may already know that Crested Butte is the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, but did you know it’s the Nordic Skiing Capital, too? Every year the Crested Butte Nordic Center grooms 50 kilometers of trails in the upper Gunnison Valley, while Gunnison Nordic grooms a large trail network in Hartman Rocks and other places further down the valley.

Between Gunnison and Crested Butte are several forest service roads that are left un-plowed during the winter. These roads become popular multi-use areas, and are fantastic for access farther into the backcountry. They may or may not be groomed for Nordic skiing,

If you plan on cross-country skiing outside of the Crested Butte Nordic Center or the area surrounding Gunnison, please check the Crested Butte Avalanche Center to learn about the avalanche risks of the day.

A man and a dog ski on a groomed Nordic ski trail with snowy peaks and houses in the background.

Places to Nordic Ski Near Crested Butte

Difficulty: Easy to difficult

Other Users: Snowshoers, fat bikers on certain trails

Dog Friendly?: Specific trails are dog-friendly. Your pooch needs a pass to be on them.

Directions from Crested Butte: Several in-town accesses exist. Peanut Lake Rd., Town Ranch behind the High School, and the Nordic Center building on 2nd St. and Belleview Ave. are the most popular.

Description: You’ll need to purchase a day pass or season pass to use these trails. It’s well worth the price. With in-town access, beautiful views and trails that are groomed to immaculate standards, it’s hard to beat the Crested Butte Nordic Center trail system for convenience and fun. A full-service rental and instruction center with over 50 km of trails of every difficulty are groomed regularly. Want to learn to skate, go on a backcountry tour or tackle downhills on cross-country skis? The Nordic Center offers daily lessons and tours, as well as camps throughout the season.

The Crested Butte Nordic Center also puts on some of the best events of the year including the Alley Loop, Elk Mountains Grand Traverse, the Gothic Mountain Tour and their entertaining yurt dinners under the Slate River stars. More information including a trail map, event calendar and passes can be found here.

Difficulty: Easy to medium

Other Users: Snowmobilers, fat bikers, snowshoers, backcountry skiers

Dog Friendly?: Yes, but weekends can be busy.

Directions from Crested Butte: From the 4-way stop, head north on Gothic Rd. towards Mt. Crested Butte. In .9 miles turn left on Slate River Rd. Follow Slate River Rd. for 2.6 miles until you arrive at the winter trailhead.

Description: Skiing the Slate under the looming massif of Mineral Point is one of the most aesthetically pleasing activities in the valley. This is the closest Nordic skiing area to town that does not require a Crested Butte Nordic Center Pass, and is also one of the main access points for backcountry skiing and snowmobile tours. This can make it crowded during peak times and weekends, but most folks have learned to share the Slate and ride, ski and exercise their pets in a respectful manner.

Difficulty: Easy to medium

Other Users: Snowmobilers, fat bikers, snowshoers, backcountry skiers

Dog Friendly?: Yes

Directions from Crested Butte: From the 4-way stop, go north on Gothic Rd. towards Mt. Crested Butte. In 1.7 miles turn left onto Washington Gulch Rd. Follow Washington Gulch Rd. for 2.4 miles when you reach the winter trailhead parking area.

Description: The first bit of the trail is on private property. Please stay on the road regardless of your means of transportation. Washington Gulch is another scenic and relatively close place to ski close to town. The lower part of the road before reaching the bottom of Gothic Mountain can be a safe place to ski during times of high avalanche danger.

Difficulty: Easy

Other Users: Fat bikers, backcountry skiers, snowshoers

Dog Friendly?: Yes, but keep your dog restrained in the town-site of Gothic. Don’t let dogs roam off the road in other areas since Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratories has lots of research sites in the area.

Directions from Crested Butte: From the 4-way stop travel north on Gothic Rd. for 4.3 miles to the Snodgrass Trailhead.

Description: This is one of the best Nordic skiing trails in the area. Snowmobiling and motorized access are not permitted so you are free to enjoy the quiet and solitude of the East River valley. A rolling downhill for 3.5 will bring you to the townsite of Gothic. Please stay on the road through this area to protect research stations. Continuing further can bring you pretty far into the backcountry so make sure that you are equipped with proper equipment and avalanche knowledge.

Difficulty: Easy to medium

Other Users: Snowmobilers, fat bikers, snowshoers

Dog Friendly?: Yes

Directions from Crested Butte: From the 4-way stop travel south toward Gunnison on Hwy 135. In 7 miles turn left onto Cement Creek Rd. Drive straight for 3.8 miles to the winter trailhead and parking.

Description: Skiing Cement Creek starts with a ¾ of a mile climb through a scenic and rocky creek before you exit into a large open meadow unlike any other in the Crested Butte area. While the climb up is steep, the meadow is generally pretty easy to ski, and there is usually a groomed classic track as well. Snowmobiles aren’t uncommon, but it’s not guaranteed you’ll see one. If you pick your time right, you may not see anyone at all.

Difficulty:Easy to difficult

Other Users: Snowmobilers, fat bikers, snowshoers, backcountry skiers

Dog Friendly?: Yes

Directions from Crested Butte: From the 4-way stop travel south on Hwy. 135 for 2 miles. Turn left on Brush Creek Rd. and follow for 2.5 miles to the Brush Creek Trailhead.

Description: From the parking area at Brush Creek Trailhead you have two options for Nordic skiing. The first is to take the Ditch Trail along the backside of Mt. Crested Butte. It is a very easy ski and a popular place for dog owners to get a little exercise with their dogs.

Option two is to follow Brush Creek Rd. Although the road is usually plowed to the first ranch, you still need to park and walk from the trailhead parking area so the family can have access. The skiing starts out easy and flatter than any other ski aside from the CB Nordic Center. After crossing Brush Creek things start to climb in terms of elevation, difficulty, and danger.

Going further requires the gear and knowledge to deal with avalanches, as well as a map and compass and a defined route plan. Lots of fun exists up here. Endless roads and trails are a boon for the experienced backcountry Nordic traveler. This drainage has been the traditional winter route from Crested Butte and Aspen for over 100 years!

Places to Nordic Ski Near Gunnison

Difficulty:Medium to difficult

Other Users: Snowshoers, fat bikers

Dog Friendly?: Yes

Directions from Gunnison: From the stoplight at the corner of US 50 and Hwy 135 go north on Hwy 135 for 3.5 miles. Turn left on Ohio Creek Rd. In 9 miles turn left on Mill Creek Rd. Follow Mill Creek Rd. for 3 miles until you reach the parking area.

Description: Skiing in Mill Creek is downright impressive. As you travel up the canyon on any one of the trails in the area you become slowly enclosed by massive spires and columns of weathered rock. There are lots of trail options winding through the spruce and aspen groves, but judgment must be used to avoid avalanche hazard, especially in the upper canyon. Gunnison Nordic occasionally grooms trails in Mill Creek.

Difficulty: Easy to difficult

Other Users: Snowmobilers, fat bikers, snowshoers

Dog Friendly?: Yes

Directions from Gunnison: Follow US 50 West from the center of town. Just before crossing the Gunnison River turn left on CR 38 (Gold Basin Rd.). Follow this for a couple miles to the Hartman Rocks parking area. Access also exists off CR 32 (McCabe Lane) a couple miles further down US 50 West.

Description: With acres of shrubland, unique rock formations and endless views, Hartman Rocks offers a more expansive Nordic skiing experience than many places in the valley. Gunnison Nordic focuses most of their grooming efforts at keeping the miles of trails in the area in tip-top shape, and long loops and day trips are easy to piece together here. Maps of the area are available at the trailhead and online here.

Difficulty: Easy

Other Users: Snowshoers

Dog Friendly?: No

Directions from Gunnison: Follow US 50 West from the center of town for 57 miles. Turn right on CO-347 and drive another 4 miles. Park at the South Rim visitor center.

Description: Even in summer, Black Canyon is one of the least-visited National Parks. In winter, you’ll pretty much have the place to yourself. The South Rim Road is groomed starting at the visitor center. Call the park before you go to inquire about conditions and whether enough snow has fallen to ski on. From the visitor center, you can ski or snowshoe along the road for as far as your legs will take you. Be sure to stop at the overlooks to check out the views of the canyon and eat a snack. The mellow grade of the road is appropriate for any ability level. This is an unforgettable way to experience the beauty of one of the country’s most unique National Parks.

Nordic Ski Trail Maps

You can download the free CBGTrails map app to your phone and carry this map with you on all your Gunnison Valley adventures!

Gear Shops, Rentals and Lessons

Want to go Nordic skiing on your vacation, but didn’t bring any gear or experience? Don’t worry! We have you covered with multiple gear and rental shops as well as awesome instructional programs.

Nordic Skiing Lessons
Crested Butte Nordic Center
Gunnison Nordic
Adaptive Sports Center

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