The Gunnison Valley is tucked high in the West Elk Mountains of Colorado, right on the border between the central Rocky Mountains and the southwestern ones.
There is no doubt that Gunnison-Crested Butte is harder to get to than quite a few places in Colorado. But the trip is worth it. Nothing beats the drive up Highway 135 with towering mountains in either direction and a wide valley floor filled with snow or wildflowers depending on the season.
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Fly to Crested Butte and Gunnison
If you’re coming from farther away, flying to the Gunnison Airport is the way to go. The Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC), located in Gunnison, is the closest airport to Crested Butte. It serves the communities in the Gunnison Valley with air service on United during the summer and off-seasons and United and American during the winter. It’s the easiest way to fly to Crested Butte.
Summer 2021 Gunnison-Crested Butte Airport (GUC) Flight Schedule
Denver (DEN) to Gunnison-Crested Butte (GUC) via United Airlines
|May 1, 2021-Sept. 7, 2021*
Houston (IAH) to Gunnison-Crested Butte (GUC) via United Airlines
|June 24-Sept. 26, 2021*
||Weekends in June and September, daily July 1-Sept. 6
*Dates subject to potential schedule changes
Fly then Drive to Gunnison and Crested Butte
Driving anywhere in Colorado can be quite the scenic adventure. It can also be nice to have a car at your disposal once you get here. Here are a several options, complete with driving directions for flying into Colorado, renting a car and then driving to Gunnison or Crested Butte. Just be aware that in the winter, you’ll likely have to deal with some snowy and possibly icy driving conditions. If you’re not comfortable driving in the winter, you should save yourself the trouble and grab a flight to Crested Butte rather than monkeying with the drive.
Denver is the 5th busiest airport in the United States and services flights from all over the country. The drive from the Front Range through the heart of the Rockies to Crested Butte is a fantastic tour of some of the most scenic places in Colorado.
Directions from Denver International Airport to Crested Butte
- Take Pena Boulevard towards 1-70
- After 11 miles merge onto 1-70 West
- Stay on I-70W through Denver (24 miles)
- Take Exit 260 onto CO-470 East
- After 5 miles take the exit for US 285 South towards Fairplay
- Stay on US 285 South until you reach the outskirts of Buena Vista
- Turn left to stay on US 285 South for another 21 miles
- Turn right onto US 50 West
- Arrive in Gunnison after 60 miles
- To reach Crested Butte turn right at CO-135 North and continue for 28 miles
Montrose is the second closest airport to the Gunnison Valley and Crested Butte. It services flights from Allegiant, American, United, and Delta from both coasts. One of the best things about flying into Montrose is that you pass the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
and the Blue Mesa Reservoir
on the way to Gunnison and Crested Butte.
Directions from Montrose Regional Airport to Crested Butte
- Turn left out of the airport onto US 50 East
- Follow US 50E for 60 miles to reach Gunnison
- Turn left on CO-135 North and continue for 28 miles to reach Crested Butte
Flying into Colorado Springs can shorten your drive at a similar ticket price if you’re considering flying into the Front Range of Colorado. Along the way there’s plenty to see and do with the highlight being the Royal Gorge of the Arkansas outside Canon City.
Directions from Colorado Springs Airport to Crested Butte
- Take the Milton E. Proby Parkway to S. Academy Boulevard
- Take the exit for CO-115 South
- After 30 miles take the exit for US 50 West in the town of Penrose
- Stay on US 50 West for 130 miles to reach Gunnison
- Turn right on CO-135 North and continue for 28 miles to reach Crested Butte
Grand Junction Regional Airport is another option for reaching the Gunnison Valley. During the winter the drive is very similar to the drive from Montrose. The difference is that you add an hour of driving on US 50 East to reach Montrose. During the summer and fall the mileage of the drive to Crested Butte can be cut shorter by using the well-maintained gravel shortcut over Kebler Pass. This drive passes between two Wilderness Areas and cuts through the largest aspen grove in Colorado, a special treat during September.
Summer Directions from Grand Junction Regional Airport to Crested Butte
- Follow signs on Horizon Dr. to I-70 East
- Take Exit 37 for I-70 Business West towards Clifton/Delta
- After 1 mile turn left onto CO-141 South/32 Rd.
- After 5 miles turn left onto US 50 East
- After 32 miles reach the town of Delta and turn left onto CO-92 East
- In the town of Hotchkiss stay straight to get onto CO-133 North
- Turn left onto County Rd. 12/Kebler Pass Rd. after 23.5 miles
- Stay on Kebler Pass Rd. for 31 miles to reach Crested Butte
Local Transportation and Rental Cars – Do you need a rental car?
In the winter, you definitely don’t. Free buses run by the Gunnison Valley RTA and Mountain Express get you pretty much anywhere you could need to go. The one exception to that rule is for airport shuttles. If you’re staying in Gunnison, most of the hotels have their own vans so just check with Gunnison-Crested Butte Reservations when you book your hotel and make sure you can get a pick-up at the airport. If you’re staying in Almont, Crested Butte, or Mt. Crested Butte, be sure to ask your agent at Gunnison-Crested Butte Reservations to reserve you an airport shuttle from the Gunnison Airport to your hotel.
In the spring, summer, and fall months, you don’t need a car, but you will probably want one. We have pretty good free public transportation year round. But that transportation only gets you so far out of town. If you’re looking to hike or mountain bike trails other than the ones right near town, you will want to rent a car. The same is true if you’re planning to do much sightseeing or go on any of our scenic drives.
The Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC) is serviced by Hertz, Avis, and Budget car rentals. In addition several other companies specifically rent 4x4s and Jeeps for adventures that require a high-clearance vehicle. We recommend making advance arrangements to rent a car prior to arrival.
Driving Directions from Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport to Crested Butte
The drive from the Gunnison airport to Crested Butte is an easy 30 minute cruise up Highway 135. Simply head up 11th or 12th St. and turn right on Tomichi Ave. From there turn left onto Highway 135 and proceed north until you reach Crested Butte. To reach Mt. Crested Butte keep driving for another 4 miles up the road.
Driving to Gunnison and Crested Butte
To orient you to a few landmarks, we’re a 4 hour drive more or less due southwest of Denver. Gunnison is pretty much due west of Colorado Springs (by about three hours) right on Highway 50. Crested Butte is south-southwest of Aspen, about 14 miles as the crow flies but separated by some mountain passes that are impassable except by foot (or horse).
Drive into our valley on Highway 50, a scenic road that runs across our great state, or enjoy a scenic mountain drive in the summer: Kebler Pass (Gunnison County Road 12) and Cottonwood Pass (Chaffee County Road 306 to Gunnison County Road 209).
Stay up to date on driving conditions and pass closures
Don’t let road construction, weather conditions or road closures impede your plans to get here. To check Statewide Travel Conditions from inside Colorado dial 511, or from outside Colorado, dial (303) 639-1111 or visit Colorado Trip, a website maintained by the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Pass Status– Check COTRIP.ORG for the most up to date information. We do our best to keep this table up to date, but recommend checking with the proper State or County authorities before traveling these routes.
|Cottonwood Pass (Chaffee County Road 306 to Gunnison County Road 209)
|Kebler Pass (Gunnison County Road 12)
|Schofield Pass/Gothic (Gunnison County Road 317)
|Independence Pass (State Highway 82)
Frequently Asked Questions about Traveling to Crested Butte and Gunnison
The easiest ways to get to Crested Butte and Gunnison are to either drive or fly. Crested Butte is about a four-hour drive from downtown Denver via U.S. Highway 285 south. Another popular route is to take Interstate 25 south from Denver to Colorado Springs and then take U.S. Highway 24 west until it merges with U.S. Highway 285 south.
To fly, the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC) in Gunnison is the closest airport to Crested Butte. The airport offers air service during the summer on United, and during off-seasons and during the winter on United and American.
The drive south along U.S. Highway 285 from Denver to Crested Butte will take you just over four hours, depending on weather and traffic. If you take the Interstate 25 route south to U.S. Highway 24 west, it’s a slightly longer drive. A flight from Denver International Airport to Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC) in Gunnison only takes about a half-hour from liftoff to touchdown.
Rental cars are available at Denver International Airport (DEN), and flights are available from DEN (also known as DIA) to the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC) via United. The next best option is to secure a bus ticket from Denver to Gunnison. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) offers bus service from Union Station in Denver to the Econo Lodge in Gunnison for about $30-$40 per ticket. The ride takes about 4 hours and 45 minutes. To get from Gunnison to Crested Butte, you’ll get on the northbound Gunnison Valley RTA
bus. The Gunnison to Crested Butte ride is free of charge and takes about 45 minutes.
The drive from Colorado Springs to Crested Butte takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes. Take U.S. Highway 24 west to U.S. Highway 285 south. Take 285 to Highway 50 west into Gunnison. Turn onto Highway 135 north and continue on to Crested Butte. The drive is roughly 160 miles.
Crested Butte and the surrounding community are serviced by a local airport, the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC) in the city of Gunnison, about 35 miles from downtown Crested Butte. GUC provides air service during the summer on United Airlines and on United Airlines and American Airlines during off-seasons and winter.
Southwest does not currently provide air service to Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC) in the city of Gunnison. The airport closest to Crested Butte that currently provides air service is the Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ) in the city of Montrose, about 1 hour and 45 minutes’ drive from Crested Butte (depending on weather and traffic).
There are several nonstop flights to Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC) in Gunnison, arriving from Denver International Airport (DIA) and Houston (IAH) during the summers and winters. There are also direct flights from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) during ski season.
Crested Butte is a beautiful mountain town that’s secluded but not far from Denver, too. There’s of course epic skiing at Crested Butte Mountain Resort during the winter months. In summer, mountain biking and hiking are popular activities in Gunnison and Crested Butte. More than 1000 miles of trail provide access to pristine fields of untouched columbines and stunning aspen groves. The cozy towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte are less commercial than Aspen and Vail, with several ma-and-pa shops and wonderful restaurants that perfectly complement the laid-back and affordable hotels, condos and vacation rentals.
Plan to make travel arrangements and your hotel accommodations before your trip. If you want to plan a group activity or something special like whitewater rafting or horseback riding, you may want to contact the outfitter before you leave and make a reservation. Dinner reservations at top restaurants should be made a day or two in advance during peak times. Otherwise, the towns are laid back and most places are more than happy to accommodate you, even last-minute.
In the summers, maybe, if you want to do some exploring. But not really during the winter. There are free buses run by the Gunnison Valley RTA and Mountain Express that will take you pretty much anywhere. If you’re staying in Gunnison, most of the hotels have their own vans, so just check with reservations when you book your hotel and make sure you can get a pick-up at the airport. In Crested Butte, check with your reservations desk to get a shuttle to the airport.
Downtown Crested Butte has a nice collection of stores and boutique shops that carry a variety of items. You can browse beautiful art prints and sculptures at one of the many galleries, or pick up a souvenir t-shirt or hoodie. There are a couple nice coffee shops that have drinks and treats to keep you refreshed. Many of the shops around downtown were started by locals and have their own unique personality. There is a wide selection of restaurants, from upscale Italian at Marchitelli’s to fried chicken at the Slogar.
Crested Butte is so much more than a ski town. Since the town wasn’t necessarily built around skiing like Vail Village, there’s a wide variety of businesses to shop, galleries to visit, and sights to see. There are many points of interest around town, in addition to a bevy of restaurants, coffee shops, taverns and clubs. Day or night, there’s plenty to do in Crested Butte off the slopes.
There is no shortage of luxury hotels in Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte that are only steps from the ski slopes. Ski-in, ski-out lodges at the base of the mountain include Elevation Hotel & Spa, Westwall Lodge and Grand Lodge Crested Butte, Black Bear Lodge and Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Purple Mountain Bed & Breakfast is an intimate, four-star B&B in Crested Butte that’s highly rated. High-end options are also available through Eleven Experience.
Cristiana Guesthouse is a relaxed, alpine-style lodge with a spa, hot tub, free Wi-Fi and a complimentary breakfast served daily. The Nordic Inn has polished guest rooms with a free breakfast every day, complimentary Wi-Fi and a hot tub. Scarp Ridge Lodge is an upscale saloon-turned-lodge with a one-of-a-kind saltwater pool, hot tubs, gym and bar. All the hotels in Gunnison are family friendly, and most have pools.
Yes! Private home rental is a larger residence that has amenities that a typical condo or hotel doesn’t have. Private vacation rentals in Crested Butte typically range from two-bedroom townhouses or larger homes that can have up to seven or eight bedrooms. Private homes have all the amenities you’d expect in a real home–a full kitchen, garage, patio or deck, hot tubs, and master and guest master suites with updated bathrooms.