Since Gunnison County is surrounded by millions of acres of public land, you can often start your Colorado hiking and backpacking right out the door of your lodging. When summer arrives and the snow recedes, hitting the local hiking trails is one of the best ways to explore the scenic Rocky Mountains around the Gunnison Valley. Hiking gives you an intimate look at Colorado wildflowers in summer and dramatic aspen leaves in fall. Overnight backpacking adds to the adventure when exploring any of the five wilderness areas within an easy drive of Gunnison or Crested Butte.
With more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails in the Gunnison Valley, you’re guaranteed to find one that suits your ability level. Browse the map to see everything from easy walking trails near town to epic expert hiking routes.
The northern part of Gunnison County is dominated by high peaks, but that doesn’t always mean difficult Colorado hiking. Known as the wildflower capital of the state, many of the trails that follow the rivers and streams outside Crested Butte are covered with wildflowers throughout the summer. These trails are mellow and have minimal elevation gain along the way. Gunnison National Forest, the West Elk Wilderness, the Raggeds Wilderness and the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness are all located near Crested Butte. These areas offer a variety of hikes, including intermediate and difficult hiking trails. They are some of the best Colorado hikes. If peak-bagging is your thing, be sure to climb Crested Butte while you’re here. From the base area of Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Mt. Crested Butte, either ride the Silver Queen lift from the base area (you’ll need to purchase a ticket), or start hiking at the bottom (free). There are also several fourteeners near the Gunnison Valley, including the Collegiate Peaks via Salida and the San Juans near Lake City.
Almont and Taylor Canyon offer spectacular timber and beautiful canyon scenery. With great trails for mountain biking and trail running, this area is a great home base for a multi-sport vacation. Gunnison, Colorado hiking and backpacking is dominated by endless high-desert vistas and unique rock formations. Hartman Rocks Recreation Area offers a large multi-use trail system, or visit Curecanti Recreation Area and The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park for unique Colorado hiking. Fossil Ridge Wilderness and Gunnison National Forest have some of the best hikes in the area.
For the best hikes in Crested Butte, purchase a Colorado hiking and backpacking trail map when you get here. You can also talk with locals and/or personnel at your lodging property to find the best hikes.
Colorado often gets brief, but strong, thunderstorms during the afternoon in the summer. Check the weather before you go, pack the proper gear and always start hikes early, especially if you plan to be above treeline. Don’t be afraid to turn around if a storm moves in.
Always practice Leave No Trace while hiking or backpacking. This will help you stay safe and keep Gunnison Valley beautiful and preserved for many years to come! Learn more about sustainable practices in the backcountry.
Gear shops can point you in the right direction, and experienced Colorado hiking guides can show you the best Colorado hikes you never would have found on your own.
If you love hiking in the summer and fall, chances are good you’ll also enjoy snowshoeing. The groomed cross-country ski trails around Gunnison and Crested Butte allow snowshoers. Some backcountry trails can also be suitable for snowshoers. Before embarking on a backcountry snowshoe adventure, make sure you possess the necessary education and equipment to travel through avalanche terrain. Also be aware that some summer trails are closed to winter use.
There are lots of easy hikes near Gunnison and Crested Butte that are good for groups and families with small children, seniors or anyone looking for something simple but beautiful. The Gunnison Bike Path is an ADA-accessible path that starts in the City Market parking lot and travels 3 miles north along Highway 135 to the Gunnison River.
The Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Recreation Path is 2.75 miles long and more than 2 miles are ADA accessible. The trail begins at the Crested Butte Mountain Resort parking lot and descends into the town of Crested Butte.
The Lower Loop trail system is accessible from downtown Crested Butte. These scenic trails are relatively flat and fun for all ages. Check out views of the Slate River, Peanut Lake and Crested Butte.
The Three Lakes Loop on Kebler Pass is another great beginner trail west of Crested Butte. This loop begins at Lost Lake Campground and is about three miles long.
Hartman Rocks in Gunnison is an enormous trail system with short trails that can be pieced together to create a loop of virtually any length and ability level.
If you’re looking for more of a challenging hike, consider Crested Butte Summit Trail. The 1.25-mile trail is rated moderate to difficult. The trailhead is near Silver Queen chairlift at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. There are spectacular views in all directions from the summit. Your return is a hike down the mountain (about 6 miles) or a ride down the chairlift.
Dillon Pinnacles trail is a five-mile loop. The trail begins 21 miles west of Gunnison on Highway 50. The trail ascends towards the unique Dillon Pinnacles rock formations and above Blue Mesa Reservoir.
Mill Lake Trail is a four-mile moderate out-and-back trail that begins at Gold Creek Campground near Ohio City east of Gunnison. The trail ends on the banks of Mill Lake, an alpine lake nestled under a towering ridge.
Difficult hikes are good for more serious hikers with appropriate gear and good physical conditioning. Bring plenty of water, snacks and layers.
Green Lake Trail begins on the south end of the town of Crested Butte behind the Nordic Center. This out-and-back trail is 8.5 miles round-trip. The steep, rocky trail ends at Green Lake near the base of Axtell Mountain. Look for marmots and other wildlife.
Rustler’s Gulch trail begins about seven miles north of Mt. Crested Butte on Gothic Road (County Road 317). The trail begins on a dirt road and then turns into singletrack as it ascends into the gulch. This steep trail has many creek crossings, so come prepared to get your feet wet. This out-and-back trail is 9 miles round-trip.
Gunnison has many lodging options. Within the city, you’ll find a variety of locally owned hotels and inns, chain hotels, a hostel, and even a bed and breakfast. Outside the city, you’ll find additional hotels, inns and several campgrounds featuring cabins and RV hookups. If you’re looking for more of a bustling community to hang out in after a day outside, Gunnison offers a variety of restaurants and a laid-back bar scene. Browse hotels and more on our lodging page.
Mt. Crested Butte is a tiny alpine village clustered around the base area of Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR). Mt. Crested Butte is home to the majority of the lodging in the Gunnison Valley. Options range from condos to hotels to vacation homes. Stay in Mt. Crested Butte for easy access to skiing, fat biking, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing and snowmobiling in the winter. In summer CBMR offers scenic lift rides and a lift-served bike park. The village has a variety of concerts and festivals, including the annual Chili and Beer Festival in the fall. Browse more events on our annual events page.
You can get to Crested Butte a few ways. First, it’s a beautiful drive from Denver that will take you just under four hours if the weather is good. From Denver, you can get to Crested Butte by way of U.S. Highway 285 South and U.S. Highway 50 West. From Colorado Springs, it’s about a three-hour drive on U.S. Highway 50 West. Gunnison and Crested Butte are about 35 miles apart on Colorado State Highway 135.
The hiking in Crested Butte and Gunnison is great for families because there’s a variety of hikes available. There are easy trails that are perfect for young children and seniors that offer beautiful scenery and lots of fresh air. There are more moderate hikes for those seeking more of a challenge. Hardcore hikers even have a big selection of trails near Crested Butte and Gunnison that require additional gear and technical skills.
The hiking season begins as soon as the weather is favorable and the trails are clear of snow and ice. You can see some hikers hitting the trails as early as March and April, although hiking really begins to heat up when the weather does – in May, June and July. Hiking reaches its peak in August and September, culminating each year with the glorious fall colors in late September and early October.
Hiking in alpine terrain will be more difficult than you’re used to if you live at a lower elevation. Crested Butte’s elevation is 8,909, so most hiking trails near Crested Butte start at 9,000 feet or more in elevation. Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated to help cope with the thinner high altitude air.
In and around Gunnison and Crested Butte are a few excellent gear and rental shops that have everything you need for your hiking adventure, from easy walks to expert treks. If you need hiking gear, hit up one of the area’s many retailers.
The trip from Crested Butte to Aspen is one of the more popular hikes in our area. West Maroon Pass is a moderate, 24-mile round-trip hike from Crested Butte to Aspen. The trailhead begins at Schofield Park at approximately 10,400 feet. There are shuttle services from Crested Butte to the trailhead. On the Aspen side, you can take a free shuttle from Maroon Lake to Aspen. Plan about three hours to the pass and another two hours to the lake for experienced hikers.
Four-legged companions are welcome in Crested Butte and Gunnison. Many of the trails, hotels and parks are pet friendly, so you should have plenty to do with your pooch while you’re in town. It’s always best to check ahead of time, especially when making reservations. Some hotels may require a pet deposit and be sure to obey the town’s leash laws when on the streets with your pet.