After eight years of living in Denver, I finally made the four-hour drive to Crested Butte. Before you go—and you should go soon, while the leaves are still flaunting their autumn hues—I'm passing on my newfound knowledge of where to stay, eat, and play.
The Odometer: 228 miles, one-way
Eat: For how small the "downtown" area of Crested Butte is, there's a high density of rave-worthy restaurants. We've already told you why The Secret Stash Pizzeria and Groove Emporium's creative pies are worth checking out. Other spots that should be on your list: Grab gourmet sandwiches and fruity smoothies for lunch at the Sunflower. May I suggest the chicken dill (roasted chicken, caramelized onions, tomato, avocado, sprouts, and chipotle mayo layered on multi-grain bread). If you have the paycheck to burn, Soupcon Bistro (it's on my list for my next visit) is the way to go. There are only two seatings a night, so make reservations.
The Secret Stash, 303 Elk Ave., 970-349-6245
The Sunflower, 214 Elk Ave., 970-349-6866
Soupcon Bistro, 127 Elk Ave., 970-349-5448
Drink: One of the first things I noticed while walking around town was the sheer number of bars in Crested Butte. There are a lot. With all that choice, it can be hard to make a decision. Here, my two can't-miss suggestions.
Sample the light and dark rum at Montanya Rum Distillers, decide which you like best, and then order the appropriate cocktail. My suggestion: the India-inspired Maharaja, which combines the Oro dark rum with north Indian spices, ginger, and fresh lime for a well-balanced cocktail that'll excite even the most jaded palate.
Tip: The snacks menu is small, but tasty. Order the brie and chutney platter ($10) for a large slab of the gooey cheese, crackers and baguette to spread it on, along with mango chutney and fresh apple slices.
When the sun goes down, scoot over to Dogwood Cocktail Cabin, a prohibition era-style cocktail bar (kind of a mountain-chill version of Williams & Graham, without the hidden entrance) that features what feels like a neverending cocktail list. Sidle up to the bar for a gin-heavy D-Cup. Don't be scared off by the mention of wasabi on the ingredient list. It's a welcome kick of spice.
Heads up: Dogwood closes its doors during stick season. It'll reopen Thanksgiving weekend.
Montanya Rum Distillers, 130 Elk Ave., 970-799-3206; open daily 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
Dogwood Cocktail Cabin, 309 Third St., 970-349-6338; Tue-Sun 5 p.m.-midnight
Hike: If you want to get up a little higher than Crested Butte's 8,885 feet, head to the edge of town for the Lower Loop Trails. There are various route options, but the full shebang is about five miles. Most of it follows a singletrack trail, so it's easy to navigate and hard to get lost. You'll walk through thickets of yellow-leaved trees without too much elevation gain. If you're lucky, like we were, you might just see some bucks. But be careful: Mountain lions also roam the area.
Drive: Yes, you'll want to hike in the fall foliage. But for some prime photo-ops, get in the car and meander along Kebler Pass. Though you can keep going and going on this road to other Colorado towns, following it for about 30 minutes will offer plenty of frame-worthy shots. There are pull-offs all along the pass so you can soak in the scenery.
Tip: You're going to be hopping in and out of your car—and the area can be incredibly muddy if it has recently rained or snowed—so wear appropriate clothing.
Stay: An aptly named ruby-colored gem just a few minutes walk from Elk Avenue (the main drag), The Ruby of Crested Butte is exactly the type of bed-and-breakfast you dream up when you think of getting away from it all. You'll stuff yourself with the gourmet breakfasts—cooked by Chris Greene, who owns the property with his wife, Andrea—which provide hearty fuel for the day ahead, whether Dutch apple pancakes or asparagus-and-cheese frittatas are on the menu. There's an on-site hot tub, fresh baked cookies, and cruiser bikes (pictured) you can borrow at any time. And the staff is always around to answer questions or offer recommendations for hikes and restaurants.
Rooms start at $129; 624 Gothic Ave., 970-349-1338
Follow associate editor Daliah Singer on Twitter at @daliahsinger.