Editor’s note: This trip took place in 2016. To help scratch that travel itch and fuel your daydreams, we’ll be republishing some of our favorite Travelogues from the past.
2 people, 555 miles
Crested Butte is well known for its world-class skiing, mountain biking, and hiking. During peak seasons there is arguably nowhere better to be in the state. With its wildflower blooms in the late spring, champagne powder in the winter, and golden explosion of aspens in the fall, it’s no wonder why this place is so popular amongst outdoor enthusiasts. But what is it like between these seasonal peaks? My girlfriend Maggie and I were eager to find out what an end of winter Crested Butte experience is all about.
Free vehicle drop off and pickup is amazing! Andrew delivered his 2010 Nissan Pathfinder to our house when it was convenient for me. There was one slight problem though in that there were no parking spots available on my block since it was already jam-packed with cars. Even so, we were able to quickly and easily determine a dropoff location a block from our place. Andrew was awesome and helped us with the ins and outs of the Turo system, which turned out to be very simple and user friendly. We took a few photos to upload to the Turo app on my phone showing the vehicle condition, gas gauge, and mileage, and packed the Pathfinder for the adventure ahead. I was impressed at how spacious the Pathfinder was, especially when all the back seats were folded down. It handled all of our gear easily!
Driving southwest from Denver into the mountains along highway 285 is a pleasure. The scenery is gorgeous, especially around the San Luis Valley. Keep an eye out for scenic pull-offs along the side of the road — they’re almost always worth checking out!
As we approached Crested Butte, the scenery kept getting better. Since there were a lot of access roads unmaintained this time of year, we spent the rest of the day scouting out just how much access we had to certain areas and made a game plan for the rest of our stay. We even had some friendly beavers come say hello while I shot some pictures of the sunset near town.
By the time we found a trail to make camp, it was already dark. While we were hiking in, it was overcast and moonless which meant that we couldn’t see 10 feet in front of us. I had to really put out my feelers to find the spot that I did. As we set up camp, the stars came out of hiding and put on a dazzling display. I curled into my sleeping bag to escape the 19-degree air and dreamt of the adventure ahead.
After taking the time to greet the rising sun, I packed up and hiked out to the Pathfinder. The town of Crested Butte is really neat and it’s worth stopping in for a bite to eat and a coffee. We love First Ascent coffee shop!
That evening, we set out to find camp while we could still actually see. We only had to snowshoe in a couple miles before the landscape opened up to panoramic views of dramatic mountain peaks. This instantly felt like home. We set up our tent just towards the end of blue hour as the first stars started to shine bright in the sky.
It got very cold so we spent the rest of the night getting as cozy as possible inside the tent. I fired up my portable camp stove and made some dehydrated bag meals. Not long after, in hair raising unison, dozens and dozens of coyotes starting crying from literally every direction. It was a spooky reminder that I was really in the wilderness now and definitely not even close to being alone. I took my mind away from the coyotes, threw some hand warmers in the bottom of my sleeping bag and drifted off to sleep.
We enjoyed our last day in Crested Butte exploring Washington Gulch Trail. The trail usually opens up in July so it was cool seeing it under a blanket of snow in the offseason. The views here were fantastic, with great vistas of Baldy Peak and Gothic Mountain.
After our hike back, we said a reluctant goodbye and made the beautiful drive back to Denver, enjoying each and every stretch of road along the way.
After giving the Pathfinder a quick wash, topping it off with gas, and uploading some post-trip photos of the vehicle on the Turo app, Andrew was able to come and pick it up at my convenience. The whole process was dead simple and fun. Thanks for the adventure, Turo!