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Crested Butte Family Travel Report: Musical Mayhem in the Mountains

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We all have our happy places and Crested Butte is mine. With this week’s staggering triple-digit-temperatures, Crested Butte’s crisp mountain air has never sounded so good.

A world-class music festival and a bounteous recreational playground don’t sound too bad, either.

A few highlights of my family’s recent trip to this gorgeous mountain hamlet included:

Crested Butte Music Festival

My kids are not musical aficionados but the CMMF’s Divine Family Young People’s Concerts may just make a convert out of them. Designed for kids ages 4-12, these free concerts are held every Saturday at 11 a.m. during the festival. My kids raced around the lawn at the base of Mt. Crested Butte dancing and singing to the Barefoot Bluegrass Band’s foot-stomping tunes. But it didn’t stop there. The new Trailhead Children’s Museum (a definite must-visit) also offered free face painting, art projects, bubbles and more.

The Crested Butte Music Festival’s impressive line-up of world-class musicians will be performing in paradise until August 5, 2010.

Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory

I am in love with one of the nation’s most renowned high-altitude field stations in Gothic, just 4 miles from Crested Butte. My kids spent a morning in RMBL’s sold-out Nature Camp and are still raving about the fox, deer, marmot and bird sightings. The counselors are real professionals and the curriculum’s activities delve deeply into the surrounding ecosystems. That day, my children made their own microbes out of recycled materials.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to figure out what the heck a microbe is.

Gothic Valley

While the kids were in Nature Camp, I explored Gothic Valley’s backcountry. Mountain bikers populated Gothic Road in their pilgrimage to their famous Mecca: Trail 401. The main drag connects to Aspen via Schofield Pass, a precarious four-wheel drive road.

I followed the dirt road for several miles but when it began a fractured ascent, I ditched my car and started hiking. Stubborn snowfields produced a cascade of waterfalls, a breeze stroked the velvet greenery and I played on a snow cap that blocked the road. My reward was a true jewel: Emerald Lake.

Spending a few hours sans kids in tow wasn’t too bad, either. 🙂

Adventure Park

Located at the base of Mt. Crested Butte, the Adventure Park is a must-visit. We soared up the Red Lady Express Lift and hiked around the summit with sweeping views of the West Elk mountain range. My 3-year-old son dominated the 18-hole miniature golf course by averaging 10 strokes (per hole), my daughter conquered the 28-foot Climbing Pinnacle and I made a failed attempt at a double-back flip on the turbo-charged, gravity-defying bungee trampoline.

OK, admittedly the single-back didn’t go too well, either.

Area Recreation

You could spend a lifetime exploring Crested Butte’s backcountry splendors. One morning, I arose at dawn to hike the famed Snodgrass Mountain (5 miles round-trip), which offers some of the most epic views of the area. If you have small children, be sure to do the Lower Loop Trail to cobalt-blue Peanut Lake, which has the glorious Paradise Divide mountain range as the backdrop.

One day, I biked 5.4 miles on the paved path from Mt. Crested Butte down into town. And yes, that which goes down must go back up. Very slowly.

Shopping

If the outer-world beauty of the surrounding peaks doesn’t make you feel like you’re on another planet, a stroll through Crested Butte will. This quirky, multi-hued town is a National Historic District and boasts anomalies such as a two-story outhouse. The local’s mode of transportation is funky cruiser bikes. There are so many hanging baskets of burgeoning flowers that you’ll swear it must be a city ordinance.

LAVISH is a hip accessory shop for moms and daughters will love LAVISH PETITE in the back of the store. Toy store Pooh’s Corner delighted my kids for over an hour.

Eating

For breakfast, be sure to try Izzy’s breakfast burrito with Indian spices. Dine creek-side but expect a long wait on the weekends. The Secret Stash pizzeria redefines eclectic with decor showcasing the owner’s world travels. Service is friendly, the kitchen is slow but Asher’s Pie (with a BBQ sauce and chipotle base, Canadian bacon, and grilled chicken) made it worth it.

One night must be dedicated to indulging at django’s, a restaurant and wine bar I discovered last summer. Admittedly, this Brussells-sprout-despising gal spent an entire year craving this dish with apples, crème fraîche, apple cider reduction and pistachios. A new fan favorite: seared rocky mountain elk tenderloin with blackberry sauce and a dash of heaven.

Lodge at Mountaineer Square

There are many great lodging deals in Crested Butte and the surrounding areas. Our personal favorite is the Lodge at Mountaineer Square. Conveniently located a stone’s throw away from the Adventure Park and a bevvy of restaurants and shops, their luxurious rooms vary in size from the King Room to four-bedroom suites. After a morning of adventure, my family spent every afternoon playing in the indoor/outdoor heated swimming pool and soaking in the hot tub. The Lodge offers 15% off lodging during festivals and you can save 25% on lodging this fall.

For additional information, go to crestedbuttemusicfestival.com and gunnisoncrestedbutte.com.

Amber Johnson
Author: Amber Johnson

Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.

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