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The best places to burn calories and then put them back in near Crested Butte

Crested Butte is surrounded by beautiful scenery and great recreation. The town is also full of great restaurants. Both are great reasons to visit the area.

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — 9NEWS reporter (and friend) Katie Eastman and I love Crested Butte--mostly because of its people and its beauty. That stuff is great. But we are also pigs, and love eating after a good hike through the mountains near the adorable town. 

I (Anne) have more experience hiking in the area, so I’ll be your guide for most of that. While Katie enjoys hiking, she will be joining me on the food recs. So grab your boots and hit the trails. And then scarf some donuts. Or whatever. It’s all good.

Copley Lake

I like this hike because it’s pretty—and it’s not a 12-mile slog uphill. This 4.5-mile gem arrives at a cute little lake, but not before passing a lot of great wildflowers. Also, I’ve never seen anyone on this trail, so come here if you’re sick of people playing music through their awful Bluetooth speakers in the wilderness. 

Credit: Anne Herbst

Even though it’s a short hike, it’s not super easy with some decent elevation gain. Know what that means? Time to eat. Since this hike doesn’t take too long, it’ll still be happy hour at Pitas in Paradise. Katie and I are vegetarians, but the falafel pita should make everyone’s stoke high. Also, add curly fries--you earned it and you’re welcome. Happy hour will get you discounts on all of the above. Plus beer. The nachos made with pita chips smothered in curry sauce are legit.

Credit: Anne Herbst

Rustler’s Gulch

Come here for the flowers, stay for the views. And the flowers. I dig this hike almost as much as any hike in the Gothic, Colorado area. This hike isn’t wicked hard, but it’s 9 miles roundtrip through some of the best wildflower fields I’ve seen. We’re talking paintbrush, lupine, sunflowers, columbine—so what are you waiting for? 

Credit: Anne Herbst

After a journey down Rustler’s, it’s time for a trip to The Last Steep. This chill restaurant has solid food, solid beer, and a really nice staff that lets us work out of one of their booths. The handmade veggie burger rocks, as do the tacos, as does the artichoke soup in a bread bowl. Carbs are necessary after a day on the trail.

Credit: Anne Herbst

Oh Be Joyful trail to Blue Lake

Katie and I, along with our friend Emily and my dog Stella (pictured below in all of her I'm-not-impressed glory, did this 11-mile hike together last year. Katie just reminded me that the hike was pretty chill until the last mile or so up to the lake. Then it hurts. The views are great, and you spend most of the hike surrounded by 12,000-foot peaks

Credit: Anne Herbst

As you come down the way you came up, move quickly so you can get a before-dinner drink at Montanya Distillers. Katie swears by the Smoke Show, a cocktail made with coffee and a bunch of other stuff that makes magic. Katie’s expert analysis is, “I just remember liking it.” I remember everyone ordering it after tasting it.  

Credit: Anne Herbst

Long Lake (also known as Meridian Lake)

This is a shorty, but a goodie. A 2.4 mile roundtrip hike up to a lake near downtown Crested Butte is something you can fit in after the above hikes, or all on its own. The flowers along the shaded trail are nice, and it’s a great place to relax after hiking about 1.2 miles uphill. Maybe bring a hammock? Finding a culinary pairing with this lake is a toss up. 

Credit: Anne Herbst

Maybe after this, head to Niky’s Mini Donuts. Katie says you don’t need to feel guilty eating 5 to 10 of them because they’re small. She also recommends only a few toppings per donut, because the donut should remain the main attraction. We also both love The Third Bowl homemade ice cream. All flavors. They’ve even got a done of dairy free stuff. We go full dairy though, and it all rocks.

Credit: Anne Herbst

Copper Lake (and Judd Falls)

Looking for a little or a lot of miles? I’ve got both covered here. The two-mile hike to Judd Falls is a short adventure to a nice little waterfall. Need to work off whatever food you ate in Crested Butte yesterday? Trek up past the falls on the Copper Creek trail to Copper Lake—that’s going to cost you 2,400ish feet in elevation gain and 12 miles roundtrip.

Credit: Anne Herbst

We know you’re tired after all that mountain walking, so on your way back into town stop in Gothic and grab a coffee at the Gothic Coffee Lab. While you’re at it, peep around the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. So many super smart people descend on this gorgeous outdoor lab every summer and study everything from wildflowers to marmots to salamanders. They have programs for students and adults, and also a great visitor’s center to learn what’s going on in town. This place has been around since 1928, with scientists doing their thing in the field. If you bump into one, I’m sure they’d love to tell you what they have going on.

So you’ve hiked a rad trail and visited a rad biological lab, and now you’re hungry. Easy peasy. Time for a  rad trip to grab some sick pizza at Secret Stash in downtown Crested Butte. Know what’s good here? Everything. We promise. So eat all of it. In fact, that's our motto.

Credit: Katie Eastman