Lay of the Land
With numerous mountain passes and peaks nearby, Crested Butte is surrounded by mountain driving. Kebler Pass lies due west of Crested Butte, along Colorado Road 12. Schofield Pass is directly north, past Gothic along Colorado Road 317. Monarch Pass, a popular view point, can be found to the west on US-50. The less-travelled Cottonwood Pass is also to the west, along CO-209 between Almont and Buena Vista. During winter months, some of these passes are not maintained and shut down; all of them close at least intermittently due to weather.
The West Elk Scenic Byway also tours some of the local mountain, including the top of Mount Sopris.
In addition to the main mountain passes surrounding Crested Butte, there are numerous Forest Service roads the climb up into the mountains around Crested Butte. Some of these roads require having a vehicle with high-clearance and/or 4WD. Check in with local shops, guides or officials for more information about these roads.
Tips for Driving Mountain Passes
While some of the passes just outside of Crested Butte are well-travelled, well-maintained roads, others, at least in sections, may be narrow and unpaved. Use caution when driving over mountain passes; slow down (you’ll see more scenery and wildlife) and don’t attempt to pass around corners (scenic overlooks provide great places for slower drivers to pull off). When travelling downhill, shfiting to a lower gear is a good way to maintain a slower speed and save wear-and-tear on your brakes.
Since travelling up and down steep roads can be slower, plan on spending extra time driving over any mountain passes (extra time also means a chance to stop and explore a bit, as well). Check local road conditions before leaving if there’s any chance of storms.
Tips for Driving on Snow
Due to snow, ice and limited visibility, winter travel through Colorado’s mountains can be dangerous; be sure that your vehicle is equipped with proper snow tires and that you have a set of tire chains. In case of inclement weather, it’s always a good idea to stock your vehicle with an emergency kit that includes blankets, food, water and a first aid kit. If your vehicle becomes stuck or runs off the road, consider staying with it and calling for help before you begin contemplating leaving to look for help – towns and cities along many of these roads may be few and far between.
Allow extra time for your travels during the winter months, as road conditions may warrant slow driving, and check with local Department of Transportation officials for up-to-date road conditions.