Positioned 9,000 feet above sea level, with the Rocky Mountains as its backdrop, the town of Crested Butte has adventure around every corner, and we’re here to sample the very best that this amazing landscape has to offer. We’re visiting in summer, a time for hiking, mountain biking and paddleboarding; arrive in winter, and it’s a snow-sports paradise. As we drive into the remote town – passing the colourful wooden buildings worthy of a film set – we see the Colorado we’ve been dreaming of.
Scarp Ridge Lodge, Crested Butte
Over the next few days, our custom-designed itinerary will see us climbing, paddleboarding and fly fishing. But first, we check into Scarp Ridge Lodge, a beautiful property run by Eleven Experience, an adventure travel company that’s found its niche giving outdoor fun a seriously luxurious twist. The lodge is nothing short of incredible, with impeccably designed interiors, six beautiful bedrooms and grand shared spaces. Downstairs, you can cosy up together in the Great Room, leaf through the books in the Story Telling Room, or sample a honeymoon cocktail at the bar. There’s also a saltwater pool, sauna and steam room, and a rooftop hot tub that’s the perfect spot for stargazing in the blacker-than-black night sky. Thoughts of jet lag soon fade; we can’t imagine a better place to be for the first part of our amazing trip.
We start the adventure gently, with a guided hike through the Slate River valley. As the sun shows off the mountains’ majestic beauty, we catch our first glimpse of Guides Ridge, a jagged rocky arete at the top of Mount Crested Butte – we’ll be climbing it in a few days’ time.
With a good few miles under our belts, we head back to the lodge for drinks followed by a culinary feast. There’s a real emphasis on quality, locally sourced produce and hearty, nourishing food here, and our chef cooks up three inventive courses, including elk steaks, and sorrel and roasted beet, all paired with incredible wines.
Beautiful interiors at Scarp Ridge Lodge
Each day at breakfast, we start with freshly made smoothies, fruit platters and granola before moving on to our main, cooked to order. My favourite has to be the hearty Green Man sandwich, packed with avocado, spinach, eggs and salsa.
Well-fed and rested, we head to Slate River for our stand-up paddleboard session. With the help of our knowledgeable guide, we are quickly travelling on our boards down the river; first on our knees and then, eventually, standing. Gliding along the river, passing the stunning scenery, while full of pride about balancing like a pro – it’s such a memorable experience. Bumping into river banks, almost falling off and getting stuck in shallow waters is all part of the fun and we don’t stop laughing the entire way.
To see more of picture-perfect Crested Butte, we borrow a couple of the lodge’s bikes and cruise the quiet streets – passing pretty buildings and visiting the independent shops (there’s not a chain store for miles). The air is clean, the people are friendly, and there’s an innate respect for the environment – the plastic bag is a thing of the past here, and the restaurants, bars and shops all have sustainability and local produce at their hearts. This rings true for the Eleven Experience, too. Among its many environmentally friendly efforts, it provides all of its water in reusable bottles. Back at the lodge, we spend some time enjoying the spa. For every dose of adventure, we do our fair share of relaxing, too.
The lake at Taylor River Lodge
Today we’ll embark on our biggest adventure yet – climbing Guides Ridge. It’s our first time rock climbing, and there are definitely some nerves mixed in with the excitement. Having driven to our 11,500ft starting point, we look up to the 12,162ft summit and wonder how we’ll get up there, but our guides are faultless – knowledgeable, patient and enthusiastic (as well as undeniably witty). After a short scramble across the boulder fields, we begin our ascent, slowly but surely. The climb is one of the most challenging, but rewarding things I’ve ever done, and as we near the top, our whoops of elation ring around the mountain. This is a must-do adventure for honeymooners – you’ll be so proud when you reach the top (and just think of the incredible photos!).
Moving on to our next part of the trip, we head for Taylor River Lodge, Eleven Experience’s forest retreat, and our home for the next few nights. This is no ordinary cabin-in-the-woods affair. The picturesque resort runs alongside the beautiful river, and has eight luxury cabins, a stunning pool and spa, a pretty barbecue area, a games room and bar and restaurant.
We pour ourselves a drink at Copper John (the hangout-space-come-games-room that’s equipped with a pool table and beer pump) and stop to take in the sheer beauty around us. The lodge sits in a valley, surrounded by forest and mountains, and the sound of the river rushing past provides the perfect soundtrack to our stay. This is a real get-away-from-it-all retreat, where you feel totally immersed in nature – and a truly great spot for romance.
A luxury cabin at Taylor River Lodge
On our last day, we are provided with waders and waterproofs for our fly-fishing experience. We learn the fundamentals of the sport at the lodge’s private lake, with the help of two expert guides. Eventually, we wade into the river to try our luck, casting, waiting – and shrieking with excitement when we have a bite. I quickly learn that fly-fishing is a sport of real patience, but it’s also surprisingly calming, and such a great way to connect with this beautiful location.
After a long afternoon of poolside relaxation, our final evening is spent dining by the river, toasting marshmallows on the fire, and soaking up the balmy evening. With so much natural beauty and so many great experiences on offer all year round, Colorado really is an incredible place to visit for a truly unforgettable trip.
The stunning pool at Taylor River Lodge
We flew into Denver with United Airlines, united.com. Rates at Scarp Ridge Lodge start from $650 (approx. £505) per room per night, during the summer season (May to October), based on two sharing. The price includes pre-arrival planning, breakfast, snacks, organic fresh food minibar, house alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and round-trip transfers from Gunnison–Crested Butte Regional Airport. Rates at Taylor River Lodge start from $1,670 (approx. £1,297) per room per night during the summer season (May to October), based on two people sharing on a full-board basis. This includes pre-arrival planning, full guide service offering customised activities, all activity gear, organic fresh food minibar, house alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, one day of professional photography and round-trip transfers from Gunnison–Crested Butte Regional Airport, elevenexperience.com