Before I get into the details of Taylor River Lodge, Crested Butte is worth an introduction. I first went to this ski town as a teenager with a friend whose family had a house there. They’ve owned that house for 40+ years because they love CB that much.
While I was on this trip to CB a few friends wrote me telling me how much they also love Crested Butte. One has been going there every summer for 15+ years. I mentioned to her a hike I learned about and she replied with a beautiful photo of her walking through a sea of wildflowers. She’s done that hike and said it’s a top 3 experience of her lifetime. Then another friend in CO wrote me that she does that hike with her girlfriends every summer and loves it. It’s the pass from Aspen to CB (They both strongly believe the route from Aspen to CB is the best one, but at least one other person I talked with feels the opposite. The only way to know for sure? Do both!). It’s now on my list.
I was told Crested Butte is the birthplace of mountain biking. Their mountain biking association, established in 1983, is the oldest in the world. Now there are 850 miles of mountain biking trails in Crested Butte/Gunnison County. CB is also known for its incredible winter sports – downhill and nordic skiing (50km of XC trails), snowshoeing, ice climbing, ice fishing, snowmobiling and more. On top of that CB has 300+ days of sunshine/year!
The town center is three miles from the base of the ski mountain. Easily drivable or there’s a free shuttle that runs all day. It is a quintessential ski town – Elk Avenue is the main road, lined with a mix of great restaurants – including high-end French, a steakhouse, Nepalese, funky pizza places and a famous casual burrito/taco place. Of course there’s a great coffee shop (tiny Camp4Coffee is my friend’s favorite), an independent bookstore and several shops selling CB t-shirts, fishing gear and art.
CB also has culture. A recently completed art center is a central hub. The music scene is big in CB, with free outdoor concerts in the summer and the basement of the Public House hosting live bands throughout the year (buy tickets in advance). As mentioned with the epic hike above, CB is known for their wildflowers and they have a festival to celebrate them each summer.
TAYLOR RIVER LODGE
I love to synthesize a place in 3 words that most represent it to me. Occasionally I have to cheat a bit with a hyphen. For TRL they are:
Taylor River Lodge is a former fishing lodge set 40 minutes drive from CB (25 minutes in the summer when a more direct pass is open). It has 6 small cabins and 2 larger 3-bedroom cabin homes. TRL is owned by Eleven Experience, one of my favorite companies for active, adventurous travelers. They have properties all over the world, all of which you should add to your list. Eleven Experience’s name comes from “take it to 11” in the movie Spinal Tap. They take things up a notch. See a full walkthrough of the property here.
On arrival you are greeted in Copper John, the cabin which hosts the small office and shop with flies, extra gear and shwag. Also a huge couch, TV, foosball and billiards.
TRL’s property is small and not to be compared to out West dude ranches that have 1000s of acres. The benefit of its size is how cozy it is, how the staff treat you like part of the family and how it takes less than 5 minutes to walk from your cabin to the dining lodge, fitness room/spa or pool.
When you visit TRL you have the benefit of many on site activities, delicious food and a beautiful setting. Nearby you have access to trails, mountains, fishing spots, lakes and skiing all within a short drive. You spend your time split between relaxing on site and going off property to tackle some epic adventures.
*Eleven also owns Sopris House, Scarp Ridge Lodge (a former Croatian miners’ lodge turned saloon turned athletic club, now hotel) and the Public House in CB. The Public House hosts many live music events in their basement.
There are 6 “cabins” but note they aren’t the cabin of prior generations. Radiant heat in the floors, steam shower, NEST thermostat, lighting on dimmers, charging cords for every device, soft sheets and comfy beds. There are no TVs, which I appreciate (note: if there is a big game or event, the mirror behind the horseshoe bar can turn into a TV).
The cabins’ cozy size hold queen beds (if you are looking for a king – read on about the 2 log cabin homes).
My cabin was Pale Morning Dun – overlooking the river. See site map. In the summer with your windows open, you can hear the river rushing. Note for summer: there is no A/C but I asked and was told you don’t need it visitors enjoy the fresh air with the windows open.
The other cabins are laid out in an oval surrounding an outdoor bbq lawn. Three cabins are on the river – Caddis, Blue Wing Olive and Golden Stone, while two others are set back.
Some have lofts with 2 twins mattresses for older kids or teens.
If you have a 5+ people or want a bit more space, there are 2 3-bedroom homes.
The first floor of RW has 2 king bedded rooms, each with an en suite bathroom. There is a sitting room, but no kitchen (remember your rate is all inclusive of food and beverages). Upstairs there are 4 cozy beds perfect for kids or teenagers. It is location is further from the river than Green Drake.
Green Drake is a full service house with a kitchen (not that you would need it as it’s all inclusive). It’s 3 bedrooms with 3 ½ bathrooms and a large TV. The freestanding tub in one of the upstairs bathrooms is beautiful! Off the upstairs rooms are terraces looking out over the property. There are also 2 cozy twin beds upstairs. See a video walkthrough here.
TRL subscribes to the philosophy “challenge by choice.” I was so impressed by not only the range of activities offered, but also that they aren’t either just for beginners or just for extremely advanced adventurers. Each activity (including back country skiing) can be done with a range of abilities.
The area surrounding Crested Butte is a playground for outdoor adventures. The TRL property is a few acres abutting thousands of acres to explore.
On site activities include:
- Fly fishing pond directly in front of the dining lodge
- Ice skating on their small rink
- Hatchet throwing
- Pellet gun shooting
- Climbing wall
- Beginners rock climbing
- Indoor heated pool (salt water) where instead of laps you can turn on the current and swim against it
- The hybrid fitness center/spa has weights, a reformer pilates machine and a Peloton.
The TRL team can also organize TRL Olympics – a friendly competition with organized events like:
- first to catch fish
- scavenger hunts
- hatchet throwing
Off site you have 1000’s of acres to explore, including:
- Rock climb at Franklin Tower (named after Grateful Dead song). Great for beginners!
- After you do this with guide, then he can take you to more challenging climbs nearby
- Mountain biking – 850 miles of trails
- White water rafting or float trip – with a stop for a picnic lunch
- Fly fishing – with access to public and exclusive private lands
- Ice fishing and ice skating at Blue Mesa
- SUP on Taylor River Reservoir. PJ will take you out to do SUP yoga.
- Nordic ski
Enjoy a massage in the two treatment rooms attached to the fitness center. Spend time in the indoor heated pool house with a hot tub, steam shower and sauna. When the weather is good, the huge garage door window lifts up to bring in the fresh air.
If you are looking for nourishing activities there are wellness classes offered twice/week including yoga and thermal therapy.
With advance planning the days can include culinary and cocktail classes. As the evening begins, have an après cocktail at the horseshoe bar, enjoy a slow dinner with friends and family and then take your choice of reading in front of the fire, hanging out next to a bonfire with s’mores or playing poker, pool or foosball with your teens.
When the weather is nice, there is often live music outdoors.
The main dining area is in Taylor River Lodge. In warmer weather, dining expands onto an outdoor terrace. They have indoor and outdoor fireplaces. Guests dining times are staggered when the property is full. The food is beautiful and delicious. One of my favorite dishes was the Applewood Smoked Bacon & White Cheddar Griddle Cakes. So much so that I asked for the recipe. You can see it here.
The Horseshoe Bar is a signature Eleven characteristic. The barista will make you whatever you are in the mood for – ranging from a hot latte in the morning to a glass of Cabernet or a Hibiscus Mule during après.
Eleven Experiences owns a brewery and their IPA is on tap in Copper John. They can set up private dining in unique places on property (overlooking the river would be lovely).
Personally, the people are what made my experience go up to an 11. The guides are knowledgeable and engaging. Kyle was our snowshoe guide, Katie led our yoga class, Reed led our nordic skiing, Austin the chef taught us to make caramelized onion souffles.
Katie, the bartender and barista, learned how I like my coffee and that I enjoy an adventurous cocktail before dinner. PJ is one of their masseuses (she does Thai and regular massages), yoga teacher and thermal therapy leader. Morgan and Hunter are the pre-arrival and on property Experience Managers, key in helping you create an experience you’ll love.
The owner of Eleven Experience is a big music buff and I learned his favorite band is the Grateful Dead. I actually didn’t hear one Dead song during our entire visit, but I did love the well curated playlist with song after song that I loved….
James Taylor – Going to Carolina
CSN – Helplessly Hoping, Southern Cross
Marshall Tucker Band – Can’t You See
Darius Rucker – Wagon Wheel
Cat Stevens – Peace Train
If you like the vibe of the music above, I’m guessing you would also love staying at TRL.
WHO IS A TAYLOR RIVER LODGE GUEST?
Families, couples or friends seeking laid back luxury, delicious food, a chill atmosphere and time outdoors in nature. It’s ideal for multigenerational groups and they’ve hosted some beautiful weddings. It also would be a unique corporate retreat destination for an executive team that wanted to blend serious work with fun activities.
In the winter, because TRL is about 40 minutes from CB ski mountain, it’s not for someone who is coming to downhill ski every day.
People who enjoy being active during the day and appreciate coming back to curl up by the fire, enjoying a cocktail at the horseshoe bar and sitting by a bonfire in the evening would love TRL.
- Crested Butte is a quintessential ski town and absolutely worth an afternoon stroll for shopping or to grab a bite to eat.
- Public House, owned by Eleven Experiences regularly hosts live music. It often sells out, so get tickets in advance.
- After you come for a visit, consider getting this book for an interesting story.
- For active travelers with an adventurous spirit, consider one of two routes to the top of Mt. Crested Butte. #1 Take the mountaineering route (ropes & gear are necessary) up Guide’s Ridge then scramble hike from there to the top. Or for the “easier” route, the peak is also accessible by taking the chairlift up to 11,000 feet then scramble hiking to the top (no ropes or technical gear is needed for this option). On your way down take the chair lift and go into town for a well deserved, cold beer.
- In July and August the mid afternoons can bring monsoons. Get out early, get your activity in and then return to the lodge to relax and apres.
- Snodgrass is a beautiful destination for a snowshoe.
- Hop on a mountain bike at TRL and take the Doctor Park trail, a local favorite!
CB is enjoyable 12 months/year. Some of your experience will be the same no matter when you come, and other activities will vary by the season. The third week of September +/- 1 week is peak foliage season. And the height of summer creates blankets of wildflowers on the mountain passes.
The only question remaining is what season should you go? It’s hard to choose. Perhaps be like me and just pick one. Once you experience it, then you can come back for a different season.