The Cheapest Way (With Others)

  • Denver is a hub for Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines, so you can usually get an inexpensive nonstop flight. Note that it is also possible to fly into Colorado Springs or Montrose, but those are less likely to be nonstop flights.
  • Sharing a car also has the benefit of starting conference conversations early, so it has become a preferred way to get to Crested Butte.
  • Rent a car from the Denver Airport. If you’re a Costco member, their car rental service is highly recommended.
  • Use Slack to find others to share your car rental.
  • It takes about 4.5 hours to drive. Here’s the route to follow. (I-70 to 470 to 285 to 50 to 135).
  • It’s a beautiful drive so if you can do it primarily in the daylight that is optimal.

The Cheapest Way (On Your Own)

  1. Fly to Denver airport on a discount airline like Southwest. Denver is a Southwest hub, so you can usually get a nonstop flight. Arrive with enough time to get to the bus. Before buying your airline ticket, make sure the return timing for the bus works (see below).

  2. From baggage claim, follow the signs to the light rail (If you get turned around, there are information booths or you can ask an airport employee). The signs will take you down escalators. At the bottom of the escalators, there are machines on the right to purchase a one way ticket which will take you to Union station.

  3. For further simplicity, download the light rail app and buy your ticket that way. NOTE: This often makes the tickets much cheaper.

  4. Take the Light Rail from Denver Airport to Union Station ($10.50). This is just under a 40-minute ride, and leaves every few minutes. It terminates at Union Station so there’s no risk you will miss your stop.

  5. Take the Bustang Outrider from Union Station to Crested Butte ($45). This is a very comfortable bus with power outlets and WiFi (Might work for streaming but best to download). You can only buy tickets with their phone app, so it’s worth installing it and buying one ahead of time. Don’t “activate” the ticket until right before you get on the bus, again through your phone.

  6. The bus departs on a lower level from where the light rail lets off. There are escalators and elevators. You don’t need to leave Union Station. If you get confused there’s a traveler’s information station inside the Union Station building, right where the light rail lets off. If you have time you can go outside and walk around the local area. There are a number of restaurants and coffee shops to hang out in that are all pretty nice.

  7. The bus to Crested Butte departs at 1:50 pm from the Bus Concourse at Gate B4. It shows up and starts loading about 15 minutes before departure so it’s good to be there at 1:30 or earlier; it’s first-come first served and every once in awhile they run out of seats in Denver (the return trip originates in Crested Butte so you’ll always get a seat in that direction). The driver will check you in, so you’ll know you’re on the right bus. At least in the Winter, the best place to sit is probably the left side of the bus, in both directions.

  8. The bus terminates at the “4-way Stop” in Crested Butte, at about 7:30 pm. There’s a heated indoor shelter where it lets off. Depending on snow conditions and your luggage you can walk to pretty much any destination in Crested Butte but you will probably want to have someone pick you up (announce on Slack).

  9. The return bus does leave Crested Butte quite early (5:15 am) but it then gets you into Union Station at 10:50 am which is enough time for many afternoon flights. The light rail to the airport leaves every 15 minutes, so assume you will get to the airport around noon.

  10. When returning, once you reach Union Station and get off the bus, go up to the main level, which takes you outside. The airport light rail departs from Track One.

  11. When returning, try to arrange it so your light rail train arrives at the airport (which will be around noon if you get on the light rail right after arriving at Union Station on the bus) at least 90 minutes before your flight leaves. If you do this, you can check your baggage at a special desk at the airport light rail station.

  12. If this doesn’t get you there in time for your flight (or you prefer early flights, as I do), you can stay at the Hyatt Place which is only one stop from the airport. Get off the light rail at 61st & Pena Station, then just walk across the parking lot to the hotel. The early trains from the hotel to the airport start at 3:25 am. Check the schedule when taking these early trains because they don’t start running at 15-minute intervals until about 5am.

Flying into Gunnison

  • This is usually the fastest but most expensive option.
  • Alpine Express takes you from the Gunnison airport to Crested Butte, and will deliver you right to the door of your lodging.
  • Because of weather, the Gunnison flight can be unreliable, especially in Winter.
  • Airline tips.


  • Coaches can be rented for groups to take you to Crested Butte.
  • Montrose airport (about an hour further away than Gunnison) can sometimes be more reliable than Gunnison in the Winter. Both Southwest and United fly into Montrose, but almost always via Denver. There are services to bring you from Montrose to Crested Butte, or you can rent a car.