Wherever you go in the Crested Butte area, you are never far from some of the most magnificent National Forest land in the country. Whether your preference is for day trips, overnight backpacking, or multiple day traverses and loops in the West Elk mountain range, the Crested Butte area offers a hiking trail for everyone.
Some things to remember before you begin hiking:
- Leave your hiking itinerary, and a map marked with the trail you plan to hike, with someone you trust.
- Wear appropriate, supportive footwear designed for the length of your hike and the expected terrain. On rocky trails, wear high-topped boots that help prevent your ankle from slipping and twisting.
- Bring extra clothing–polypropylene and pile are better than cotton, because they won’t lose their insulating value when they get wet–and extra food.
- Bring iodine tablets or a pump-type watrer filter to purify stream or spring water for drinking.
- Stash lip balm rated SPF-15 or higher and hard candy in a pocket or fanny pack; it helps avoid “cotton-mouth” on the trail.
- Start off slowly to avoid getting tired partway through your hike.
- Stay on the trail. Don’t shortcut through switchbacks or skirt puddles and mud in the middle of a trail: it causes erosion problems.
- Bring a simple first-aid kit, sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.
- Bring an empty sack to pick up trailside trash left by careless hikers.
- Cross streams carefully, and never at high flows.
- Leave all gates closed unless sign says to leave open.
- Yield to horses and livestock. Bikes yield to hikers.
- Keep dogs on leash or at your side at all times. Do not allow them to chase wildlife or livestock.
- Utilize established campsites and fire rings.
Local hiking trails
Beaver Ponds Trail
North on Ohio Creek Road, travel 22 miles from Highway 135. Trailhead is marked. This is a good choice for families with small children. The trail climbs gently through dense aspen stands and ends at the Beaver Ponds where there is public fishing access.
Boulder Creek Trail
The trail head is out of Gold Creek Campground. The trail climbs steadily, with lots of switch backs, to Boulder Lake.
8 Miles round trip
Coal Mesa Trail
From Gunnison, travel west on Highway 50 for about 25 miles to Highway 92. Travel west on Highway 92 for 1 mile. Once across the Blue Mesa Dam, turn right onto the Soap Creek Road #721 and travel 9 miles to Soap Creek Campground. (The trailhead is adjacent to the south end of the Soap Creek Campground) The trail crosses Soap Creek (via a bridge) and enters the West Elk Wilderness Area in 1/2 mile. The trail follows the ridge for a distance and has excellent views. The trail climbs steeply to Bonfisk Peak. For a looped trail, return to Soap Creek Campground on the Cow Creek Trail.
The trail leaves one mile west from Gothic (trail 739), hike up to Judd Falls following the Copper Creek trail. Continue along until markers to Copper Pass/Triangle Pass (trail 1981) are seen. Follow the trail over Triangle Pass and down into the valley along Conundrum Creek, this leads to Conundrum Hot Springs. The trail winds through forests and eventually along steep, slide hill with much loose rock.
9 miles one way
Crested Butte Summit Trail
Park in the visitors parking area at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. There is a kiosk where maps can be obtained. Tickets are available at the Ski area ticket office or Peak Sports in the Treasury Center. Follow a walkway to the Silver Queen Chairlift, which will take you to the trailhead. The trail is well marked and will take you to the summit of Crested Butte Mountain through tall timber, across tundra and a screefield. There are spectacular views in all directions from the summit. Your return is a hike down the mountain (about 6 miles) or a ride down the chairlift.
Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Recreation Path
Park at the Crested Butte Mountain Resort parking lot. The trail starts at this parking lot heading back towards Crested Butte. The trail follows Gothic Road for the first 3/4 mile, crossing the road twice. The remaining 2 miles wind through meadows. The end of the trail is still under construction. When you get to the barricade, signs will direct you onto a single track dirt path out to Gothic Road. You may continue your hike on the shoulder of Gothic Road into Crested Butte. There is a shuttle that can take you back up to the parking lot.
2.75 miles (2 miles are ADA accessible)
Curecanti Creek/Pioneer Point
West on Highway 50 to the junction of Highway 92. Turn right onto Highway 92 and travel 5.7 miles to the trailhead. This trail descends steeply from the rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It follows Curecanti Creek down to Morrow Point Reservoir. The Curecanti Needle, a 700 foot geologic spire, is within view at the trail’s end.
From Gunnison, travel west on Highway 50, 6 miles past the Elk Creek Visitor Center. The trailhead is clearly marked on the right just before the bridge crossing the reservoir. Ascending through sagebrush, conifers and riparian vegetation, this trail offers spectacular views of the weather sculpted Dillon Pinnacles and Blue Mesa Reservoir. There are interpretive signs along the trail that describe how these spectacular spires were formed. Horses are permitted.
Doctor Park Trail
North on Highway 135 to Almont, right onto Taylor River Road.Travel 6 miles to North Bank Campground. Trail leaves from north end of campground. The trail heads Northeast out of the campground to access the Doctor Park area. You will have excellent views of Manganese Peak and Doctor Park Mine from this trail.
From Crested Butte, travel west on the Kebler Pass Road to Lake Irwin Road #826. Travel north on the Lake Irwin Road to the trailhead (about 1/2 mile past the campground). Alternate access: from Horse Ranch Park, travel north on the Dark Canyon Trail approximately 2 miles to the Dyke Trail. The Dyke Trail is a very popular trail in the summer and especially during the fall colors. The trail meanders through aspen groves and meadows and crosses over the “Dyke”, a rocky spine.
Elk Creek/Gunsight Pass
Take Kebler Pass Road west for 4.6 miles to a steep ravine on your right. Park here. Hike trail on right up left side of stream. At the Standard Mine, take right road uphill to the top of Gunsight Pass. Return down the same way you came. You can see many old mines on this hike; avoid shafts, dangerous openings and equipment.
4 – 5 miles
Fossil Ridge Trail
Take Highway 50 east to Parlin. Turn left at Parlin and go about 8 miles to Ohio City. Turn left on Gold Creek Road and drive to the Gold Creek Campground. The Fossil Ridge Trailhead is directly across from the Gold Creek Campground on the left side of the road. This trail in the Fossil Ridge Recreation Management Area climbs up several switchbacks then levels out once on the ridge. Boulder Lake can be accessed from this trail at about 4 miles. The Fossil Ridge Trail also accesses the Mill Lake and Summerville Trails into the Fossil Ridge Wilderness and the Willow Creek Trail. The views from the Fossil Ridge Trail are spectacular as you look to the mountains south and east.
Gold Creek Trail
Take Highway 50 east to Parlin. Turn left at Parlin and go about 8 miles to Ohio City. Turn left on the Gold Creek Road and drive past the Gold Creek Campground. The trailhead is at the end of the Gold Creek Road and may require 4-wheel drive once past the campground. This single track trail in the Fossil Ridge Recreation Management Area provides beautiful views into the Fossil Ridge and Pitkin areas. The trail climbs to Shaw Ridge, and for a day hike it is recommended to stop here. More experienced hikers can continue on the trail to access Union Park.
Start from the Crested Butte Nordic Center at 2nd and Whiterock. Follow the trail up the Bench southbound. Turn right on Wildcat Road, continue on trail past dead end of road. Turn right on Trapper’s Crossing Road. Watch for sign to Green Lake Trail on left. Gorgeous picnic spot.
7 miles round trip
Gunnison Bike Path
North on Highway 135 to City Market parking lot. The trail starts from the parking lot. The bike path travels north along Highway 135 to the Gunnison River. You will pass horse pastures on your way to the river. At the river, there is public fishing access, north and west of the bridge. ADA accessible.
Gunnison Spur of the Colorado Trail
East on Highway 50 to McDonald’s. Turn left and go to the first stop sign. Turn right and travel around the college campus about halfway up the hill. Park in the eastern edge of the lot for the WSC library. Cross the road to gain access to the trail. The trail climbs steadily to the radio towers then follows a 2 track road up the crest of rolling hills to the top of Signal Peak. It continues for many miles along roads and trails.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
West on Highway 50, 1/2 mile west of town, before you cross the Gunnison River, turn left onto Gold Basin Road (CR 38). Travel 2.8 miles to the sign marking the entrance to the Hartman Rocks Recreation Area. This area is a network of both dirt roads and single track trails. The single track trails are marked with numbered posts on each end. You will hike through rolling hills of sagebrush, granite rock formations and cottonwood groves. A separate brochure is available for this area from the Gunnison Chamber of Commerce.
1/2 to 30 miles
Difficulty:Easy to Moderate
Henry Lake Trail
North on Highway 135 to Almont, right onto Taylor River Road. Travel approximately 15 miles to Lottis Creek Campground. Trailhead for South Lottis Trail is behind the campground. The Henry Lake Trail branches off of the South Lottis Trail at about 4.5 miles. There are many spectacular views along this trail and fishing in the lake is reported to be fair to good. The trail is located in the Fossil Ridge Wilderness and parallels South Lottis Creek and crosses some wet areas. It ascends rapidly the last 3/4 mile to Henry Lake at 11,704 ft.
West on Highway 50 to the junction of Highway 92. Turn right onto Highway 92 and travel 17 miles to the trailhead. This trail zigzags through oak, pine, juniper and fir. You will descend steeply to the wooded campsite and picnic area on the shores of Morrow Point Reservoir.
Lamphier Lake Trail
The trail head is out of Gold Creek Campground, 100 yards past the campground itself. The trail follows the creek, winding its way through aspen and pine up to the remote lake. The trail head is on the top of Gunsight Pass, one more mile.
6 miles round trip
Lost Lake Trail (and Beckwith Pass)
From Gunnison, travel north on Ohio Creek Road to the intersection of Kebler Pass. Turn left onto Kebler Pass and travel to the Lost Lake turnoff. Turn South towards the Lost Lake Campground. The trailhead is near the entrance to the campground. Follow the trail for 0.6 mile up to Lost Lake. Continue around the base of East Beckwith to Dollar Lake, then join the Beckwith Pass Trail at its first stream crossing just above the campground. The trail travels approximately 2.6 miles through stands of conifer and aspen to the summit of the pass. The trail crosses numerous streams and also brings users close to high mountain lakes. Avoid the pass trail when rainy.
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
Mill Castle Trail
The trail begins on Mill Creek Road, a two wheel drive road. The trail goes over Storm Pass (12,440ft.) and very steep on both sides. This is one of the most scenic trails in the West Elk Wilderness, but only experienced hikers should attempt this hike. The first 5 miles are easy, the rest is more strenuous.
Mill Lake Trail
Take Highway 50 east to Parlin. Turn left at Parlin and go about 8 miles to Ohio City. Turn left on the Gold Creek Road and drive to the Gold Creek Campground. The Fossil Ridge Trailhead provides access to Mill Lake Trail and is directly across from the Gold Creek Campground on the left side of the road. This trail begins on the Fossil Ridge Trail. Within the first mile, the Mill Lake Trail junctions off of the Fossil Ridge Trail. The Mill Lake Trail enters the Fossil Ridge Wilderness and after a short 1.5 mile walk it leads you to Mill Lake. Mill Lake sits at an elevation of 11,480 feet.
North on Ohio Creek Road, travel about 10 miles to the Mill Creek Road, turn left and travel 4.5 miles to trailhead. The lower part of this trail is suitable for all hikers, but the upper sections should only be attempted by the most proficient hikers due to the unpredictable weather and rugged terrain. However, this is one of the most scenic trails in the West Elk Wilderness. The trail meanders west from the Mill Creek Road, first following Mill Creek, and then steeply climbing to Storm Pass.
Starts off Trail Creek Road approximately 5 miles from Spring Creek Reservoir. Some previous hiking experience is desirable. There is fishing at Mysterious Lake.
West on Highway 50 for 5 miles. The entrance is on the south side of the highway and is well marked. Located on the north shore of the Gunnison River, this area is rich with grasses, flowers, cottonwoods and willows and is ideal for birding, fishing and wildlife observation. This trail is flat, shaded and provides very easy walking.
1.5 miles – ADA accessible.
O’Fallon Ditchline/Ridgeline Trail
Take Highway 50 to McDonalds. Turn left and go to the first stop sign. Turn right and travel around the college campus about halfway up the hill. Park in the eastern edge of the lot for the WSC library. Cross the road to the entrance of the Trail. This trail is a easy and short hike from the City of Gunnison through sagebrush and hills. It provides good views of the City and surrounding area. A loop hike can be completed by using the entire trail system there.
Peanut Lake/Lower Loop
Probably the most popular “quick trail” because of its vicinity. On the corner of 1st street and Elk, go north on on 1st. Then turn left on Butte Ave. Park your car on the side of the road and walk Peanut Road to Peanut Lake. The trail will turn into Lower Loop. Great beginner trail or when hiking with small children.
West on Highway 50, one mile west of junction with Highway 92. The exit is clearly marked and a short, unpaved road leads to the trailhead. Trailers must be parked before decending to the trailhead. This trail descends along Pine Creek on the south side of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. 232 Stair steps take you down to the Morrow Point Reservoir below Blue Mesa Dam. The lower portion of the trail follows the historic bed of the Denver and Rio Grande Western railroad. It also accesses the Morrow Point Lake Boat Tours.
Railroad Grade Road
North on Ohio Creek Road about 23 miles from Highway 135. As you approach the sweeping switchback turn, head east onto the Railroad Grade Road. Park along the road as soon as possible. The road and trail meander through pine and aspen forests and meadows. As you walk along the historic Railroad Grade Road, remnants of the mining past are still visible. Look for the hand built rock retaining wall that protected the rail line from rock slides and avalanches.
Take Gothic Road north past the stables. Park at Snodgrass trailhead on left. Cross over fence stile form. Please obey any seasonal closure signs on gate. You can reach the top of Snodgrass Mountain on the dirt road. Trail to left past second gate, ends in Washington Gulch.
5 miles to top and back.
This one is a nice short hike. Start off west on Kebler Pass Road (County Road 12). Drive 5 miles to Forest Road 885. Turn left and park. Hike on the road or various trails. This is a beautiful – through the forest – hike.
Strand Hill/Ferris Creek
Take Hwy. 135 south for 2 miles. Turn left at Brush Creek Road and follow past Cold Springs Ranch (on your left). Park about 1/2 mile past the ranch at trailhead on your right. Walk a short distance to Ferris Creek Road. Remember to close gates behind you. Trail is steep in places for about one mile, then levels out. At fork on top of hill, follow dirt road to Ferris Creek and around Strand Hill. Alternatively, at the fork turn left and climb Strand Hill. After two miles of climbing, turn left on singletrack into a meadow and descend through aspen forest for several miles. At the botom, follow the trail right, then left to Brush Creek Road.
North on Highway 135 to Almont, right onto Taylor River Road. Travel 10 miles. The trailhead is on the right side of the road. This trail is a major trail in the Fossil Ridge Wilderness. Although the trail for the first 1/5 miles is gentle, it quickly gains elevation with three series of switchbacks. The trail follows a meandering creek, then enters into a quiet lodge pole forest. If you hike the entire length to the Fossil Ridge Trail you will see breath taking views of Henry Mountain and Fossil Ridge.
Swampy Pass Trail
From Gunnison, travel North on Ohio Creek Road for about 18 miles. The trailhead is located 1/2 mile north of the National Forest boundary. This very scenic trail will lead you into the West Elk Wilderness where you will get excellent views of the Castles. It ascends gradually to Swampy Pass then descends gradually to the junction of Trail #438. Avoid using this trail when rainy. This trail is heavily used by horse back riders.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
This trail starts just below Mirror Lake Campground and crosses the Cottonwood Pass Road 8.5 miles to the north. Both points are accessible by automobile. Timberline Trail offers superb views of Taylor Park. The entire trail runs from Mirror Lake to Red Mountain Road.
From Mt. Crested Butte, travel east then south on the Hunter Hill Road for 1 mile. The trailhead is marked at the switchback. Parking is limited. The trail descends to the Skyland subdivision at the Crested Butte Country Club through meadows and aspen trees. There are fence crossings. At approximately 1.5 miles, you will have several trail choices. To travel to Crested Butte, take the first right on the McCormick Ranch Trail. To travel to the Country Club, Stay on the Upper Loop Trail. To travel to Brush Creek Road, turn left onto the Upper Upper Loop Trail.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Upper Upper Loop Trail
From Mt. Crested Butte, travel east then south on the Hunter Hill Road for 1 mile. The trailhead is marked at the switchback. Parking is limited. The trail descends to the Skyland subdivision at the Crested Butte Country Club through meadows and aspen trees. At approximately 1.5 miles, turn left onto the Upper Upper Loop Trail. (You will encounter a spur to your right that is rated intermediate and is a nice hike). The trail ends at Brush Creek Road on the Southern side of Crested Butte Mountain. Turn right to return to town.
Difficulty:Moderate to Difficult
Walrod Gulch Loop
Starting from the Town of Crested Butte, take Hwy. 135 south 6.8 miles to Cement Creek Road. Turn left and continue on Cement Creek Road for 1.5 miles. Park in turnout at Trail #409 trailhead. Begin trail at #409 trailhead climbing steeply up trail and enjoying forest scenery as well as caves towards your right. At top, take right fork and follow to Walrod Gulch jeep road. Turn right on road and descend to Cement Creek Road. Turn right to return to vehicle.
3 – 4 miles
West Beaver Creek Trail
From Gunnison, travel west on Highway 50 for 6 miles to the Cooper Ranch site. Turn right on the Beaver Creek Road. Travel north 2.5 miles to the D.O.W. House. Park at the house. The trailhead is another 2 miles and can be accessed by hiking. The trail gradually climbs along the Beaver Creek Valley, meandering through aspen and pine forests. In about 7 miles, you will intersect with the Beaver Creek Trail near the old cabin.
West Maroon Pass (Crested Butte to Aspen)
Drive from Crested Butte to Schofield Pass and into Schofield Park (about 13 miles). The trail (#1970) begins at approx 10,400 feet. Once on the Aspen side a free shuttle can drive you to Aspen from Maroon Lake. The trip from Crested Butte to Aspen is one of the more popular hikes in our area. The route is well sign marked. Plan about 3 hours to the Pass and another 2 to the lake for those in good shape. The total elevation gain is 1,450 feet. The hike to the pass and back is a splendid hike with fewer logistics than the through hike.
24 miles round trip
Take Gothic Road north from Crested Butte, past the cemetery. Turn left on Slate River Road and continue for about 9.5 miles to Paradise Divide. Road is steep and narrow at the top. Park at Paradise Divide and hike on jeep road to Yule Pass. You can also hike off-trail to Treasury, Purple or Cinnamon Mountains from Yule Pass Trail. You’ll see great views and many wildflowers.