We were feeling ambitious when we were in Crested Butte mid-September right before the fall equinox. At first we were upset that we arrived too early to see the leaves changing at the peak of season. But in the end we really enjoyed our week in Crested Butte, and fell in love even more with this quiet mountain town. There were still leaves just starting to change on all of the trails we were on and all of them would be the perfect fall hikes to adventure on through mid-September to mid-October. Check out the list of 6 fall hikes that we found that I know you guys will love. I hope you get out there and adventure them soon before the snow starts.
1. Oh Be Joyful
Length: 13.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,470
As you are heading up Gothic Rd. from town. Take a left on the 734 road. The Oh Be Joyful trailhead can be found right along the river at the Oh Be Joyful Campground. It is not a far drive I would guess about 15 minutes from the heart of Crested Butte or Mt. Crested Butte.
Parking & Road Conditions
When you turn into the campground you can park your car at the first parking lot and walk down the road to the trailhead. Especially if you have a low clearance vehicle. The road conditions will have to be carefully considered when the river runs high as well.
There are also a few dips that many sedans wouldn’t be able to handle. We were there during a very dry fall so there was no rive to worry about. Our Subaru Crosstrek handled the big holes with no problem. So we were able to drive to the closer parking lot and head across the bridge to the trail with no problems. But always be mindful of the car you drive and the season you are visiting so you can take the appropriate precautions.
This fall hike with the changing aspen leaves and foliage through the valley was a beautiful sight. Which make this trail one of the best fall hikes in Crested Butte. As soon as we hit the trailhead the trail started to incline. Which was pretty rough on a sunny afternoon with hardly any tree coverage. It was very dry this year but there were still beautiful waterfalls and rivers to enjoy along our journey. The aspen trees were just starting to change across the mountain peaks. And the foliage along the river was all shifting to their golden yellow autumn hues.
There are only a few forests that you cross very briefly. The rest of the trail is through a vast mountain valley along the river with mountain peaks surrounding you. And the last few miles of the trail incline up until you reach Blue Lake.
2. Copper Lake
Getting There & Parking
Elevation Gain: 2,430
Length: 12 miles
Getting There & Parking
Head north up Gothic Rd. and you will find the trailhead just past the small Gothic village. It is only about a 15-minute drive from Mt. Crested Butte. For lower clearance vehicles you can park right off of Gothic Rd. Or for a higher clearance car follow the signs and the small road past the bathrooms up the mountain about another mile for a parking lot closer to the trailhead.
Copper Creek trail to Copper Lake was a moderate 12-mile trail. The first mile of the trail gets you high enough to view the expansive views surrounding Gothic Road. The valley and mountainsides are covered in aspen forests that were just starting to change. This trail would be one of the most beautiful fall hikes when the leaves are at peak. Once you get over the views you will come across a canyon that overlooks Judd Falls. A serene place to take in this natural wonder.
Continue up the trail passed on the cattle, through the expansive valleys where the river weaves around you. There are a few river crossings that make for an even more exciting adventure that will test your balance. Most of the trail was a lot like Oh Be Joyful. A valley with not much forest covering you. But the last mile starts to go up into the forest and up the mountainside. The last mile to the lake is the most difficult part. But once you reach the lake the pain was worth the climb. This trail also leads to Conundrum Hot Springs. Which would of been a few more miles from Copper Lake and requires backpacking and over night gear. Something that I want to return and do one day.
3. Ruby Anthracite
Length: 9.4 miles
Getting There & Parking
Take the scenic drive down Kebler pass to find this hidden trail. We drove the entire length of Kebler all the way to get to Hotchkiss for apple picking. That is when I spotted this trailhead.
I knew it was going to be a beautiful place to see the leaves changing so I waited until the very last day of our trip to venture back to this spot. The trail is about a 45-minute drive from Crested Butte. There are many trails that are closer to town that get all of the glory so Ruby Anthracite is often overlooked and a bit too out of the way for most.
There are two parking areas one a little further from the trailhead, but not too far off. We had to park at the first one even with our Suburu Crosstrek. We would of most likely struggled to get over the giant holes on the way to the closest parking area.
As you start to walk you reach a clearing where you find yourself surrounded by majestic aspen trees. Then as you start weaving through the forests the gargantuan mountain peaks of Ruby Range come into and out of view once you reach a lush valley. The trail then starts to descend down through more forest that feels like it has been left untouched by human interaction for some time. The wild underbrush almost covers the trail. That was the key sign that made us realize how hidden this gem really was.
We ran into two other people on this trail. It was an unnerving feeling to be so deep in the forest with no one else around. It was complete isolation. For a moment I felt wildly exposed to nature. I felt the power in its energy. It was a feeling a haven’t felt in a long time.
I was in complete awe of this fall hikes beauty during such a colorful time of year. One thing that was rough about this trail was the fact that you can feel the climb down knowing that on the way back the climb up will be rather dreadful. So as we started descending more into the canyon towards the river. After hiking several miles we decided to turn back. Maybe we will have to give the entire trail another chance when we go back to Crested Butte.
4. Dyke Trail
Length: 5.5 mi
Elevation Gain: 1,560
Getting There & Parking
On our first full day in Crested Butte, we were feeling spontaneous so we adventured down Kebler Pass to find the first hiking trail we came across. When we saw the signs to Lake Irwin we decided to check the area out. There was a nice campground right on the water. Everyone at the lake was in a relaxed state of mind. Playing in the water, SUPing, canoeing and fishing.
After we checked out the lake we drove a little further down the road and found the trailhead to Dyke Trail. There was no designated parking area so we parked on the larger road and walked to the trailhead. We were unsure of where the designated parking was. But there are a lot of campgrounds all around so I don’t think parking on the road is an issue.
The trail starts at an open field with the mountains surrounding you in every direction. It was absolutely stunning. Then we descended down through the trees and over the river. The trail going out was easy to moderate but coming back was a different story. For most of the trail, you are walking through a thick forest of aspen trees which would have been unbelievable if we would have been there a week or two later for the peak of autumn. One of the fall hikes you must add to your bucket list.
5. Three Lakes Loop
Length: 3.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 515 ft
Getting There & Parking
Getting to Three Lakes Loop is about a 30-minute drive from the town of Crested Butte down Kebler Pass. There is a big sign for the Lost Lake Campground that you can easily find on the drive through the rural mountains.
Parking was very easy. We decided to park at the lower lot for the Beckwith Pass trail. Otherwise, they charge for day-use parking which is just a short 5-minute walk from the Beckwith Trailhead. But either way, there is lots of parking.
We were there on a Friday afternoon right when the campground was about to reach capacity. Everyone was scrambling claiming their spots and setting up their tents. So this popular trail wasn’t as crowded as I would have thought because everyone was preoccupied.
The trail starts at Lost Lake Slough and is an easy-moderate climb through the forest. We saw people of all ages climbing this trail. Especially since it is only a 3.4 mile loop this trail is especially family friendly. And makes for a good hike after hitting one of the larger trails that kicked your butt.
After climbing through a dense forest of pine trees you will find the upper Lost Lake. Then there will be two ways to continue on the trail to see middle creek falls. Either direction will get you there. After the waterfall you will be high enough up for an overlook looking out at Ruby Range.
Continue up a little bit further and you will find Dollar Lake the last of the three lakes. It is beautifully tucked next to a mountainside that was just starting to turn colors when we were there.
Then take the trail back down the mountain to get more views of the lower lost lake and the changing trees that surround it. The lakes are a beautiful place to watch the sunset and the sunrise. It is another one of those fall hikes you will have to climb if you ever get the chance.
6. 401 Trail
Elevation Gain: 1,630
Directions and Parking
The 401 trail can be accessed at many points. We went through town and down Kebler Pass a couple of minutes to the first parking area along the road. Be prepared for this trail to be busy. It is especially popular for bike riders.
We could tell the leaves were going to be nice on this side of the mountain so we walked the Woods Walk trail through the forest that was just starting to become ablaze with yellow hues. Then when we passed the forest we came to a clearing where you could see all of Crested Butte and the expansive mountains. The trail goes along the mountainside next to the center of town. Which lines you up for the perfect place to catch the sunset. Along the way, we passed Peanut Lake and the river. As we were weaving in and out of lush forests. There were some trees even starting to turn orange. The scenery on this trail is breathtaking. I highly recommend this easy to moderate trail it is one of those fall hikes you cannot miss.
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