Best Places for Fall Colors in Crested Butte

The days and nights are getting cooler, which means the first signs of fall are in the air. Before you know it, the leaves will start turning, and there’s no better place to enjoy fall than Crested Butte. The Crested Butte area boasts some of the best fall foliage, including Colorado’s largest aspen grove. At San Moritz, not only will you be able to overlook aspen groves from your patio or balcony, but some of the best hikes and drives to enjoy the fall colors are right outside your door.

Scenic Drives

Kebler Pass
Kebler_fall

Kebler Pass, home to Colorado’s largest Aspen grove, is a must see for fall foliage. This drive takes you through dense aspen groves showcasing leaves turning bights colors of yellow, orange, and red. As a plus, you’ll have incredible views of the West Elk Range and Ruby Mountains. This scenic drive is 30 miles one-way from town and makes for a great out and back trip. The road begins as asphalt before turning to dirt and is easily passible by passenger car. Along the way, there will be plenty of pull-offs, perfect for photographs. If you’d like to take a hike while you’re there, check out the Horse Ranch Park Loop. Additional information on this hike can be found below.

Directions: From San Moritz Condominiums head onto Hunter Hill toward Gothic Road (CR 317). Take a left onto Gothic Road and continue on it into the town of Crested Butte. Once you enter the town of Crested Butte, the road will turn into 6th Street (Highway 135). Take a right onto Whiterock Ave. and follow it through town until it turns into Kebler Pass Rd (CR 12). Continue on Kebler Pass Rd. to the summit and continue down the pass. Shortly afterwards, you’ll enter the aspen groves. Continue on Kebler Pass Rd. until you reach HWY 133. At this point, you can turn around and head back to Crested Butte or if you’re feeling adventurous you can head north to Redstone and Carbondale or south toward Hotchkiss and Paonia.

Ohio Pass

Ohio Pass takes you through large aspen groves and offers stunning views of the Anthracite Range and the Castles. The Castles are actually debris remnants of an extinct volcano, the West Elk Volcano, and definitely worth seeing. Along the way, you’ll pass thru the tiny ghost town or Baldwin. This loop has a combination of asphalt and dirt and is easily passible by passenger car. If you’d like to do a hike while you’re there, check out the Beaver Ponds Trail. Additional information on this hike is listed below.

Directions: From San Moritz Condos head onto Hunter Hill Rd toward Gothic Road (CR 317). Take a left on Gothic Road and follow it into the town of Crested Butte. Once you enter the town of Crested Butte, the road will turn into 6th Street (Highway 135). Take a right onto Whiterock Ave. and follow it through town until it turns into Kebler Pass Rd. (CR 12). Continue on Kebler Pass Rd. for another 6 miles until you come to a junction. There will be a sign, left for Ohio Pass or continue straight to Kebler Pass. Turn left at the junction onto Ohio Creek Road (CR 730). A couple miles after the junction you’ll reach the summit of Ohio Pass before beginning your descent through aspen groves. Continue on Ohio Creek Road until you reach the junction with Highway 135. At the junction, turn left to complete the loop and head back to Crested Butte or turn right to head to Gunnison.

Town of Gothic

The town of Gothic, located at the base of Gothic Mountain, is an old mining town and now home to the famed Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL). This road will pass through aspen groves and offer amazing views of the East River as it snakes through the valley. The views of Gothic Mountain as it towers above you are spectacular and there will be plenty of opportunities to pull over and take photographs. Once you get to Gothic, be sure to stop by the RMBL Visitor Center. They offer daily tours at 11:00 AM and will be open through September 30th. This drive begins as asphalt before turning to dirt and is easily done by passenger car.

4WD Options

Emerald Lake

If you continue past Gothic, the road will take you to Emerald Lake. It’s not hard to understand where this gorgeous high alpine lake got its name from.  A high-clearance 4WD vehicle is recommended for travel beyond Gothic.

Schofield Pass

If you continue on Gothic road, past Emerald Lake, you’ll enter Schofield Pass. Schofield Pass will take you past some of the most scenic areas in Colorado, including the Devil’s Punchbowls and Crystal Mill, on your way to the town of Marble. The Crystal Mill is one of the most photographed spots in Colorado and is breathtaking when surrounded by fall foliage. It’s important to note that Schofield Pass should not be attempted unless you are an experienced driver in a small high clearance 4WD vehicle. A high clearance 4WD vehicle is required, not just recommended. It’s imperative that you read and obey all signs. Once you enter the shelf road section, there will be no opportunities to turn around and little room for error. If you feel qualified to continue on and tackle Schofield Pass, it is highly recommended that you contact the forest service before attempting this drive to check on road conditions.

Directions: From San Moritz Condos head onto Hunter Hill Rd toward Gothic Road (CR 317). Take a right onto Gothic Road and follow it just under 4 miles until it turns into dirt. Follow the road another 3 miles until you arrive in the town of Gothic. The visitor will be on your right. Continue past the visitor center on Gothic Road to get to Emerald Lake and Schofield Pass.

Scenic Hikes

Upper Loop/Tony’s Trail

kebler_aspen_fall4

The trailhead for Upper Loop is a short walk from San Moritz Condos. This is a gorgeous trail that offers a little bit of everything. It’s 2.5 miles one-way and will take you into the town of Crested Butte. The first part of this trail is single-track and offers great views of the town of Crested Butte before meandering through aspen groves. There will also be great views Mt. Crested Butte towering above the aspens. Continue on Upper Loop until it intersects with Tony’s Trail, just under one mile. Follow Tony’s Trail down until it intersects with a dirt road, McCormick Ranch Rd, and go right. Follow the road into town. This is the perfect trail to take into town if you want to grab some food and drinks before taking Mountain Express back up. It’s important to note that McCormick Ranch Rd is on private property and dogs are not permitted. If you’re hiking with your dog you can continue on Upper Loop, which ends near the country club.

Directions: The trailhead is located on Hunter Hill Road. To get there from Keystone and Jokerville Buildings, head up the road.  To get there from Paradise and International Buildings, head up on the road. The trailhead is located on the sharp curve on Hunter Hill Road and is well marked.

Beaver Ponds Via Ohio Pass

This is an easy half mile hike through dense aspen groves on your way to beaver ponds. This hike is perfect for families with younger children. The beaver ponds are also a popular spot for trout fishing, so you might want to bring your pole along.

Directions to trailhead: From San Moritz Condos head onto Hunter Hill Rd toward Gothic Road (CR 317). Take a left onto Gothic Road and follow the road into the town of Crested Butte. Once you enter the town, the road name will change to 6th Street (HWY 135). Take a right onto Whiterock Ave. and follow it through town until it turns into Kebler Pass Rd. (CR 12). Continue on Kebler Pass Rd. for another 6 miles until you come to a junction, Ohio Pass left and Kebler pass right.  Turn left at the junction onto Ohio Creek Road (CR 730). Continue on Ohio Creek Road for another 3 miles until you reach the Beaver Ponds trailhead, which is well marked.

Woods Walk

This a popular trail during any season and is just under 1.5 miles one-way with options to make it longer. This trail is easily accessible from the town of Crested Butte. This trail starts by meandering through aspen groves. As you exit the aspen groves, you’ll have wonderful views of Paradise Divide, Peanut Lake, and Gothic Mountain. Continue down the valley until you reach the end. From there, you can turn around and head back. The return trips offers great views of Mt. Crested Butte and the town of Crested Butte. Otherwise, the end of the trail offers options to continue on and connect with other trails like Lower Loop or Upper Lower Loop.

Directions to trailhead: From San Moritz Condos head onto Hunter Hill Rd toward Gothic Road (CR 317). Take a left onto Gothic Road and follow the road into the town of Crested Butte. Once you enter the town, the road name will change to 6th Street (HWY 135). Take a right onto Whiterock Ave and follow it through town until it turns into Kebler Pass Rd (CR 12). Continue on Kebler Pass Rd for .2 of a mile. The trailhead will be on your right, and parking will be on your left across from the trailhead.

Horse Ranch Park Loop

kebler_aspens_fall

This 6-mile loop will take you through the dense aspen groves of Kebler Pass. This trail gains more than 1,000 feet in elevation, so be prepared for a climb. As you gain elevation, you’ll be rewarded with views of almost the entire aspen forest. Not only will you be overlooking the largest aspen grove in Colorado, but one of the largest living organisms in the world! You’ll finish your hike on the Dyke Trail, which is known for displays of aspens turning shades of red.

After parking, you’ll walk up the dirt road for a mile before reaching the Dark Canyon trailhead. Begin on the Dark Canyon trailhead and go right at every junction (Oh Be Joyful Pass Trail, Lake Irwin Trail, and finally the Dyke Trail) before heading back down to the parking lot. It’s also important to note this trail is popular with equestrians and they always have the right of way.

Directions to trailhead: From San Moritz Condominiums head onto Hunter Hill Road toward Highway 135 (Gothic Road.) Take a left onto 135 and follow the highway into the town of Crested Butte. Take a right onto Whiterock Ave. and follow it through town until it turns into Kebler Pass Rd (CR 12). Continue on Kebler Pass road over Kebler Pass summit and take a right at the sign for Horse Ranch Park.