Hiking In Crested Butte: The Easy & Best Hikes You Shouldn’t Miss
Heading to Crested Butte? You’re in for a real treat, especially if you love to hike! Crested Butte is an outdoor haven. From pristine forests and mighty peak views, spending a weekend hiking in Crested Butte will leave your soul full. The only hard thing you’ll encounter is trying to determine which of the best hikes in Crested Butte you should do first.
With hundreds of miles of hiking trails, you won’t fall short on trails to blaze. We spent several days exploring and hiking in Crested Butte, and while we didn’t get to every trail, we’ll share our favorite Crested Butte hikes with you just below!
Hiking In Crested Butte
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Is Crested Butte Good for Hiking?
Crested Butte is AMAZING for hiking. With the town of Crested Butte sitting just under 9,000 ft in elevation, the hiking season starts in May and goes through October. Now, that’s not to say you can’t hike in the winter, you’ll just need to do a little research on the trail conditions and more than likely, invest in a good pair of snowshoes.
The pinnacle of hiking season is in July when the wildflowers are in full bloom. After all, Crested Butte is the wildflower capital of Colorado, so if you can, definitely plan a trip to Crested Butte in the summer.
Whether you’re looking to hike to mountain peaks, meander through lush valleys and forests, or take an easy trail stroll, Crested Butte really has a hiking trail for everyone.
Tip: As always, please follow the leave-no-trace principles when hiking. Respect wildlife, stay on the trail, dispose of any waste/trash, and leave what you find.
1. Rustler’s Gulch
Rustler’s Gulch is one fantastic hike! Located north of downtown Crested Butte, past the former ghost town of Gothic, you’ll find the trailhead to Rustler’s Gulch. Fair warning, getting to the trailhead from the main road will require a 4×4 vehicle. Any sort of car that rides low should not attempt to go up the road to get to this trailhead. It’s a VERY bumpy, heavily holed dirt road.
If you are able to get to the trailhead, the hike that awaits you is nothing short of spectacular, especially during July when wildflowers are in full bloom. The trail starts at a gated fence. From here, you’ll pass through meadows and forests until you come to your first creek crossing. After your first creek crossing, you enter a valley that has great views of mountainous peaks to your front.
You’ll hike for another 3/4 of a mile where you’ll come to your second and final creek crossing. After this crossing, you’ll spend the remaining time of your hike traversing a vast, wildflower-filled meadow with mountains surrounding you on all sides. It really is a wonderful hike! In fact, Rustler’s Gulch may be our top favorite hiking trail in Crested Butte!
TRAIL STATS: 9 miles | out and back trail | rated as moderate | 1,791 ft elevation gain
2. Judd Falls Trail Hiking Trail
Similar to Rustler’s Gulch, the trailhead for Judd Falls can be found just past the former ghost town of Gothic. Unlike Rustler’s Gulch, getting to the Judd Falls trailhead doesn’t require any 4×4 vehicle. You’ll find a parking lot where you can park your vehicle and travel 0.5 miles on foot to reach the trailhead.
Judd Falls is a very popular trail due to its amazing views, waterfall, and short distance. It’s best to get here early to avoid the crowds. The trail starts on a wide dirt road through an aspen forest before eventually turning into a more narrow, rocky terrain path.
The Judd Falls trail comes to an end at a junction. Take the path to the right to see Judd Falls and rest at a viewing bench. From the bench, you can hike down to other various viewing points. Just use caution as the way down is steep and can be slippery.
Once you’ve had your fill of Judd Falls, you’ll turn back the way you came and make your way to your car. For those looking to carry on, you have the option to head up the dirt road toward Copper Creek/ Copper Lake.
TRAIL STATS: 2.2 miles | out and back trail | rated as easy | 462 ft elevation gain. Full disclosure, add 1 mile (round trip) to account for your hike from the parking lot to the trailhead – so really, the hike is 3.2-ish miles
3. Scarp Ridge Trail to 421 Trail Loop
Ok, as shown in the trail stats below, this trail is rated as moderate and we have to disagree. It’s difficult. There is quite a bit of elevation gain in a short period of time that completely took us by surprise. However, Scrap Ridge, while a challenging hike, offers epic mountain views the whole way.
Unlike the other two trails, we’re taking you to the other side of Crested Butte, away from Gothic. From Crested Butte, head up Kebler Pass toward Irwin Lake where you’ll climb up a rocky dirt road to reach the trailhead.
The trail starts out at 10,712 ft in elevation above Irwin Lake. Fair warning, the parking lot is nonexistent, so come early to knab a makeshift parking spot on the side of the rocky, dirt road.
When starting the loop, you have the decision to hike clockwise or counterclockwise. Be smarter than we were and opt for the counter-clockwise loop for a slightly more forgiving ascent. From the start of the trail, you start going up and you’ll stay going up until you reach the top of the loop.
Short and sweet, hiking Scrap Ridge has insane mountain vistas in every direction as you climb through wildflower meadows to reach the ridgeline. Oh and do NOT forget to look back behind you because the views are stunning. You’ll witness amazing views of Lake Irwin and the Anthracite Range. At the top, you’ll walk the ridge line to dip down the other side and we promise, the views are no less stunning.
Scarp Ridge is difficult but it’s oh-so worth it! You also have the option to extend this trail and hike to Mount Emmons. If you choose to hike to Mount Emmons, your hike becomes an 8.3-mile loop with a 2,578 ft elevation gain.
TRAIL STATS: 3.9 miles | loop trail | rated as moderate | 1,430 ft elevation gain
4. Oh-Be-Joyful Hiking Trail
The longest hike in Crested Butte on our list is Oh-Be-Joyful. To get to the Oh-Be-Joyful Trailhead, head towards Mount Crested Butte/Ski Valley and turn left on Slate River Road. You’ll drive a few miles on a dirt road with your sights set on the Oh-Be-Joyful Campground, which will be on your left. Enter the campground and park at a parking lot (on your left) and walk to the trailhead (towards the river) from the parking lot.
The trial starts hugging the Slate River river and ascending through a forest until it eventually opens up into a picturesque valley with mountain views. You’ll weave through small clearings and patches of forest and get glimpses of the river and surrounding mountains along the way. While we did not get this far due to inclement weather, at around the 5.5 – 6 mile mark, there is a fork in the trail, near the end of Oh-Be-Joyful Valley. At the fork, you can either head to the right and ascends 1200ft to Daisy Pass, or take the trail to the left to ascend 2 miles to Blue Lake.
Whichever route you choose, this is for sure a full-day hike so start early and come well-prepared with plenty of water, snacks, a first aid kit, and layers.
TRAIL STATS: 13 miles | out and back trail | rated as hard | 2,148 ft elevation gain
5. Hike From Crested Butte To Aspen (West Maroon Pass)
One of the more popular hiking trails in Crested Butte is hiking almost 11 miles to Aspen. Full transparency, we did not do this hike but would have LOVED to. Huey, our dog, was just coming off ACL surgery and we felt 11 miles was just too much for him to do. However, this hike looks nothing short of amazing, but it does require a bit of planning.
Hiking To Aspen Need To Know’s:
- You’ll need to drive your car (a 4×4 vehicle is highly recommended) or book a shuttle to the West Maroon Trailhead near Crested Butte. The West Marron Trailhead is where you will start your hike to Aspen from Crested Butte. Just know that if you drive to the trailhead, you’ll leave your car there overnight and pick it up on your return the following day.
- If you hike from Crested Butte to Aspen, understand that you’ll need to hike 11 miles back to Crested Butte the following day. If that sounds like a bit too much, you can opt to book a transfer shuttle from Aspen to Crested Butte if you don’t want to hike back.
- Alternatively, if you don’t want to hike back to Crested Butte from Aspen, and you have a car, you can pay someone to drive your car from the Crested Butte trailhead to Aspen for you.
- The hike ends at the famous Maroon Bells just outside of Aspen. Once you reach the end of the trail, you’ll need to hop on the RFTA Bus to get you down from Maroon Bells into Aspen. YOU MUST have a reservation ahead of time to get on the bus.
- Finally, you’ll need to book a place to stay in Aspen for the night so you can rest up before hiking back to Crested Butte the next morning.
TRAIL STATS: 10.3 miles | point-to-point trail | rated as hard | 2,240 ft elevation gain
Honorable Mentions: Green Lake Trail, Snodgrass Mountain Trail, & Washington Gulch Trail
While we did not get a chance to check out the below Crested Butte hikes, they are on the top of our list for next time. Not only are these trails top-rated within the hiking community, but the views you get to see along the way also look nothing short of amazing!
So if you’re looking to add a few more hikes to your weekend in Crested Butte, definitely consider one of the below!
- Green Lake Trail: 8.5 miles | out and back trail | elevation gain of 1,814 ft | rated as moderate
- Snodgrass Trail: 5.8 miles | out and back trail | elevation gain of 1,594 ft | rated as moderate
- Washington Gulch Trail: 7.5 miles | out and back trail | elevation gain of 2,142 ft | rated as moderate
Tip: Prior to starting a hike in Crested Butte, always check the weather forecast. When we visited Crested Butte in the summer, storms rolled in during the afternoon. It’s best to start your hike early. When you hike at high altitudes, the weather can change quickly up in the mountains.
Best Wildflower Hiking in Crested Butte
Of the hiking we did in Crested Butte, without a doubt the best wildflower hike in Crested Butte is Rustler’s Gulch! The hillsides and valleys were full of colorful wildflowers. Really and truly, if you are in Crested Butte in July, and want to see wildflowers, do not miss hiking Rustler’s Gulch!
Easy Hikes In Crested Butte
One of the great thinking about hiking in Crested Butte is the plethora of easy trails you can find. Some are closer to the town whereas others require a little drive to get to. Regardless of which you choose, some of the best easy hikes in Crested Butte are listed below.
- Brush Creek Trail / East River Trail: 4.3 miles | out and back trail | elevation gain of 324 ft
- Woods Walk: 2.9 miles | out and back trail | elevation gain of 177 ft
- Lower Loop Trail: 7.3 miles | loop trail | elevation gain of 479 ft
- Emerald Lake: 1.7 miles | out and back trail | elevation gain of 49 ft
- Kebler Pass / Irwin Lake: 2.2 miles | loop trail | elevation gain of 98 ft
Tip: When looking to find hiking trails in Crested Butte or directions to trailheads, we use the AllTrails app. We love the app and can’t recommend it enough!
Hiking In Crested Butte Trail Map
Use the + and – sign to view hiking in Crested Butte trails to get a sense as to where each trailhead is located in the area.
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– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)