Best fall hikes in Crested Butte and Gunnison
The best fall hikes in Crested Butte offer views of fall foliage. During fall in Colorado, the leaves on the aspen trees change. In Gunnison and Crested Butte, a great place to view the stunning orange, red and gold fall foliage is from a hiking trail. With more than 150 trails in the Gunnison Valley, it’s tough to choose the best fall hikes in Crested Butte. We’ve narrowed it down to nine of our favorite easy, moderate and difficult hiking trails. With information on hotels, events and activities, this guide will also help you plan your entire fall trip to Colorado.
The best trails for fall foliage
Easy hikes in Crested Butte
Distance: .5 mile each way
The Beaver Ponds trail is a very short out-and-back hike on Ohio Creek Road, near Ohio Pass. The signed trailhead is about 10 miles from the town of Crested Butte or 22 miles from Gunnison on Ohio Creek Road. This trail is just over half a mile long and relatively flat. You’ll hike under a canopy of trees to get to the ponds, which are at the base of the Anthracite range. The flanks of the Anthracites are covered in aspen trees and are quite dramatic during fall. The banks of the ponds are a great place for picnicking and watching for beavers to swim in and out of their lodges on the ponds.
Judd Falls (Copper Creek Trail)
Distance: 1 mile each way
The Judd Falls hike is one of Crested Butte’s most popular trails and one of the best fall hikes. It starts about nine miles north of the town of Crested Butte on Gothic Road. There is a pit toilet and large parking area at the trailhead. The upper parking lot is a half-mile up the road and can be accessed with a 4×4 vehicle or sturdy SUV. The trail, which is actually called Copper Creek Trail, begins here. You’ll walk on a rocky (but not steep) trail through a large aspen grove. Gaps in the trees provide a stunning view of fall foliage on the eastern flank of Gothic Mountain. Most hikers turn around at the waterfall. Those looking for a challenging hike can continue six miles up the trail to Copper Lake.
Distance: 1.4 miles each way
Woods Walk is a classic Crested Butte trail accessible from downtown CB. The trail begins about a quarter mile west of town where Whiterock Avenue turns into County Road 12. The trailhead is on the north side of the road, across from the parking lot. Enjoy the changing colors of the aspen groves to the south and the towering figure of Crested Butte to the north. Combine with Lower Loop or Budd Trail for a longer hike.
Moderate hikes in Crested Butte
Distance: Varies depending on route
The 403 spans the ridge north of Gothic Mountain between the East River valley on Gothic Road and Washington Gulch. The trail can be accessed from Washington Gulch Road or Gothic Road. The climb is easier from the Washington Gulch side. Wherever you choose to start, you’ll ascend about a mile and a half to a rocky outcrop on the saddle. Catch your breath as you enjoy the view of Whiterock Mountain to the east. You’ll share the trail with mountain bikers, who love the steep, rocky descent on the east side of the trail.
Distance: 2.4 miles each way
Beckwith Pass is a relaxing spot to view the changing aspen leaves of the Kebler Pass area away from the busy road. You’ll access Beckwith Pass from Cliff Creek Trail. The trailhead for Cliff Creek Trail is located about 12 miles west of Crested Butte on the Kebler Pass road. The trail begins at the parking lots on the south side of the road. You’ll hike through aspen groves the whole way. As you get higher up, enjoy views of the Ruby Range and of course both Beckwith Mountains (East and West). After about 2 miles, you’ll reach a fork in the trail. Take the left side of the fork to continue on Cliff Creek Trail. It’s another half a mile to the pass.
Oh Be Joyful
Distance: Up to 6.5 miles each way
The Oh Be Joyful Trail begins at Oh Be Joyful Campground. From Crested Butte, drive a mile north on Gothic Road, then turn left (northwest) onto Slate River Road. Continue for five miles and the campground is on your left. You’ll begin by crossing the Slate River, which is normally about ankle-deep in fall. Continue about a mile up the road before the singletrack begins at the boundary of the Raggeds Wilderness. The trail winds uphill to the top of the Slate River valley. Aspens are visible on both sides of the trail for its entire length. If you go the full 6.5 miles, you’ll end up at a crystal-clear alpine lake called Blue Lake. However, this is an out-and-back trail, so you can turn around at any time to head back to where you started.
Difficult hikes in Crested Butte and Gunnison
Distance: .75 miles each way
Caves Trail is steep, but the views of changing aspen leaves from the top are worth the climb. From Highway 135, you’ll turn east onto Cement Creek road. The trailhead is on your right (south) in about 1.5 miles. Ascend through the aspen trees up the many switchbacks. Eventually you’ll break out of the trees. At the top, you can explore two caves, or just enjoy the view from the top of the cliffs.
Distance: 4.5 miles each way
There are two Green Lakes in Crested Butte. This one is the one closer to town, at the base of Mt. Axtell. The steep, winding trail zigzags through golden aspen groves for about four miles before the trees begin to thin out. On your way up, be sure to turn around to check out a unique view of Crested Butte. Keep an eye out for marmots, bears, hawks and other wildlife. There are even cutthroat trout in the lake.
Distance: Up to 12.5 miles each way
The Mill-Castle trail is one of the best places to view the changing leaves near Gunnison. To get to the trailhead, drive about three miles north from Gunnison on Highway 135. Turn left (west) on County Road 730, also known as Ohio Creek Road. Drive another nine miles, taking in the photogenic scenery of ranchland and the West Elk Mountains as you go. Turn left on County Road 727 and continue for 3 miles. Park at the pit toilet. If you have an SUV or 4×4 vehicle, you can continue up the road for another mile to the trailhead parking lot. You’ll start hiking on an old road for a mile through thick trees before reaching a breathtaking meadow surrounded by aspens and towering cliffs. Continue onto the singletrack and across Mill Creek. You’ll hike on the moderately steep trail through aspens for another two miles before reaching a saddle, which is a good place to make a pit stop. For a casual day hike, this is a good turnaround point, but you can continue for many more miles if desired. This is also a popular area for backpacking.
Fall mountain biking in Gunnison and Crested Butte
Best fall bike trails
If you enjoy hiking through Colorado’s beautiful golden aspen leaves, you might enjoy biking through them, too. Check out some of the best fall mountain bike rides in Crested Butte and Gunnison.
Chili and Beer, Crested Butte Film Fest, and Opening Day of ski season
Fall brings the famous Mt. Crested Butte Chili and Beer Festival and opening day of ski season at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Plan a trip around your favorite fall event!
Other things to do in fall
Gravel biking, hunting and scenic drives
Cool temperatures and fewer afternoon rainstorms make fall a great time to get outside in Gunnison and Crested Butte. As you’re planning your trip, consider these other fall activities in the Gunnison Valley. Try out gravel biking on the hundreds of miles of scenic back roads around Gunnison. Take a drive through Gunnison, Crested Butte, Aspen, Ouray, Silverton, Lake City or Creede to enjoy the fall foliage from the road. Fall is also hunting season in the Gunnison Valley. It takes some planning ahead, but this could be the year you finally take that Colorado hunting trip for deer, elk, bear and more.
Hotels in Crested Butte and Gunnison
Places to stay this fall in the Gunnison Valley
Fall is a popular time to visit the Gunnison Valley for more than the best fall hikes. So, make your lodging reservations now! Maybe you’re looking for a cozy cabin rental with a hot tub for crisp fall nights. Or maybe a hotel with mountain views is more your style. If you’re an angler, you’re probably looking for a place to stay near the river. Whether you need room for two people or 20, you can compare rates and find a great place to stay on our lodging page.