Hiking and Backpacking

hiking trails crested butte and gunnison

Hiking on the Mill-Castle Trail

Surrounded by millions of acres of public land, in Gunnison County, you can often hike right from your door. When summer arrives and the snow recedes, hiking is one of the best ways to explore the mountains. Take some time to slow down, check out the scenery, and maybe learn some of our native wildflower species. Carrying your own food and shelter on a backpacking trip adds to the adventure of exploring any one of the five Wilderness Areas within an easy drive of Gunnison or Crested Butte.

Mt. Crested Butte & Crested Butte Hiking Trails

The hiking in the northern part of Gunnison County is dominated by high peaks, but that doesn’t always equal difficult hiking. Designated the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, many of the trails that follow the rivers and streams outside town feature astonishing colors throughout the summer with minimal elevation gain along the way. If peak-bagging is more your thing then be sure to climb Mt. Crested Butte while you’re here. Lots of climbers ride the Silver Queen lift from the base area, but in order to catch the sunrise you’ll want to hike from the bottom since things don’t start up until 9am.

Almont & Gunnison Hiking Trails

Almont and Taylor Canyon offer spectacular timber and beautiful canyon scenery. With great trails for trail running and mountain biking as well as good camp sites, this area offers a great home base for a multi-sport vacation. Gunnison hiking dominated by endless desert vistas and unique rock formations. Hartman Rocks Recreation Area offers a large multi-use trail system, or visit Curecanti Recreation Area and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park for some great trails on your public lands.

Know Before You Go

We recommend buying a trail map when you get here in addition to talking with locals and or personnel at your lodging property. An excellent online resource for trails in the valley is CBGTrails. You can download the free app to your phone and access maps any time, even offline.

We often get brief, but strong thunderstorms during the afternoon in the summer. Always start hikes early, especially if you plan to be above treeline. Don’t be afraid to turn around if conditions get bad, getting struck by lightning is a much worse way to end your day.

Outfitters can point you in the right direction, and often times experienced hiking guides can show you treasures you never would have found on your own. Guides have been known to pack your lunch, sunset dinner, or whatever for you! Always remember to be bear-aware on your trips. On your next visit to Gunnison County, slow down and enjoy the views!

Gunnison and Crested Butte Hiking Trail Guide

Trail Difficulty Key

Easy– Good for families with small children, elderly or those with a short time frame.
Moderate– Good for longer hikes and those looking for a more strenuous experience. Best for people with good physical conditioning.
Difficult– Good for more serious hikers with appropriate equipment and excellent physical conditioning. May involve technical skills or scrambling. Generally not recommended for those under 14 years old.

Gunnison Hiking Trails:

Hartman Rocks – Easy to Moderate – varied length of trails (1/2 – 30 miles).
Access: 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 with a more detailed map is available for this area from the Gunnison Chamber of Commerce.

gunnison hiking at sunset at Hartman rocks

O’Fallon Ditchline/Ridgeline Trail – Easy – 1.5 miles
Access: Take US 50 to McDonald’s in Gunnison. 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 Western Colorado University library. Cross the road to the entrance of the Trail.

This trail is an 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.

Gunnison Bike Path – Easy – 3 miles, ADA accessible
Access: 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.

Neversink – Easy – 1.5 miles, ADA Accessible
Access: 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.

Frontage Road – Easy – 2.5 miles, ADA Accessible
Access: West on highway 50 to starting at Gunnison Avenue. Park on any nearby side street.

The frontage road begins near Gunnison Avenue and parallels Highway 50 out to the ranchland west of town. The frontage road is nice for an easy walk, in-line skating or a quick bike ride.

Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Hiking Trails

Crested Butte Summit Trail – Moderate-Difficult, 1.25 miles
Access: 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 Eflin 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 up a boulderfield at the end. 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.

hiking trails crested butte summit

Snodgrass Trail – Moderate – 3 miles (Trail closed for grazing in late August, please read posted signs)
Access: Travel 2 miles past the ski area at Mt. Crested Butte on Gothic Road. The trailhead is on the left side of Gothic Road.

At the trailhead, cross over the fence on Snodgrass Road. At approximately 0.5 miles, the trail intersects with a road. Turn left and follow the trail west to the Washington Gulch Road. This trail takes you through fields of wildflowers and in and out of aspen and pine groves. There are beautiful views of Crested Butte Mountain along the way. Watch for “stop sign” closures.

Upper Loop Trail – Easy to Moderate – 3.4 miles
Access: 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.

Oh Be Joyful Trail – Easy to Moderate – 5.8 miles (out and back, so you can hike as much or as little as you like)
Access: From Crested Butte, travel north on Gothic Road and take a left on Slate River Road just outside of Crested Butte. Drive 4.5 miles on the well-maintained dirt road and look for the Oh-Be-Joyful Campground turn-off on your left. Drive 0.5 miles to the campground at the bottom of the hill. If your vehicle has enough clearance and the waters are not too high, you may want to park on the other side of the river. During the snowmelt season the water crossing can be much higher in the afternoon.

This trail follows an old mining road up above the side of Oh Be Joyful Creek, climbing fairly steeply for a brief time. Once you reach the overlook of the large slide follow the trail instead of the road. You’ll be rewarded with several large waterfalls and slides for about ¾ mile. Once it starts to flatten out you’ll cross the wilderness boundary. You can continue up the valley following the trail as far as the base of Daisy Pass or Blue Lake before turning around to return to the Oh Be Joyful Campground. For those looking for more adventure, there are numerous ways to extend your hike’s mileage and elevation gain. Summitting Daisy Pass and descending into Pittsburg is popular with locals, but does require two vehicles or the willingness to road walk. Make doubly sure to have a good topographic map before attempting one of the loops from the Oh Be Joyful Trail.

Upper Upper Loop Trail – Moderate to Difficult – 2.2 miles
Access: 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.

Lower Loop Trail – Easy, ADA accessible for 1 mile – 2.5 miles
Access: From Crested Butte, travel north on 1st street then west on Butte Avenue. Butte Avenue turns into Peanut Lake Road. Continue past Peanut Lake and park at the fence line before reaching Peanut mine.

The trailhead is across the road from Peanut Mine and for the 1st mile is on private land (please stay on the trail). Once on BLM lands, two single-track trails continue northwest until ending at the Gunsight Pass Road. To return, travel east on the road, then southeast on the Slate River Road. Finally, turn south on Gothic Road.

lower loop hiking trails crested butte

Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Recreation Path – Easy – 2.75 miles (2 miles are ADA accessible)
Access: 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.

Green Lake Trail – Moderate – 4 miles
Access: Park in the Town of Crested Butte, near the Crested Butte Nordic Center at 2nd Ave. and Whiterock. The trail begins near the Nordic Center.

This trail provides a more aggressive and longer trail from Crested Butte, and proceeds through private property during some of its length, so remaining on the marked trail is a requirement. The trail ends at Green Lake, with the return trip a back-track back into Crested Butte.

West Maroon Pass (Crested Butte to Aspen) – Moderate – 24 miles RT
Access: Drive from Crested Butte to Schofield Pass and into Schofield Park (about 13 miles). This road can be a challenging drive and may require a high clearance vehicle. Local transportation providers offer shuttle services to the trailhead. 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 signed. 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.

columbines on west maroon pass hiking trail crested butte

Columbines along West Maroon Pass Trail

By far the easiest one-way hike to Aspen can be done as an out and back IF you plan an overnight in Aspen. You can return via the same trail the next day. Another option is to pre-arrange a car to be dropped in Aspen. This can be a fun way if you know another group who plans to hike the opposite direction… Hiking from Aspen to Crested Butte as a one-way hike can also be arranged, but the shuttle is not as easy.

Regardless of the popularity of this hike, it is not to be taken lightly and can have snow well into June and July. Be prepared, start early and have a good safe plan before attempting.

Kebler Pass Area Hiking Trails

Dyke Trail – Easy to Moderate – 6 miles
Access: 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 one of the largest aspen groves in the country and crosses over the “Dyke”, a unique rocky spine.

dyke hiking trail crested butte

Lost Lake Trail (and Beckwith Pass) – Easy to Moderate – 5 miles
Access: 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.

Taylor River Road and Fossil Ridge Hiking Trails

Henry Lake Trail – Difficult – 7 miles
Access: 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.

Gold Creek Trail – Moderate – 5 miles
Access: 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.

Doctor Park Trail – Moderate – 4 miles
Access: 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. Keep your head up for mountain bikers and other users as this is a very popular trail.

Fossil Ridge Trail – Moderate – 13.5 miles
Access: 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.

Summerville Trail – Moderate – 11 miles
Access: 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 lodgepole forest. If you hike the entire 11 miles to the Fossil Ridge Trail you will see breathtaking views of Henry Mountain and Fossil Ridge.

Mill Lake Trail – Moderate – 2.5 miles
Access: 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.

Curecanti Hiking Trails

West Beaver Creek Trail – Moderate – 7 miles
Access: 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.

Coal Mesa Trail – Difficult – 9 miles
Access: 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.

Dillon Pinnacles – Easy – 2 miles
Access: 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.

Pine Creek – Moderate – 1 mile
Access: 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.

Pioneer Point/Curecanti Creek – Difficult – 2 miles
Access: 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.

Hermit’s Rest – Difficult – 3 miles
Access: 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.

Ohio Creek Hiking Trails

Beaver Ponds Trail – Easy – 1/2 mile
Access: 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.

Mill-Castle Trail – Easy to Difficult – 8 miles
Access: 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.

Railroad Grade Road – Easy – 6 miles
Access: 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.

Swampy Pass – Easy to Moderate – 6 miles
Access: 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.

Guide Books and Resources for Hiking in the Gunnison Valley

Online Resources
CBGTrails – A comprehensive free app featuring the only complete trail maps of the Gunnison Valley. Once downloaded the app can be used offline and anywhere you might find yourself.

Hiking Guides
Timber, Talus & Tundra – Mary Ann Tarr
Hiking the Gunnison River Basin – Geraldine M. Bloomquist & Paul Bloomquist

National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map Numbers
Ohio Creek Area– #133 (Kebler Pass, Paonia Reservoir) & #134 (Black Mesa, Curecanti Pass)
Curecanti Area– #245 (Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park)
Taylor River and Fossil Ridge Area– #131 (Crested Butte, Pearl Pass) & #132 (Gunnison, Pitkin)
Kebler Pass Area– #133 (Kebler Pass, Paonia Reservoir)
Crested Butte and Mt. CB Area– #131 (Crested Butte, Pearl Pass) & #133 (Kebler Pass, Paonia Reservoir)
West Maroon Pass (Crested Butte to Aspen)– #128 (Maroon Bells, Redstone, Marble)

Latitude 40 Maps
Crested Butte-Taylor Park Trails
Crested Butte-Aspen-Gunnison Trails

Local Outfitters and Guides
Are you planning your vacation and want to take the guesswork out of where to hike or backpack? Consider hiring a guide or stop into one of our outfitters for some local knowledge.


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