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10 of the Best Hikes in Crested Butte, Colorado


Nestled deep in the mountains of Colorado, Crested Butte serves as the basecamp to dozens of beautiful hiking trails. If you want to know what the best hikes in Crested Butte are, then you’re in the right place. Crested Butte is my favorite mountain town in Colorado and one of my favorite places to hike, so I’ve carefully curated this list to only include trails that I think are actually worth your time.

There are a variety of types of trails around Crested Butte, from scenic alpine lakes, to wildflower meadows, to aspen forests that transform into a golden wonderland during the fall. It’s no surprise that people often refer to the charming mountain town as Crested Butte-y. Keep reading to learn more about the best hikes in Crested Butte!

A woman and black dog hike on a trail surrounded by wildflowers with mountains in the distance in Crested Butte, Colorado.

The Best Time of Year to Go Hiking in Crested Butte

The two best times of year to go hiking in Crested Butte are during the summer and fall. Specifically, in July when the wildflowers around town fully bloom, and during late September-early October when fall foliage peaks.

Crested Butte is known as the wildflower capital of Colorado, and for good reason. Going for a hike while wildflowers are at their peak is a quintessential Crested Butte activity. Be sure to recreate responsibly during wildflower season by staying on trails, and not crushing or picking the wildflowers. 

Can’t Miss Event in Crested Butte: Crested Butte Wildflower Festival | July 12-21, 2024

In addition to being an iconic destination for wildflowers, Crested Butte is also one of the best places to see fall colors in Colorado. If you’re visiting Crested Butte in the fall, then stick to the trails on this list that take you through aspen forests.

Crested Butte sits at 8,885 ft., so winters are extremely snowy. While there are some trails close to town available for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, most of the trails on this list are going to be inaccessible throughout the winter and early spring. 

Recreating Responsibly in Crested Butte

Crested Butte is an extremely popular Colorado hiking destination, and with so many people on the trail, it’s important that everyone does their part to minimize their impacts. Here are some quick tips to help you keep Crested Butte beautiful:

Respect the Trees & Wildflowers

Please do not carve into the aspen trees. Not only does this hurt the tree, but it also makes the aspens more susceptible to fungal disease and pests. Because an entire grove of aspens share a single root system harming one tree hurts them all. It’s also worth noting that aspens are uniquely vulnerable to changes in the climate, and the grove around Kebler Pass is suffering from the long term impacts of drought. Please treat the trees respectfully so they can continue to thrive with vibrant fall colors!

Golden aspen trees in front of snow dusted mountain peaks while hiking in Crested Butte, Colorado.

When it comes to hiking during wildflower season it’s important to tread lightly so the wildflowers continue growing back in future years. Never pick wildflowers. They’ll quickly die and it takes away the opportunity for the flower to go to seed (it’s also illegal to pick columbines on public land in Colorado!). Also be sure to stay on designated trails so you don’t crush the wildflowers. You can easily get incredible wildflower pictures while staying on trail in Crested Butte!

A woman standing on a trail surrounded by purple lupine.

Hiking With Dogs in Crested Butte

Crested Butte has some of the best dog-friendly hikes in Colorado. In fact, all of the trails on this list of the best hikes in Crested Butte are dog-friendly.

The majority of the hiking and biking trails around Crested Butte are in Gunnison National Forest, which requires dogs to be under control at all times. Under control can include being on-leash (the preferred method) or under strict vocal control (i.e. your dog recalls when called). You will likely see dogs off-leash on many of the trails I’ve included in this guide. Leashes are required in the Oh-Be-Joyful area of Gunnison National Forest.

Leashes are also explicitly required in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, which provides access to additional hiking trails near Crested Butte. Be sure to pack out pet waste to help keep the trails clean!

Black dog laying on snow in the mountains.
Becket enjoying the snow on Scarp Ridge Trail.

Leave No Trace

Whenever you head outdoors it’s important to follow the Leave No Trace principles to help minimize your impact on the environment. The 7 Leave No Trace principles include:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare. Research the trail you’re hiking ahead of time, check the weather, carry a map, and make sure you have the proper gear.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces. Stay on developed trails and other durable surfaces, like rocks or gravel. Don’t hike through wildflower fields or meadows.
  3. Properly dispose of waste. This includes packing out all of your trash as well as pet and human waste.
  4. Leave what you find. Don’t pick wildflowers or harm the aspens.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts. Use existing fire rings and be sure to check for fire restrictions before having a campfire. Make sure that campfires are completely extinguished, which means the ashes are cool.
  6. Respect wildlife. Maintain a safe distance from wildlife. Never feed or harass wildlife.
  7. Be considerate of other visitors. Remember uphill hikers have the right of way. Many of the trails around Crested Butte are open to mountain bikers. While hikers technically have the right of way, that’s not always safe or practical, so make sure to stay alert and communicate with other trail users.

The member-driven Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaches people how to  enjoy the outdoors responsibly. This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.

A woman hiking on a trail surrounded by wildflowers in Crested Butte, Colorado.

Best Hikes in Crested Butte, Colorado

1. Snodgrass Trail

Snodgrass Trail is a great hiking option if you only have a couple of hours to spare and you want to stick close to town. The trail takes you directly through an aspen grove and provides panoramic views of Mt. Crested Butte and the valley.

I recommend looping the trail clockwise for the best views. About 1.7 miles into the trail (hiking clockwise) you’ll reach a junction where the Snodgrass Trail intersects with Snodgrass Road. If you’re up for a challenging hike, you can continue on the Snodgrass Trail to the summit of Snodgrass Mountain. Otherwise you can loop the Snodgrass Trail back to the trailhead by following Snodgrass Road. 

You can also tack on Teddy’s Trail to get off the road as you hike down. Teddy’s Trail winds through a lupine field and provides some of the best wildflower views in Crested Butte (and arguably, all of Colorado). Remember to stay on trail so the wildflowers can continue to flourish for years to come.

A field of purple and yellow wildflowers in front of Mt. Crested Butte.

Trail Stats For Snodgrass Trail

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There is a porta potty at the trailhead.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Moderate. There are a lot of parking spots at the trailhead, but it’s a very popular trail so they tend to fill up on weekends. You can also access the Snodgrass Trail from a different trailhead off of Washington Gulch Road, but this is a further hike.

Distance: 6 miles if you hike to the summit; 3.5 miles if you just complete the loop

Elevation Gain: 1,600 ft. if you hike to the summit; 850 ft. if you just complete the loop

Difficulty: The loop is moderate (6-7/10), while the summit is moderate-difficult (7-8/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 1 ½-3 ½ hours

Permits/Fees: None

Dog-Friendly: Yes

Mountain Bikes: Yes

AllTrails Link

Snodgrass Trail Map

2. Oh-Be-Joyful Trail

The Oh-Be-Joyful Trail begins off of Oh-Be-Joyful Rd. (BLM Road 3220) at the Oh-Be-Joyful campground. After parking at the trailhead you’ll cross a creek and start hiking up the trail through the forest. You’ll encounter fairly steady elevation on the Oh-Be-Joyful Trail as you make your way up a lush valley.

The trail provides plenty of wildflowers during the summer, and some colorful foliage during the fall. After approximately 5.3 miles of hiking you’ll find a junction with another trail that climbs up to Blue Lake (one of many Blue Lakes in Colorado). The Oh-Be-Joyful Trail continues past that junction above tree line up to Oh-Be-Joyful Pass.

A woman stands next to a pond with snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Trail Stats For Oh-Be-Joyful Trail

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There is a pit toilet at the trailhead.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Easy-moderate. There is a lot of room for parking at the trailhead, but this can be a very popular area to explore and may get crowded on weekends.

Distance: Up to 16-miles out-and-back, but you can hike as far as you’d like.

Elevation Gain: 2,150 ft. if you hike to Blue Lake

Difficulty: Moderate-difficult depending on how far you hike.

Estimated Hike Time: 1-6+ hours depending on how far you hike

Permits/Fees: None

Dog-Friendly: Yes, dogs are required to be leashed.

Mountain Bikes: No

AllTrails Link

Oh-Be-Joyful Trail Map

3. Washington Gulch Trail

For sweeping views, and a solid workout, check out Washington Gulch Trail (aka Trail 403). The trail primarily goes through the forest and takes you to two different viewpoints with stunning views of the Elk mountains and valley below.

Washington Gulch Trail can either be completed as a point-to-point hike between Washington Gulch Road and Schofield Pass Road, or as an out-and-back from either direction. If you’re looking to do an out-and-back I recommend hiking from Washington Gulch Road so you can make a stop at a pair of perfectly placed Adirondack chairs for a little break with incredible views.

A hiker sits on a red Adirondack chair overlooking a valley with mountains in the distance in Crested Butte, Colorado.

Trail Stats For Washington Gulch

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There are no bathrooms at either trailhead.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Easy-moderate. There’s a parking lot at the trailhead on Schofield Pass Road. There aren’t many spots at the trailhead on Washington Gulch Road, so you may find yourself parking down the road and walking to the trail.

Distance: 7.5 miles point-to-point

Elevation Gain: 2,150 ft.

Difficulty: Moderate-difficult (7.5-8.5/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 3-4 hours

Permits/Fees: None

Dog-Friendly: Yes

Mountain Bikes: Yes

AllTrails Link

Washington Gulch Trail Map

4. Rustler’s Gulch Trail

If you’re looking for a stunning high-alpine wildflower hike, check out Rustler’s Gulch in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. The journey is the destination on this hike. You’ll be treated to scenic mountain views along the entire trail, with waterfalls and a couple of creek crossings along the way.

If you have a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle you can drive up to the upper trailhead, otherwise plan to park along Schofield Pass Rd. The initial climb to the upper trailhead is steep, but the trail itself has a pretty mellow grade so the hiking isn’t too difficult. Rustler’s Gulch ends at the back of a mountain basin, but you don’t need to hike the entire trail to have a beautiful hike.

A woman hiking along a trail with mountains in the distance and wildflowers around her.

Trail Stats For Rustler’s Gulch Trail

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There are no bathrooms at the trailhead.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Difficult. Parking at the upper trailhead requires a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle. You can also park along Schofield Pass Rd. Schofield Pass eventually turns into a 4×4 road beyond the trailhead, but passenger cars shouldn’t have any issues getting to the trailhead.

Distance: 9 miles out-and-back (from Schofield Pass Rd.)

Elevation Gain: 1,800 ft. (from Schofield Pass Rd.)

Difficulty: Moderate (6.5-7.5/10) (Easier if you can park at the upper trailhead.)

Estimated Hike Time: 4-5 hours

Permits/Fees: None

Dog-Friendly: Yes. Dogs must be leashed in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

Mountain Bikes: No

AllTrails Link

Rustler’s Gulch Trail Map

5. Green Lake

There’s no shortage of alpine and subalpine lakes around Crested Butte, but none are quite as colorful as Green Lake. While the trail itself isn’t as scenic as many of the other trails on this list, it’s worth the hike to see the lake’s vibrant green hue. This is a great hike for dogs who will have a blast swimming in the lake.

The trail to Green Lake starts in town and takes you through a neighborhood and along a road before you get on the single-track trail up to the lake (be aware, parking in the neighborhood is for residents only). There’s steady elevation gain throughout the hike as you make your way up to Green Lake, with the steepest sections occurring right before the lake. This a popular trail for mountain bikers, so stay alert.

A green lake with a mountain behind it.

Trail Stats for Green Lake

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There are no bathrooms at the trailhead, but you can find one nearby.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Easy. Parking is at the Crested Butte Nordic Center. There are plenty of spaces available, and if they happen to be full you can easily park nearby and walk.

Distance: 8.5 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 1,800 ft.

Difficulty: Moderate-difficult (7-8/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 4-5 hours

Fee: None 

Dog-Friendly?: Yes, dogs should be leashed along the beginning of the trail. Dogs are required to be under control in Gunnison National Forest, but the trail is also open to horses and mountain bikes, so it’s a good idea to keep dogs leashed the whole time.

Mountain Bikes: Yes

AllTrails Link

Green Lake Trail Map

6. Scarp Ridge Trail

The Scarp Ridge Trail is a scenic ridge hike with breathtaking views of the Elk Mountains. The trail begins above Lake Irwin, which is a popular drive-up destination near Crested Butte where you can go paddleboarding or fishing.

The hike begins at the Lake Irwin Lodge and climbs steadily as you make your way up to Scarp Ridge. There are scenic views throughout the entire hike, but you have 360° mountain views up on the ridge. Many hikers opt to connect Scarp Ridge Trail with the 421 Trail to complete a loop hike. Be aware, the trail tops out at over 12,000 ft., so it will feel more difficult than other hikes on this list if you’re not acclimated to high-altitude hikes.

Woman standing on a mountain ridge in Crested Butte, Colorado.

Scarp Ridge Trail Stats

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There are no bathrooms at the trailhead, but you can find pit toilets down at Lake Irwin.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Moderate-difficult. It’s a bumpy road up to the trail, which starts at the Lake Irwin Lodge. Parking spaces are fairly limited. There’s more room to park further down the road, but it will add some distance and elevation gain to the hike.

Distance: 4 mile loop

Elevation Gain: 1,430 ft.

Difficulty: Moderate-difficult (7-8/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 2-3 hours

Fee: None

Dog-Friendly?: Yes

Mountain Bikes: Yes

AllTrails Link

Scarp Ridge Trail Map

7. Dark Canyon, Irwin, & Dyke Trail Loop

If you’re looking for an epic fall hike near Crested Butte, then head to the Dark Canyon, Irwin, & Dyke Trail Loop. In my opinion, this is the best fall hike in Colorado. Not only does the trail take you through an aspen forest, it also provides sweeping views overlooking Marcellina Mountain and the largest aspen grove in Colorado. It’s also a great hike during wildflower season with plenty of species of flowers to see on the trail.

The hike starts at the Horse Ranch Park parking area and immediately begins climbing into the forest along Dark Canyon Trail. There’s steady elevation gain as you make your way into the Raggeds Wilderness, before eventually looping over to the Irwin Trail and down the Dyke Trail. Alternatively, you can continue on the Dark Canyon Trail to head deeper into the Raggeds.

A woman with a flannel tied around her waist stands on a rock overlooking an aspen forest and mountains in Colorado.

Trail Stats For Dark Canyon, Irwin, & Dyke Trail Loop

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There is a pit toilet at the trailhead.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Easy. Parking is off of Kebler Pass, which can be driven with a passenger car (this is one of the best scenic drives in Colorado in the fall!). The main parking lot is fairly small, but there is a lot of overflow parking available at Horse Ranch Park.

Distance: 6 mile loop

Elevation Gain: 1,500 ft.

Difficulty: Moderate (5.5-6.5/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 2 ½-3 hours

Permits/Fees: None

Dog-Friendly: Yes

Mountain Bikes: Mountain bikes are allowed on the Dyke Trail, but not in the Raggeds Wilderness.

AllTrails Link

Dark Canyon, Irwin, & Dyke Trail Loop Map

8. West Maroon Trail to Aspen

Hiking between Crested Butte and Aspen via West Maroon Trail is easily one of the most scenic hikes in Colorado. The trail is approximately 10 miles point-to-point and can be completed as a difficult day hike or an overnight backpacking trip (be aware, permits are required to backpack in this area of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness).

While the trail takes you all the way to Maroon Lake in Aspen, you don’t have to hike that far for stunning views. Hiking to the top of West Maroon Pass gives you a solid taste of the trail along with sweeping views in every direction (you’ll also avoid the crowds that pick up on the Aspen side of the pass). During July you can find plenty of wildflowers, including columbines, along the trail (remember not to pick the wildflowers!).

Trail Stats For West Maroon Trail

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There is a pit toilet at the trailhead.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Difficult. A high-clearance vehicle is required to get to the trailhead. You can also park further down Schofield Pass Rd. and walk up to the trailhead from there. 

Distance: ~10 miles point-to-point 

Elevation Gain: 2,250 ft.

Difficulty: Difficult (8-9/10)

Estimated Hike Time: At least 5-7 hours if hiking the full trail.

Permits/Fees: None if day hiking from Crested Butte. Overnight permits required in this area of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Parking or shuttle reservations required if hiking from the Aspen side.

Dog-Friendly: Yes. Dogs must be leashed in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

Mountain Bikes: No

AllTrails Link

West Maroon Trail Map

9. Copper Lake

For a classic Colorado alpine lake hike, hike the Copper Creek Trail to Copper Lake. I’ll be honest, the trail to Copper Lake feels a bit like a slog, but once you arrive at the destination you’ll understand why it made this list of the best hikes in Crested Butte. 

You’ll pass Judd Falls early on the trail, which is a popular destination for families and folks looking for an easy hike. Shortly beyond the falls you’ll enter the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. The first few miles of the trail are easy hiking, but the elevation gain ramps up during the final mile to the lake. Copper Lake is a breathtakingly beautiful alpine lake, so plan to spend some time soaking in the views.

A woman stands on a rock in an alpine lake with mountains behind her.

Trail Stats For Copper Lake

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There are no bathrooms at the trailhead.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Difficult. You need a high-clearance vehicle to get to the actual trailhead and parking spaces are limited. You can also park along Schofield Pass Rd., which will add an extra mile to your hike.

Distance: 12 miles out-and-back

Elevation Gain: 2,430 ft.

Difficulty: Difficult (8.5-9.5/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 6-7 hours

Permits/Fees: None

Dog-Friendly: Yes. Dogs must be leashed in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

Mountain Bikes: No

AllTrails Link

Copper Lake Trail Map

10. Strand Hill

If you’re looking for a fall hike in Crested Butte that winds through an aspen forest, then head to Strand Hill. If you time your hike right you’ll be fully immersed in a sea of gold. There are a few trailheads that you begin your hike from and there are also a number of trails in the area, so you can make your hike your hike at Strand Hill as long or short as you want.

Be aware, Strand Hill is also popular amongst mountain bikers, so make sure to stay alert because there are quite a few blind curves. Because the trail is built for riding you’ll find a lot of undulating hills, but the trail isn’t very difficult if you stick to the main loop.

Man hiking with a black dog on a leash in a forest of golden aspen trees.

Trail Stats for Strand Hill

Trailhead Location: Google maps

There are no bathrooms at the trailhead.

Trailhead Parking Difficulty: Moderate. There are a few places you can park to access the trail, but parking spaces are limited. You can also park along Bush Creek Rd.

Distance: 4.4 mile loop

Elevation Gain: 730 ft.

Difficulty: Easy-moderate (4-5/10)

Estimated Hike Time: 2-2 ½ hours

Fee: None 

Dog-Friendly?: Yes.

Mountain Bikes: Yes

AllTrails Link (Be aware, this trail includes the loop described above and a spur hike to the top of Strand Hill, but you don’t need to hike all of it for a scenic hike!)

Strand Hill Trail Map

What to Pack to Go Hiking in Crested Butte, Colorado

Hiking Pack:

Hiking pack recommendations are incredibly subjective, but I personally use and love the Osprey Sirrus 24L day pack.

Water:

Make sure that you carry sufficient water for the hike that you’re planning on doing. Also consider carrying electrolyte packs like Liquid IV to add to your water, especially if you’re hiking during warmer months!

Snacks:

Protein bars, trail mix, pb&j sandwiches, dried fruit, and jerky are all great hiking snack options!

Headlamp:

Carrying illumination, like a headlamp, is important in case you find yourself out after dark.

Sun Protection:

The sun is stronger in the mountains, so it’s important to wear sun protection like a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen while hiking in Crested Butte.

First-Aid Kit:

A well stocked first-aid kit should always be in your pack as part of the 10 essentials. Consider carrying band-aids, moleskin, gauze, tape, tylenol, and tweezers.

Map & Compass:

While all of the trails on this list are well-maintained and easy to follow, you should always carry a map & compass in the event you get lost. At the very least be sure to download the trail map to your phone before heading out!

Knife:

A knife can come in handy for a variety of purposes from cutting an apple to fixing your gear. Plus it’s part of the 10 essentials, so it should be one of those items that just lives in your pack!

Emergency Shelter:

Emergency shelter is considered one of the 10 essentials because it can save your life if you have to spend an unexpected night on the trail. Always carry an emergency bivvy or space blanket to help you stay safe and comfortable during an emergency situation.

Trekking Poles:

Trekking poles are optional but recommended to help your knees during steep hikes.

Appropriate Layers:

What clothing you specifically need to wear or carry depends on a number of factors including the forecast, season, and your personal preferences. Helpful layers to consider wearing/bringing include a sun shirt, rain coat, and outer layer (how heavy of an outer layer you need to carry will depend on the month you’re hiking). 

Emergency GPS:

I always carry a Garmin inReach mini GPS on hikes to easily get in contact with authorities in the event of an emergency. There’s limited cell reception once you’re outside of town, so it’s a good idea to have an emergency device just in case!

Woman posing on a rock overlooking an aspen forest and mountains in Colorado.

Where to Get a Post-Hike Meal in Crested Butte

Crested Butte is home to a number of delicious restaurants that make a great post-hike meal. Tourism is one of the primary industries in Crested Butte, so I encourage you to patronize local restaurants while visiting and hiking. Here are some of my favorite restaurants in Crested Butte:

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