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Crested Butte’s Hiking Trails Will Leave You Speechless

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

November 19th, 2020

The Slate River looking north from Crested Butte

There are no words for the beauty of Crested Butte--a small, historic former mining town tucked into the mountains of Colorado. The town of Crested Butte can be found on most “best of Colorado” lists, ranking up there with others like Breckenridge and Telluride. Even a quick glance at the landscape surrounding Crested Butte as one heads into town on route 135 is enough to confirm what many others already know: this is a special place!

Stacia and I, along with our dogs, spent a long summer weekend tent camping in the Gunnison National Forest. Before the trip I did my homework and researched some easy-to-moderate hiking trails within an hour’s drive of our campsite. At the top of my list were a group of trails on the northern edge of the town of Crested Butte. After showing Stacia a few pictures of the trails from the AllTrails app, she was 100% onboard with the new adventure.

Storm clouds over Mount Crested Butte
Peanut Lake and Mount Crested Butte

On the first full day of our camping trip, we loaded up the dogs and headed out of the forest and toward the trails. Just on the northern edge of town are several small parking lots leading into several trailheads. Since the trails are so close to town, we took a few minutes to drive through the historic, quaint downtown area. What a gem, with its small Victorian-style houses, along with an abundance of shops and restaurants. If I was ever feeling the strain of the pandemic, it was on this day, as I longed to park the car and walk around the crowded little downtown area of Crested Butte!

But we continued on toward the trails. Being new to this area, I parked in the first dirt parking lot I saw that had space and we headed north on Woods Walk Trail. This particular trail is a single-file path that weaves its way by several residential cabins that overlook Peanut Lake and Slate River to the east. Even though we arrived on a Friday, the trail was highly trafficked by hikers and trail runners alike.

Once we reached the end of Woods Walk Trail, I realized the mistake I had made in parking the car too soon. Another mile up the road from the first parking lot sits another small lot and some parking along the dirt road. Here begins Upper and Lower Loop trails, two trails that lead north away from town and into BLM land, which then connects to Gunnison National Forest and Raggeds Wilderness.

I wanted to push on. I wanted to spend the entire day on these trails, exploring along the river, then further up the hillside into the Aspen grove, then deeper into the entrance to the wilderness. I wanted to see a moose cross the endless fields of wildflowers before us (did I mention that Crested Butte is known as the Wildflower Capital of Colorado?), as the “attention: moose in this area” sign predicted. But it wasn’t in the cards for me that day.

Trail following the Slate River in Crested Butte
Wildflowers along Lower Loop Trail

Just enamored with these beautiful trails, we decided to return the next morning to explore further. On Saturday, we arrived early and enjoyed a cool, cloudy morning walking the Lower Loop Trail along the Slate River. We clocked nearly 4 miles that day. As much as I wanted to press on, I knew it was best not to tempt fate and bring on the wrath of the hip pain I would surely suffer from my Ankylosing Spondylitis.

But it was hard walking away from this landscape at just past peak wildflower season. It’s visiting such remarkable landscapes that really tests my will power and ability to listen to my body. It’s on these trails that the constraints of my disability sink in. How badly would I love to hike ten miles deep into these mountains and battle exhaustion and muscle soreness alone. But the reality is that a ten-mile hike would leave me with such intense hip, knee, and back pain and inflammation that I might not be able to walk back out.

Hiking in Crested Butte, Colorado

I hope that someday that sort of hike is in the cards for me. But until then, I will continue to enjoy these stunning landscapes in shorter increments, thankful for what I can do! And I will plan on returning to Crested Butte sometime in the future, hopefully when all is safe and the pandemic is a thing of the past.


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