Fall in Crested Butte

Guanella Pass
As happens so often when we travel, when we visited Crested Butte at its wildflower peak earlier this summer, we both said, "We've got to come back here in the fall!" I'm so happy to report that we actually did return to Crested Butte this fall and managed to hit the peak of color in the aspens!

Cottonwood Pass
Leaving on the last day of September, we enjoyed lots of golden aspens on our way along the Peak to Peak Highway, Guanella Pass and Cottonwood Pass, and it occurred to me that we might have our fill of fall color before we even arrived at CB. Not a chance! The areas around Kebler Pass and Ohio Pass are truly spectacular.

Flock of birds flying through a rainbow south of Crested Butte

We arrived in CB in light rain which soon produced a beautiful rainbow. On our way out photograph it, we spotted a totally white hawk atop a pine tree. Steve and Lauren joined us later Friday evening, and we turned in early in order to be ready for an early start.

Saturday morning we hiked from Horse Ranch Park to a viewpoint overlooking the Kebler Pass stand of aspen, said to be the largest living organism on earth. The short (3.36 miles round trip) trail took us through meadows and mature aspen forests, interspersed with mountain vistas. We'll do this hike again, for sure! The morning worked great for having good light at the west-facing viewpoint, as well as avoiding the afternoon crowds.

Horse Ranch Park viewpoint

After lunch at The Last Steep, we drove up Gothic Road to Paradise Divide then back down Slate River Road. Awesome high mountain views everywhere. Our late dinner at The Secret Stash was worth the lengthy wait, but next time we'll get a reservation!

On the road to Gothic

Sunday after Steve & Lauren left, we decided to walk the ditch road trail around the east side of Mt Crested Butte (the mountain, not the town) in hopes of seeing the white hawk we'd seen the evening we arrived. No luck with seeing the raptor, but we did encounter a herd of horses grazing in an aspen grove, a first for us on a hike. The largest male stood in front of the rest and seemed to challenge us, but when approached, he allowed Mike to pat his head.

We'd heard that McClure Pass north of Paonia State Park on CR 133 was also beautiful, so we drove out there later in the day. Many of the aspens there had already lost their leaves, and the leaves remaining were a disappointingly dull yellow. But the sunset on Kebler Pass was great on our way home.

Coming down from McClure Pass
Small waterfall we stopped to enjoy

Monday we explored the area around Lost Lake. First we did the three lake loop - Lost Lake Slough, Lost Lake and Dollar Lake.

After refueling with sandwiches back at our car, we headed up to Beckwith Pass. Back in June we tried to reach it from the Cave Creek side but were rained out. This day we had fine weather, and made it to the summit with ease sharing the trail with only a handful of hikers, one Cattleman searching for some strays, two cattle dogs and a small herd of cattle ... charging right at us!

View from Beckwith Pass
At the near-360ยบ summit/pass we caught our first glimpse of The Castles, rock formations to the east. Curious Gray Jays checked us out but never got too close. After the hike, we drove back to the Cliff Cave Trailhead just a little late for the "golden hour", but the spot was beautiful all the same.

Exploring Ohio Pass was the plan for Tuesday, and boy was it great! CR 730 is a beautiful drive with outstanding viewpoints including the Castle peaks, and several short hikes along the way. We opted to start with the Beaver Pond hike, which is a lovely walk through the aspens.

View from Ohio Pass
Castle Mountain, viewed from Ohio Pass (telephoto)
Next we drove south as far as the Mill Creek Trailhead which we decided to save for another because threatening clouds had moved in. On the way back, we hiked the Old Railroad Grade trail, and were able to enjoy some views and history before we were rained out.

We weren't really ready to leave Crested Butte yet, but the weather forecast for the next few days was for snow and wind. We weren't quite ready to come home yet either, so we discussed our Plan B options while we packed up to head out in the morning.

Click here for a few more pictures from this trip.

To be continued...

No comments:

Post a Comment