72 Hours in Crested Butte. Where to camp, what to hike and everything in between.
This article is published on The Outbound.
Camping: Variety of camping on Slate River Rd. - primitive and uniformed (Oh Be Joyful) campgrounds. The road goes back about 15 miles up to Paradise Divide, where it starts to swerve back down toward Gothic with camping the whole way just off the road. There are some EPIC campsites once you start climbing the mountain toward the divide after about 10 miles back. The road is fairly drivable in any vehicle until you start to climb then I would recommend a 4x4 vehicle.
Hike: Blue Lake Trailhead is located at Oh Be Joyful campground on Slate River Rd, just across a river, either 4x4 vehicle to access packing lot off of trailhead - or - park in campground and wade through the river to access trailhead. Reference photos for detail. Round Trip about 15 miles, about 500 ft ascent at beginning of hike and 1500 in the last 1.5 miles the majority of the hike is flat and through an AMAZING valley.
Tip: Pick up a free map of the area in downtown Crested Butte on Elk St. The maps are everywhere - and you'll need to if you want to explore the fun 4x4 roads in the area. Also, ask the locals about 4x4 road conditions before venturing, they'll know better than the internet.
Day One: Town & Setup Camp
- Some coffee and remote work via computer, at First Ascent Coffee Roasters, highly recommended for coffee and working, lots of outlets and fast internet!!!!!
- Dinner at The Secret Stash, so unique and wonderful! Pizza is a 9/10, the atmosphere is a 15/10, almost like a gypsy / India / 20s / mystical vibe. Curtains, culture and good people.
- Grab a beer at The Eldo, in the event that there is a show, i'd recommend grabbing your campsite and coming back for the jams.
- A run to the liquor store and off to Slate River Rd. not but 3.2 miles east on your way toward the ski resort.
- Setup camp, enjoy!
Day Two: Hike
- Wake up, hop in vehicle and head to Oh Be Joyful campground.
- The Blue Lakes Trailhead is just across the river at the campground, you will see the sign. If you have a 4x4 vehicle - cross the river, (see photos for point of reference) if not, park in the campground and wade across.
- Park Vehicle, eat breakfast! Again - see photos.
- Begin the hike at the parking lot, you start through a lighter almost gladed forest, not but couple hundred feet in - the trail turns right and you start to climb. Once you're out of the the forest - you'll follow the trail along near a cliff / river edge, waterfalls will tower high above you in the distance coming down from the mountains and you'll pop in and out of trees for another mile or so - always be looking up. There will be a bit more of a climb and curve to the right, then you'll hit the wilderness sign. After here the trail starts to flatten out into the most MAJESTIC wildflower valley you've ever seen this lasts for the majority of the hike - about 3/4 miles. Again Waterfalls to your left the whole way, with mountains that look like nothing you've seen before, in the far distance you'll see a range, that's where you're headed. Stop and take pictures of all the wildflowers too! You'll eventually hit a gate, I would suspect this gate is about halfway - just for purpose of mental note. Again you'll continue on in the valley. When you hit the forest again - you'll start to climb. Reaching a fork - you'll go left into the basin where treeline breaks, waterfalls all around, you'll see the waterfall coming from the mountain in the middle straight in front of you, your lake is up there. Follow the trail through the bottom of the basin and then climb the switchbacks. You'll reach your lake in no time, the majority of the climb is here, but it's worth every step.
- Hike out is downhill the whole way, I'd estimate 2-3 hours to get out.
- Head back to camp, eat and celebrate, revel in the joy and magic that the Butte provides.
Day Three: A fun Drive and Coffee before you head out.
- Wake up, pack up. Eat!
- If you're not already camping at the top of Slate River Rd. near Paradise Divide, Hop in your 4x4 vehicle and head to the top! The views will not disappoint. We were here in mid July and the connecting road down to Gothic had been avalanched out, in the event you can make it to Gothic, take that way back into town!
- After your Sunday Drive adventure, grab coffee at Camp for Coffee, its affordable and absolutely superb, then dink around town