Crested Butte Hiking

8 Unbelievable Crested Butte Hiking Trails

Crested Butte, a tiny ski town nestled in the Elk Mountain range, is brimming with incredible hiking trails. Whether you’re an avid mountaineer or you have small kids tagging along, there is a trail for everyone in Crested Butte.

Crested Butte Hiking Trails

Below are the 8 best hiking trails in Crested Butte. Use this guide on your next adventure to this incredible mountain town to find the most rewarding views.

1. East Maroon Pass

An all-day kind of adventure, East Maroon Pass is one of the most iconic hiking trails in the Crested Butte area.

Crested Butte Hiking Trails

Not only will you have the opportunity to see incredible views of Crested Butte, but you’ll be able to see the Maroon Bells of Aspen when you reach the top.

East Maroon Pass is approximately 14 miles roundtrip; a bit long for a day hike but definitely achievable if you start early in the morning. In addition to the pass, you’ll hike past Judd Falls and Copper Lake along the way; the perfect trio!

East Maroon Pass

The coolest part about this hike is that you can actually turn this into a multi-day hiking trip. We met many hikers along the way that chose this option.

Start in either Crested Butte or Aspen and hike up and over the pass to the other side. Rent a hotel room or camp for the night before making the trek back up and over the pass to your vehicle

Getting There

The trailhead to East Maroon Pass is very close to downtown Crested Butte. Take Gothic Road all the way through the small town of Gothic. From there, continue on the road until you see the Judd Falls/Copper Creek Trailhead.

Use the map below to find the exact location.

Note: If you choose to make this a multi-day hiking trip, I recommend hitchhiking from the trailhead back to town. There are hundreds of people that park up by the trailhead each day. It wouldn’t be difficult to find a friendly hiker that would be willing to give you a lift.

Elevation Gain

On this Crested Butte hiking trail, you’ll encounter approximately 2,000 feet of vertical gain.

For the first 5 miles of the trek, the trail is relatively flat and steady. The final two miles up to the pass are much steeper. Be sure to bring plenty of water for that last push before the pass.

Difficulty

Although the majority of this hiking trail is relatively flat, it is 14 miles roundtrip. 14 miles is not an easy feat. I recommend this hike to anyone that has a lot of endurance, is accustomed to high altitude, and can walk 10+ miles.

Check Our East Maroon Pass Hiking Video On Youtube


2. Copper Lake

When we began our trek to Copper Lake, we were blown away by the lack of hikers on the trail. Apart from a few people here and there, we were completely alone on this majestic 12-mile out-and-back trek.

Copper Lake, Crested Butte Hiking

Along the trail, you’ll encounter beautiful meadows, trickling creeks, and even a waterfall; Judd Falls is located just off the path to Copper Lake, so you’ll be able to hit two birds with one stone.

The lake itself is tucked into the mountainside with sweeping views of the Crested Butte area to the south.

Hiking Trail and Views On Copper Lake Trail In Crested Butte

Getting There

The best part about the Copper Lake hiking trail is that the trailhead is located only 25 minutes north of Crested Butte.

The close proximity to town was very convenient and even though we started the hike early, we didn’t have to wake up at the break of dawn.

To reach Copper Lake, take Gothic Road up to the Judd Falls/Copper Creek Trailhead. The map below will help you find the correct route from Crested Butte to the trailhead.

Note: We drove a Toyota Sienna up to the first trailhead and hiked in from there, which added an additional mile to our hike each way. If you want to park at the main trailhead and cut off the additional 2 miles, you’ll need a high clearance, 4WD vehicle.

The only cars we saw at the trailhead were Toyota 4Runners and trucks.

Elevation Gain

The elevation gain depends on where you park your vehicle. If you can park at the upper trailhead, you’re looking at 1,600 feet of elevation gain. Spread out over 6 miles, it isn’t too bad!

If you begin your trek at the bottom trailhead, you’ll be looking at 2,400 feet of elevation gain. The hike from the lower trailhead to the upper trailhead is quite steep, so keep this in mind.

Difficulty

This is a moderate hiking trail in Crested Butte. Although it is 12-miles, it is relatively flat for the majority of the trek.

You’ll notice that the trail remains steady for the first 5 miles, but then begins to climb and becomes much steeper. This is the only difficult part of the trail.

I recommend this hike for anyone that is in decent physical shape. If you can walk 12 miles, you can conquer this trail.

Campgrounds

There is a first-come-first-serve campground around Copper Lake. The views are absolutely gorgeous and it’s worth the effort of hauling your camping gear 6 miles up the trail.

Know Before You Go: As mentioned before, this is a 12-mile hike. I highly recommend starting this hike early in order to reach the lake at a decent hour. We started at 8am and finished by 2-3pm.


3. Scarp Ridge

After hiking up to East Maroon Pass, we were positive that we wouldn’t be able to find anything quite as beautiful. As we trekked down from the pass, we met a couple that told us to hike up to Scarp Ridge if we wanted to see some REALLY incredible views.

The next day, we made our way out to Scarp Ridge, and let’s just say that we were blown away by this 5-mile out-and-back hike.

Scarp Ridge Trail

At the top of Scarp Ridge, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world. The 360° views of the surrounding Elk Mountains was phenomenal, to say the least.

You’ll also see several different mountain lakes as you make your way to the top. These lakes are fluorescent blue; brighter than the blue sky above.

And if you’re lucky, you’ll see some mountain goats on this Crested Butte hiking trail.

Getting There

This hiking trail is located only 30 minutes from downtown Crested Butte.

Take County Road 12 to County Road 826. Follow signs for Lake Irwin.

Once you reach Lake Irwin, continue past the campground to the left. You’ll drive by many campsites and snake your way above the lake.

Continue until the road ends; there will be a large abandoned building just to the right of the trailhead. The trailhead is located on the left side of a makeshift cul-du-sac.

For step-by-step directions to the trailhead, use the map above.

Elevation Gain

You’ll encounter over 1,600 feet of elevation gain during this hike.

This is nearly the same amount of elevation gain as the Copper Lake trail, but instead of conquering this over 6 miles, you’ll pack it into just 2.5 miles.

It’s steep, to say the least.

Difficulty

This short but mighty hike will be a challenge for most. Although you’re only hiking up 2.5 miles, the trail is straight up throughout most of the hike.

Luckily, because this is such a short hike, you can take your time. If you’re determined to make it to the top of the ridge, spend a few hours climbing this trail.

I recommend this hike for anyone that is in good physical condition. Since there are steep dropoffs along this trail, I wouldn’t suggest this hiking trail to anyone with young children or anyone who has a fear of heights.

Campgrounds

Lake Irwin in an awesome campground with plenty of available sites. There are also some dispersed camping spots along the road from Lake Irwin to the Scarp Ridge trailhead.

Crested Butte Hiking Trails

Know Before You Go: There are two routes for this hike. Staying left along the trail will lead you on a steeper but shorter trek. If you venture to the right, the trail will be much more manageable, but longer.

We stayed left throughout the entire trek. And as I mentioned, it was short but steep.


4. Judd Falls

Looking for a short hike that the entire family can enjoy? Judd Falls is a 2.2-mile hike located on the same route as Copper Lake and East Maroon Pass.

Crested Butte Hiking

This is a perfect, short hiking trail in Crested Butte because you’ll drive through the coolest mini-mountain town called Gothic and be able to explore the Judd Falls canyon and waterfall.

Not to mention, these are some of the most rewarding mountain views without a lot of effort.

Crested Butte Hiking - Colorado Judd Falls

Getting There

Follow the same directions as you would for Copper Lake or East Maroon Pass. Again, you can park at the lower lot and make the trek to the falls or you can venture to the second parking lot and save yourself the extra mile.

Remember, you’ll want a high-clearance 4WD vehicle to get to the second parking lot.

Elevation Gain

With only 450 feet of elevation gain, Judd Falls is pretty flat. However, you’ll be surrounded by snow-covered peaks, which will make your hike all the more enjoyable.

Difficulty

With such little elevation gain, this hike is considerably easy. I saw many families with young children hiking this trail.

Know Before You Go: Always be prepared to encounter wildlife. Mike and I heard a bull moose rutting near the trail. I think it goes without saying, but always keep your distance from moose. They are very aggressive.


5. Snodgrass Mountain Trail

Just down the road from downtown Crested Butte is a 6-mile loop hiking trail called Snodgrass Mountain Trail.

Snodgrass Mountain Trail Colorado

If you’re looking for the best views of the Mount Crested Butte ski area and town, this is the trail for you. It’s a perfect day hike for visitors in the area

In the spring and summer, this trail boasts incredible wildflowers. Or choose to come in the fall and enjoy the colors of the changing leaves.

Crested Butte Hiking

Getting There

This is one of the best hiking trails in Crested Butte if you don’t want to venture far. The trailhead is located just north of Mount Crested Butte, a short 10 minute drive from downtown Crested Butte.

Use the map below to find the exact location of the trailhead.

Elevation Gain

During this hike, you’ll gain nearly 1600 feet of elevation. The beginning of the hike is quite steady but it becomes steeper as you near the turnaround point.

Difficulty

This is a shorter hike, just 6 miles in total. However, you’ll be gaining 1600 feet of elevation. I recommend this hike for families with older children and anyone in decent physical condition.

Know Before You Go: There isn’t a lot of shade on this hike, so I recommend bringing plenty of water and a hat.


6. Upper Lower Trail

The Upper-Lower Trail is one of the best hiking trails in downtown Crested Butte. As you can choose how long you’d like to hike, this is the perfect solution for families on vacation.

Convenient Crested Butte Hiking Trail Right In Town - Upper Lower Trail

Consider hiking the 2.2 mile trail on your first day and then biking the longer route the next day. Although you’ll be biking on a dirt path, it is a pretty easy mountain trail, even for young children.

Upper Lower Trail

There are several different paths surrounding this area of Crested Butte so be sure that you check the maps before beginning your hike.

Getting There

Mike and I arrived in Crested Butte later in the day and we wanted to stretch our legs a bit from the long drive. We found this short hiking trail in downtown, which was perfect.

Not only is this trail just minutes from downtown, but you can even walk there from most places in Crested Butte.

Here is the exact location of the trailhead:

Elevation Gain

With just 300 feet of elevation gain, this hike will feel like an easy walk in the park.

Difficulty

As I mentioned, there are several different hiking trails in this area of Crested Butte. We chose to hike the 2.2 mile loop since the sun was setting and we wanted to get back in time for dinner.

The hike we chose was very easy and could be accomplished by people of all fitness levels, even young children.

Know Before You Go: This trail is very popular among hikers and bikers alike. Take caution as you round corners and step off the trail when necessary.


7. Green Lake

Are you looking for a hiking trail close to town that isn’t overflowing with tourists? Green Lake is your answer.

This 8.5-mile trail leads you from downtown Crested Butte to a beautiful mountain lake. There’s no need to even drive to the trailhead, you can walk directly from your accommodation.

Green Lake Trail Near Lake Irwin, Crested Butte

In particular, this hike is amazing in the fall. You’ll be surrounded by aspen groves as they change from green to yellow.

Getting There

Starting from downtown Crested Butte, navigate to the Nordic Center where you’ll find the trailhead.

Use the map below to find the precise location.

Elevation Gain

You’ll encounter nearly 2,000 feet of elevation gain throughout the hike. Although this seems like a steep incline, the elevation gain is spread evenly throughout the trail. It’s a steady climb to the lake.

Difficulty

This is a moderate hike. I would recommend this hike for anyone in decent physical condition who can walk for more than 8 miles.


8. Oh-Be-Joyful Trail To Blue Lake

Looking for a longer hike in the Crested Butte area with the most rewarding views? The Oh-Be-Joyful Trail is the perfect trek to add to your vacation to-do list.

Crested Butte Hiking

This 14-mile hike will eventually lead you to one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in Colorado, Blue Lake (don’t confuse this lake with the Blue Lakes Trail in Ridgeway). Bring your swimsuit because by the time you reach this lake, you’ll be ready to dive in.

Oh Be Joyful To Blue Lake

Spend a few hours eating lunch up by the lake before descending. As you leave, be sure to pack out everything you packed in; this will keep Crested Butte beautiful forever.

Getting There

This is another hike where you’ll take Gothic Road to the trailhead. Use the map below for exact GPS coordinates.

When you approach the GPS marker, park at the campground rather than the trailhead. You’ll save yourself the extra .5 miles each way.

Elevation Gain

Prepare for nearly 2,300 feet of elevation gain along this trail.

The first half of this trail is a steady incline, but the second half of the trek is pretty steep all the way to the lake.

Pack plenty of water and bring enough food to fuel your body for this long hike.

Difficulty

This hike is rated as difficult thanks to its long distance and elevation gain. I wouldn’t recommend this hike to anyone that doesn’t have experience hiking and isn’t in good physical condition.

Campgrounds

Luckily for you, there is a campground right at the beginning of the trail. Stay the night at this campground before beginning your hike early the next morning.

Know Before You Go: Since this is a longer hike, I recommend getting an early start. Try to be on the trail by 9am at the latest if you plan to make it to the lake.


Easy Crested Butte Hiking Trails

There are thousands of easy hiking trails near Crested Butte and Snowmass. Here are the easy hiking trails we recommend:

Judd Falls

Upper-Lower Trail

Both of these trails can be completed by people of any age and fitness level. These are excellent hikes for families with young children.


Moderate Crested Butte Hiking Trails

Our favorite moderate hiking trails in Crested Butte include:

Copper Lake

Green Lake

Snodgrass Mountain Trail

I suggest these hikes for anyone who is in decent physical shape. Some of these trails are considered moderate due to their distance, Others are considered moderate because they are a bit steeper.


Difficult Crested Butte Hiking Trails

If you’re looking for a challenge during your trip to Crested Butte, here are the 3 difficult hiking trails that we suggest:

Oh-Be-Joyful Trail to Blue Lake

East Maroon Pass

Scarp Ridge

Oh-Be-Joyful and East Maroon Pass are both 10+ mile trails, which is why we consider them “difficult”. Scarp Ridge is short, but steep.

If you’re on the fence about completing a difficult hike in Crested Butte, I would choose Scarp Ridge. As long as you’re in shape and you take your time climbing this mountain, you’ll be just fine.


Tips For Hiking In Crested Butte

1. Pack plenty of water

In summer months, the temperatures can rise well above 90°. It’s always best to pack more water than you think is necessary for every hiking trail you embark upon.

2. Fall is best

If you’re deciding on the perfect time to plan your trip to Crested Butte, I recommend going in the fall. The colors of the aspen trees are incredibly gorgeous.

Crested Butte Hiking and Camping Near Lake Irwin

3. Be aware of bikers

Many of the hiking trails in Crested Butte can be accessed on foot or by bike. Always take caution around corners and move off trail when necessary.

4. The wildflowers are glorious

If you decide against visiting Crested Butte in the fall, the next best time to visit is in early summer. You’ll encounter an abundance of wildflowers that will WOW you.


The Wrap-Up: Crested Butte Hiking

Crested Butte is a hidden gem among Colorado ski towns. If you’re looking for a unique and less-populated area for your next vacation, I highly suggest Crested Butte.

Use the 8 Crested Butte hiking trails listed above to fill your itinerary with the most beautiful views.


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