We spent the morning sleeping in and eating a good breakfast before packing all of our stuff in the car and heading off on our last fun day in Crested Butte. We had initially planned on hiking Snodgrass Mountain just north of the ski areas, but as we were driving along Gothic road, we saw a sign that said it was closed. We decided to just drive for a bit to see what was more north along the road. The views were great but eventually we turned around to see if we could access Snodgrass Mountain from the western side of the mountain. We didn't have much luck on that side but enjoyed exploring the views from Washington Gulch Rd. We probably spent an hour in the car just enjoying the different areas of Crested Butte. Then we headed back into town and decided to hike the Upper Loop Trail system right on the mountainside of Mt. Crested Butte. We headed on the main trail for a little over a mile and then decided to stop along a pleasant part of the trail, hidden in the aspens, and eat our lunch. We saw a couple of different mountain bikers on this part of our hike. I would definitely like to come back and ride my mountain bike here. After turning around and heading back on the trail, we made it back to the intersection of Upper Loop Trail and Happy Hour Trail. We decided to head up on the Happy Hour Trail to see what the views would be in that direction. I am so glad we decided to do this trail because after hiking several switchbacks, we eventually popped out of the aspens and when we turned around further along the trail we could see how far and deep and wide the aspens stood. We didn't stay on the open trail that long since it was getting a little too hot outside, but we made it far enough along the trail to be happy about adventuring that far. By this point, everyone was ready to turn around and head back to the car. Emma did a great job being Madeline's buddy on this hike and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to their conversations as we headed back down the trail. We really got lucky this weekend with the amazing fall colors that we saw. I had always heard that Crested Butte was amazing in the fall and now I know exactly why people claim Crested Butte as one of the best places to visit to see the fall colors! We will definitely be coming back here for another fall adventure!
We woke up to a beautiful crisp morning in Crested Butte and got all ready to do some hiking and enjoy the beautiful fall leaves. We ventured out of the town of Crested Butte on Rt. 12 towards Kebler Pass. On the way towards Kebler Pass Mike decided to venture off on S. Plains Gulch Rd (12F) towards the West Elk Wilderness. At first the road was nothing special and we were amongst a million pine trees. There really wasn't a whole lot of aspen trees or any colorful trees for that matter. It was at the point where we thought maybe we should turn around and then we popped out at the top of this amazing view of aspen trees. We continued on the road as it wound down towards the West Elk Wilderness. Just the drive alone was worth the detour and we took full advantage of the beauty of it all. All the windows were rolled down and I was standing in the front with my head up out of the sunroof so I could take photos while Mike drove really slowly. I'm sure people thought we were crazy. We made it to the trailhead for the Beaver Pond hike and were lucky enough to grab the last parking spot. This was a short hike, maybe 2 miles total, but it was the most beautiful fall hike ever. There were just so many aspens it was unreal and although the leaves had already started to fall off the trees, there was still plenty of yellow left on the trees. Every time a little breeze would blow through the trail it would rain down yellow aspen leaves. Between that and the sun shining through the trees, it was pretty magical. When we finally made it out of the single track trail to Beaver Pond, the views were equally impressive. We walked around the lake and enjoyed the mountainside view of the colors as well as the impressive beaver dams. As we made our way back, the kids had fun running on dead logs, having duels with big broken branches, and for a few minutes we even sat quietly just listening to the sound of the aspen leaves rustling in the wind. It truly was the perfect way to start our fall day in Crested Butte.
After leaving the West Elk Wilderness we headed back on Rt. 12 towards Kebler Pass. It was no surprise when we got to the most prominent part of Kebler Pass because there were more people and the aspens seemed to go on forever. It was quite a sight to behold as this area hosts one of the world's largest aspen groves in the world, with the biggest being Utah's Pando grove. After taking in the views mostly by car, and a quick stop for me to take an epic panorama of this area, we continued on Rt. 12 towards Lost Lake Campground. We parked the car near some picnic tables, ate our lunch, and then headed on the Three Lakes Trail. This trail was a 3.5-mile loop, passing three different lakes, plenty of aspens, and some amazing views. We made sure to spend time at the lakes skipping rocks and just enjoying the beautiful day. After viewing the last lake (Dollar Lake) and making our way back to the trail to make the loop back to the campground, we noticed a small trail that veered off from the main trail. It looked promising for some good views and so we followed it. What we saw was remarkable. We saw the entire main range of Kebler Pass that we had been to earlier that day. Since we were the only ones at this little overlook it was quiet and so we sat down for a few minutes and enjoyed the stillness. Although I took a ton of photos on our hike, nothing quite does justice to seeing the fall colors in person.
Our first adventure on our mountain getaway was going for a hike on the Willis Gulch Trail right next to Twin Lakes. The trail was only a 10 min drive from the cabin. The weather was pretty great and although we started out with coats, we quickly shed those as we warmed up on the beginning of our hike. The most amazing thing about this hike were the views of all the aspen trees and their brightly colored leaves. It was like walking in a wonderland of yellow and orange. We hiked along the Willis Gulch Cutoff trail until for about a mile until it ran right into the main part of the Big Willis Gulch Trail. Madeline walked a good portion of this trail and had the best time in her new hiking shoes. She was quite the chatterbox while she was hiking. It really was quite impressive that she could hold a steady pace while hiking uphill. Along the trail we had great views of the Twin Lakes, a sweet waterfall, and yellow line pathways full of fall aspen leaves. As we neared the junction where our trail met up with the main trail, we had a few options. We could have kept on hiking upward towards Willis Lake, but it was another couple of miles and we thought it was better to keep today’s hike shorter since we planned on doing a bigger hike the next day. That turned out to be the wise choice. We cut down on the main Willis Gulch trail back down the mountain to make one big loop. We found a few good spots to stop and eat lunch but every time we sat down to eat our lunch, a few bees quickly smelled our sweet sandwiches and swarmed us. To say that Madeline is scared of bees, flies and pretty much anything that buzzes is an understatement. She literally freaked out, so we packed up our lunch and ate it on the move. The last beautiful section was 100 yards long of the most beautiful yellow wooded area. It was magical. We could have spent all day playing there.
After getting back to our car we headed up County Road 24 towards Mt. Elbert and found a place to park the van. Then we all piled into Mike’s car to do some off-roading to see more beautiful fall leaves. Abby opted to sit in the trunk so that Madeline could have her own seat in the middle row. We adventured on Colorado Trail Segment 11 and had the best time. We stopped every once in a while to take photos of the trees but then quickly got back in the truck for some more bumpy fun. We made it all the way up to some cool lakes and decided to get out and enjoy the view before heading back down the trail to where the van was parked. We piled into both cars and headed to Leadville to grab some ice-cream and see the cute little town. Everyone fell asleep on the way to Leadville, but the talk of ice-cream quickly woke everyone up. Madeline enjoyed her baby cone. It was jus the right size for a three year old. We ate our ice-cream and then headed onto Country Rd 105 towards Turquoise Lake Rd. We found another good spot for the van and piled once again into Mike’s car to do some more off-roading to Hagerman’s Pass where the Continental Divide is. This ride was much bumpier and definitely only a road for 4-wheel drive. There were a few scary sections where we were somewhat angled against the side of the mountain to get around some deeper ruts, but Mike navigated his way along the road nicely. He didn’t even have to use all the off-road features on his car. It was fairly windy at the top of Hagerman’s Pass. We got out for a quick photo. Luckily there was a truck right behind us that stopped at the same time to take photos at the sign. The look on their faces as we all piled out of the car was priceless. I imagine it was similar to watching a million clowns pile out of a car. I don’t think they expected 4 kids to get out of the car. After a quick pit stop, we headed back down the same way we came all the way to the van. We split ourselves between the two cars and drove into the town of Leadville to order pizza from a local pizza restaurant. Mike ordered it to go and we all enjoyed a yummy dinner back at the cabin. Then it was movie night and making cinnamon rolls for conference weekend.