Crested Butte Hikes: Crystal Mill

In Hiking guide, Trailby Eric Phillips

The Crystal Mill is a long drive, but a short hike. While traditionally accessed through Marble this hidden gem, deep in the Elk Mountains can be accessed from Crested Butte as well! Follow the South Fork Crystal River to the historic mining town of Crystal. The iconic Crystal Mill is a popular spot for photography and you’ll also pass the Devil’s Punchbowl along the way.

Need a place to stay? The Nordic Inn has it all with free parking, an outdoor hot tub, and friendly staff. 

 Devil's PunchbowlCrystal Mill
Highlights:Waterfalls, Mountain VistasWaterfalls, Crystal Mill, Ghost Town
Difficulty:EasyModerate
RT Length:2 miles7 miles
Approx. Time:1 hour3-4 hours
Trailhead Elevation:10,264 feet10,264 feet
Lowest Point :9,624 feet8,899 feet
Elevation Gain:640 feet1,365 feet
Travel Time to TH:1 hour1 hour

Directions


Route

SUV recommended: From the Town of Crested Butte, take Gothic Road (Route 135) north a total of 15.6 miles. You’ll pass the ski resort and drive over into the Gothic valley, past the old mining town of Gothic. Take the dirt road up in elevation as it turns a bit rough closer to Emerald lake and over Schofield Pass [1]. Keep driving past the West Maroon Trailhead through an open meadow [2] until you get to a parking area near the South Fork Crystal River. Map

  WARNING:  We do not recommend driving on the road further than the parking area (many have actually died doing so).

This easy trail is basically an extremely rough and dangerous 4-Wheeling road. It starts from the parking area and quickly passes the first waterfall of your trip [3].  Cross over and  follow along side the South Fork Crystal River [4] for about a mile. The road [5] descends the whole way with some exposure [6] and cliffs. It is only 1 mile to the Devil’s Punchbowl [7] [8]. Cross the South Fork Crystal River [9] and continue an additional 2 miles along the road until a junction with Lead King basin. Stay left and continue .4 of a mile to townsite of Crystal. An additional .18 of a mile will bring you to the historic Crystal Mill [10].  For $10 the Crystal Mountain Ranch you can sign a waiver and experience the mill from the waters edge. 

  WARNING: There is risk of injury or death by jumping into the punchbowl. The drop is dangerous and the water is cold.


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Gothic Road can see a lot of traffic. We recommend checking it out during 'off-hours'.

An alternate driving route to Schofield Pass takes either Slate River Road (734) or Washington Gulch Road (811) up and over Paradise Divide and down into Paradise Basin. These routes are a bit rougher and require an SUV for more exposed roads.

Click photos to view multi-season gallery


Trail Map & Profile




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Enjoying this trail? Help support the people who maintain it. Donate to the Crested Butte Conservation Corps

Featured Lodging

Nordic Inn

  • Pet Friendly
  • Free Parking
  • Outdoor Hot Tub

14 Treasury Road, Mt. CB • (970) 349-5542Map

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The Nordic Inn at Mt. Crested Butte is the perfect base camp for any hike. Whatever experience or time frame you’re working with, they can help assist in planning your adventure. Enjoy comfortable accommodations including breakfast, outdoor hot tub, and friendly staff.