Crested Butte Trails: Scarp Ridge Middle Loop

In Hiking guide by Josh Futterman

This fantastic approach to Scarp Ridge offers an extremely rewarding hiking experience. Wildflower covered hillsides in the summer combine with awe-inspiring mountain vistas in every direction. A good portion of the trail follows the ridge line for spectacular views of Oh Be Joyful Valley and Peeler Basin. 

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Highlights:Mountain Panoramas, Wildflowers
Difficulty:Moderate to Strenuous
Length:4.6 miles
Approx. Time:2.5 hours
Elevation Gain:1,576 feet
Max Elevation:12,216 feet
Trailhead Elevation:10,712 feet
Travel Time to TH:35 minutes


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Directions

From the Town of Crested Butte: Take Whiterock Ave. west through town as it turns into Kebler Pass Road. Follow the road 6.1 miles to the Lake Irwin campground turnoff onto dirt. Follow this dirt road another 2.5 miles to the campground and past the lake. Continue for another .4 miles and bear right at the fork. Bear right at the solar paneled shed near mile 3.2. Follow this road for another mile as it descends and then ascends steeply toward the Lake Irwin Lodge. Enjoy spectacular views of the lake and nearby Anthracite Mountains [1]. The original parking area is now inaccessible, park on the right side of the road heading up to the lodge before the no parking signs. [2], Follow the road on foot up to a small turnaround area, the trailhead will  be on the left.  Map


Route

This follows a counter-clockwise loop for a more forgiving approach to the ridge. From the start of the trail, wildflowers flourish all over the hillsides. At the first junction near the start, bear left [3]. The trail gets steep right away as it climbs up the hill. The next junction arrives as the terrain levels out a bit. Take the trail to the right of the large cairn (we recently improved it) [5] and continue across the rock slab in a more easterly direction. If you miss this junction or go left, you will be heading westerly.

The trail continues to climb through wildflower meadows [7] toward the ridgeline.  Don’t forget to look back for outstanding views of Lake Irwin and the Anthracite Range behind you [8A]. Go left at the next junction (northwest) as you get closer to the ridge and approach more stunted trees. The ridge top is another .3 miles, where the views really open up.

Follow the trail along the ridgeline [10] as it fades in and out. You will cross the unmarked and more defined main trail from the lodge (return route), but continue ahead to the summit of Scarp Ridge. There is a wooden post marker at the summit [11]. Stop and take in the scenery: Mt. Owen and Ruby Peak to the left [12], Blue Lake below Afley Purple peak ahead [13], Oh Be Joyful Basin below to the right.

Turn around and head back down the trail. Take the main route downhill to the right [14]. Enjoy the superb views all the way back down the steep hill to the lodge [15].

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Please don’t pick, cut, or walk on wildflowers or other plants. Removing wildflowers from the wild can adversely affect pollinators and other animals that depend on that species for food and cover and affect the flowers long-term survival in that location.

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For longer hikes its a good idea to carry a few extra things in your pack. Make sure to bring extra food and water, rain gear, a map or gps, sun protection, and a flashlight in case your hike goes late. More information on what to pack can be found here.

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Weather in the mountains can change very fast. During the summer months it is common to have thunderstorms developing during the afternoon in the high country. Check the weather forecast before you go. Keep your eyes on the clouds and know when to turn back.


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.

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