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. Forget some gear or need some local knowledge? Head into Chopwood Mercantile on Elk Ave for mountain apparel, and a quick chat with the owners!

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

Click photos to view multi-season gallery


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]. Park on the left side before the Private Property signs [2], next to the unmarked trailhead. Map


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].


This is one of the best hikes for wildflowers during peak season. Bearing right at the first and third junctions on the approach take you toward Gunsight Pass and Mt. Emmons (Red Lady) on the other end of the ridge.

Click photos to view multi-season gallery

Trail Map & Profile

More Hiking Guides:

 Head back to the Hiking Guide for more hikes like this
 Don’t forget your Mountain Manners!
 Looking for wildflowers on your hike? Check out our Wildflower Guide!

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