Colorado Fall is colorful, this area is exceptional.

Crystal Mill and the town of Crystal are the main attraction but hiking the 9 miles there and back is packed with pristine views along the Crystal River, passing colorful Lizard Lake and the fantastic White River National Forest mountains surrounding you. You can go by 4×4, horse, or bike, but hiking is magical and much more rewarding.

Hiking to Crystal Mill is now one of my favorite trails. A jeep trail but so worth doing on foot. It’s early October and the ATVs & Jeeps have disappeared and the road is ours today. It’s super early, the sun is just coming up and the colors, and the views are sensational.

We’ve gone up the jeep trail about .06 miles and parked in a sorta pullover. (top of the hill) The road gets bumpier ahead. Having a 4×4 is highly recommended after this point.

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Rounding a few bends is Lizard Lake. Indeed, a lake you sit and enjoy for a long time. Maybe on the way back? It’s charming, so pretty.

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Still on our own mostly, few other hikers about. The sun is up, the views have us turning our heads in every direction. Cyrstal River at times far below us from the ledge.

NOTE: We came in October to avoid the jeeps, ATVs, and motorcycles that are crawling all over this area. Now a popular Colorado destination you have to decide when you want to be here. I imagine it gets quite dusty and noisy!

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Occasionally you are walking alongside Crystal River. I’ve been here before, and how clear the water is always shocking — one of Colorado’s most spectacular rivers.

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Intense fall colors shimmering in the sunshine under a canopy of gold lead the way.

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Suddenly we are here! I was so enthralled with the hike that it was a surprise around a bend. It is so picturesque and one of Colorado’s most sought-after photographed areas.

The > Crystal Mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. There is a $10 fee per person to view the Mill from the water down below. However, you can view it from a roped-off section of the road.

Crystal City Ghost Town

After all the ous and ahs at Crystal Mill, we hiked another 1/4 mile to the town of Crystal. The best description is dreamy, like being back in time and total disconnect from life. Lots of buildings remain and are in use.

The mill building will still be visible from the road, but the trail that visitors use is now closed. A rope blocks the area. Several “No Trespassing” signs warn people away from the riverbank because of the increasing loss of a > Leave No Trace ethic among too many backcountry adventurers.

Sadly, the General Store is now closed due to repeated vandalism in the area.

There is more hiking beyond Crystal that takes you to Crested Butte, 22 miles away. Or keep going from Crystal and access Lead King Basin, hike up to Schofield Pass, catch a trail to Geneva Lake, or loop back to Marble on FR 315.

Hiking past Lizard Lake again on our way back to the car, the sun now high up was startling; the colors were so vivid. Pinks, yellows, oranges, lime green, and dark green are all reflected on the water’s edge.

LOCATED: 7 miles from Marble, CO. From Carbondale, CO, travel 28 miles on CO133 to the town of Marble. When in Marble, stay on the paved road through town to where the pavement ends. You will see a red house on your left. Park here and start hiking up the dirt road. (Crystal City Road #314). Or drive .06 miles farther up the dirt road to the top of the hill and park in a small lot. High clearance is recommended. 

TIDBITS:

9 miles out and back

Rated: Easy/moderate

Open: only in summer and fall months

High 4×4 off-road traffic

Family-friendly

Rough, rocky & muddy

Bring water & snacks!

Dogs ok on leash

Restrooms: Portable Potties are available at Beaver Lake State Wildlife Area before reaching the town of Marble.

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HIKES NEARBY

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