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Base Camp

Words are powerful and stories can be moving. Base Camp is an outlet for like-minded outdoor enthusiasts to feature their past travels, lessons learned, weekend wins, gear reviews, photography tips, and recipes to fuel exploration.

Out and Back: Horse Ranch Park (Crested Butte, CO)

ATW

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We spent this past weekend exploring different areas of the Gunnison National Forest and felt compelled to write a post sharing our pictures while hiking the Horse Ranch Park Loop. With dense aspen groves and expansive views of Kebler Pass, we’ve dubbed this trail the crown jewel. There are few better places to experience fall than here.

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The trailhead sits about 30 minutes outside of the town of Crested Butte. To get there, follow the Kebler Pass road for approximately 12 miles and turn right at the sign for Horse Ranch Park. We arrived around 9am on a Saturday and plenty of parking spots were still available. The perks of driving a little further from Denver!

The loop starts out with a short .1 mile gradual uphill hike to a 3-way split with Dark Canyon Trail going left and the Dyke Trail going right. If you plan to do the whole loop, either way will work fine. We chose to go left and up towards Ruby Peak.

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The first half mile provides great views and photo opportunities of the West Elk Mountain Range down towards Kebler Pass road. The trail gradually winds through colorful aspens and opens up to a small meadow before continuing to climb towards the overlook. The thick trees seemingly stretched on for miles, creating a golden corridor to walk through.

At about the two mile mark you will see several large viewpoint openings on your left. Look for the lightly trafficked trail that leads toward rocky stairs. Climb the rock face to the top and enjoy the 50 mile unobstructed mountain views. We could have spent the whole day here marveling at the sea of fall colors.

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To complete the 6 mile loop, continue to hike towards the next junction and take rights at the Oh Be Joyful Pass trail, Lake Irwin Trail, and Dyke Trail. Remember, if you’re doing this hike starting from the Dyke Trail, take all lefts. If you want to make your way back to the parking lot, turn around and head down the same trail you came up - about 4.2 miles in total. The peak leaf season may be winding down, but bookmark this hike for next year!