The Crystal Mill is one of the most photographed structures in Colorado, and has been on our go-see-do list for over a decade now.
It’s not convenient to get to, a 4×4 road up from Marble, which itself is in the middle of nowhere.
When I saw that there was a hike that we could get to from our boondocking spot in the Washington Gulch area of Crested Butte, I knew that we had to do it.
The drive up to the start of the hike is no joke by itself, a rough, rutted, rocky road up over the Schofield Pass. Easy enough for a 4×4, slow going for a midsize German SUV…
We normally like to do our hikes uphill first – get all of the quad-burning ascent over with and then cruise downhill.
No such luck here – it’s downhill the entire way. I clocked 2,323 feet down, 2,323 feet back up on my altimeter. It’s not the 6.7 miles that gets ya.
The Devil’s Punch Bowl is, well, a bowl – waterfall at the top pouring water in, and a waterfall at the bottom as the water pours out. We’re jaded by seeing too many amazing waterfalls and water features and cruised on by with just a photo or two as it’s not easily accessible for swimming or lounging.
The trail is a very technical 4×4 "road" that was a wagon road in the past, and is now one of the deadliest passes in Colorado. When we go to the trailhead there was a tow truck extricating a completely destroyed rental SUV despite the warning signs.
After we passed the Devil’s Punch Bowl, we spotted two very modified Jeeps coming down the trail behind us and were really surprised that they had cleared a massive rockfall across the trail.
Once they hit a massive snow bridge covering the trail they decided to turn around – definitely a smart move on their part.
We passed several side-by-side UTVs on their way up as we continued our descent, and they all went up to the snow bridge and turned around also.
Can You Spot the Jeeps?
The town of Crystal and the Crystal Mill are pretty cool to see, people actually live in the old ghost town and a historical association controls access to the Crystal Mill for a $10/person fee.
You can still get pretty cool shots of the mills from two separate vantage points, just not the literal "money shot" down by the water.
The slog back up the road was surprisingly easy as our legs are accustomed to the mountains, and we even got a small storm to give us a nice cooling breeze and some raindrops on the way up.
Someday we’ll return by Jeep up the road from Marble with more camera gear and a tripod, and then I’ll pay the fee and get the proper shot.