Mount Emmons sits very prominently outside Crested Butte, and was one of my two must-do hikes while we’re here.
The other hike is Gothic Mountain which we look up at every morning from our boondocking spot in Washington Gulch, but the road to the trailhead is so rough that I decided it’s not worth the risk to the car.
There are two routes up to the 12,401 foot Mount Emmons summit, a 15 mile roundtrip via Gunsight Pass or 8.5 via Scarp Ridge.
The Gunsight Pass route follows an old mining road and switchbacks up the face of the mountain while the Scarp Ridge route starts at the scenic Lake Irwin and follows the Scarp Ridge for 360 views the entire time. Scarp Ridge it is.
The road up to the trailhead at the Lake Irwin Lodge is no picnic itself, but easy enough if you take your time.
Lake Irwin is a unique area in that a phenomenon called orographic lift creates perfect conditions for massive amounts of snowall – an average of 600 feet per year. That’s 50 feet of snow. 50 feet.
There is a lodge at the lake that historically has offered Snowcat skiing – a big tracked snowcat takes you up the mountain, you ski down, lather, rinse, repeat.
While the lodge is still there, it sits empty and shuttered as Eleven Skiing now shuttles people from the Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte. You can rent the Lodge starting at a measly $21,400 per night – you really have to be a baller to play in this arena!
The hike up to Scarp Ridge itself is nothing to write home about, other than the beautiful wildflowers EVERYWHERE. We saw several other people going up the trail to the ridge for the view, but once we broke off towards Mount Emmons we only had one other couple who quickly bailed. Nice – views AND solitude. This is where the hike gets really good.
Speaking of views – Colette said "I can’t believe this, I feel like we’re walking in the middle of an IMAX movie". While we haven’t seen any IMAX movies in a while, I concur with that assessment.
The only crappy part of the hike is the descent down to Gunsight Pass and back up – loose Elk Range rock on both side of the pass with a pretty good angle. Once you’re past the pass though, the summit awaits with views over Crested Butte.
We kept the summit time short as there were clouds in all directions, and we got a few sprinkles as we headed back down.
The return route cuts away from the route up, and you end up doing routefinding more based on the GPS track than any discernable trail on the ground. Still, you have amazing views of Lake Irwin in front of you for most of the descent and fields of wildflowers everywhere, so the time goes quickly.
Clocking in at 8.5 miles and around 2,800ft of elevation gain, it’s not a bad way to spend a Friday in the mountains and we can’t recommend this trail highly enough.
This reminds us of the Gryon Switzerland area.
Ridge after Ridge
Over The Hump
Life On The Edge
Mount Emmons Google Earth
Mount Emmons Summit 360
A quick summit 360. The heaviest clouds came over while I was filming this so all of the colors are pretty muted and washed out.