Posted: Oct 15, 2013 by Sam Szarka
One of my all-time favorite places to visit in the fall months of September and early October is the area to the west of Crested Butte, namely Kebler Pass. The area immediately below Kebler Pass is blessed with a spectacularly dense aspen forest occasionally mixed with dark spruce stands that are especially common at the higher elevations.
In the years I have visited the Kebler Pass area it has never disappointed me. This year (2013) the aspen foliage turned color slightly later than average in early October. Usually the colors peak on the last weekend of September. This year, an early snowfall added a white backdrop to the fall color display making for striking photography opportunities. I took advantage of this and shot away happily.
Getting to Kebler Pass
The drive from Kebler Pass is only 7.2 miles from the downtown center of Crested Butte. From Whiterock Avenue in Crested Butte, head west out of town onto Cnty Rd 12. Signs mark the way to Kebler Pass. The road climbs out of Crested Butte gently toward the pass. At the pass, a right turn off onto Road 826 leads to scenic Lake Irwin. Stay left on the main road to remain on Cnty Rd 12. A road just several feet from the Lake Irwin turn-off splits off to the left toward Ohio Pass, another scenic destination. From there, continue another 4 miles on Cnty Rd 12 as it begins to descend through a stand of conifers. This is where the fun begins. Views of 12,432 ft. East Beckwith Mountain as well as the peaks of the Ruby Range appear through the trees to the west and to the north.
At 11.4 miles, the Horse Ranch Park/Dark Canyon Trail turn-off will appear on the right-hand side. I highly recommend this trail if you have the time for a day hike. The Dark Canyon Trail (#830) gives access to several trails: Oh-be-Joyful Pass, Dark Canyon Trail, and the Dyke Trail #838 that leads to Irwin Lake. Any of these trails will offer excellent views of aspens and the surrounding valley.
Continue further on Cnty Rd 12 if you wish. The road eventually descends through miles of aspen forest into the tiny town of Paonia, Colorado.