CO Hike Series: Oh Be Joyful!

Lovely hike through Crested Butte’s wildflower-rich valley

Summer hiking is my absolute favorite. This season has been challenging. The trails are crowded. Coloradans are out enjoying our home state since there has been a significant halt on travel. I’m all for getting outside and exploring everything this state has to offer; but, man, the crowds are frustrating!

My solution has been to escape to lesser-known gems and small mountain towns, like Crested Butte. I most often visit CB in the “shoulder seasons”– the spring and fall outside of peak tourism months. The spring is still *quite* chilly, and many trails are under snow. But the Fall…..

The fall is magical. I love the cooler mornings and warm sunny mid-day. The leaves are beginning to change and the animals are more active.

I found this hike while browsing my All Trails app and considering a quick getaway to Crested Butte. I wanted a little less elevation gain (not in the mood for a big mountain climb), but I was still seeking some high-mountain views. The Oh-Be-Joyful trail took me through a long gradual meadow, ending in a high basin. It was lovely!

The trailhead is about 7 miles from the town of Crested Butte, off CO374 (Slate River Road). The road turns to dirt about a mile from the parking area, but it is accessible by most passenger cars with decent clearance. There was plenty of parking, I arrived just about 9am on a Saturday. Note that the Oh Be Joyful campground is a BLM-managed campground that takes reservations for tent spots and RVs. If I were staying overnight, I would certainly consider staying here!

Plenty of Parking at Oh-Be-Joyful Trailhead

The trail begins across a footbridge over the river. Follow well-marked signs to enter the forest on the south side. The climb is very gradual. You’ll wind through cottonwoods, pines, and aspen groves before opening up to a large meadow.

Foot Bridge across Creek

The majority of the mileage is accrued in this meadow that follows the stream. Expect lots of sunshine! You’ll come to an old cattle fence. By my estimate, this fence is about halfway to the top of the basin.

Taking a breather about halfway up.

As you leave the meadow, you’ll begin to climb a bit higher until you reach treeline. There is a trail split here. Left will take you into _ basin, while continuing straight goes up to Oh-Be-Joyful Pass and . I went left and pushed a bit higher before finding flat ground again as I wound through willows. Even in September, there was snow on the peaks surrounding the basin.

Looking back, I could see Mount Crested Butte and a few of the ski runs of the resort. It took me about 2-2.5 hours to make it up to the basin. I took a quick break and photo op before heading back down.

The walk out really showed me the distance I had gone! This full hike was about 13 miles roundtrip. However, if you’re not feeling the full effort the out-and-back makes it simple to modify. Simply walk how far you want, then turn around. You’ll still be rewarded with magnificent views!

There are free-ranging cattle in the area, so don’t be startled when you walk up on one of these in the wilderness.

Post-Hike I set up my hammock by the creek and enjoyed a nap in the shade. I later made my way into the town of Crested Butte where it was busy with tourists! I had some amazing tacos at BONEZ. *Highly recommend*

My roundtrip hike distance was around 12 miles and time was about 4 hours; a decent effort for a fall jaunt.

The high basin at the end of the hike

Have you been to Crested Butte? Tell me your favorite hiking spots and mountain town restaurants!


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