Drive about 1 hour and 17 minutes from Aspen to the tiny town of Marble, just outside of Carbondale. From Marble, either hike or drive Crystal City Road #314, the 4×4 road up to one of Colorado’s most photographed sites, Crystal Mill. Just past the historic powerhouse is the ghost town of Crystal City, although many of the buildings are rented by visitors during the summer.
It’s one of the most photographed places in Colorado. The Crystal Mill, six miles east of the Town of Marble, has been recognized by its historic value both statewide and nationally.
But in comparison, what has received relatively little attention is a collection of 22 buildings nearby — a ghosttown of what was once a thriving community.
As Colorado’s population continues to explode, the “hidden gems” of our great state seem to be few and far between. For those who are adventurous enough to look past the now well-developed mountain towns, there is still some magic to be found. One such treasure is the ghost town of Crystal.
Located in Gunnison County’s Elk Mountain range, roughly twenty miles northwest of Crested Butte, Crystal was once a burgeoning mining town in the late 1800s and early 1900s. With an elevation of 8,950 feet, the rugged terrain and harsh winters posed many challenges for the townspeople.
It’s only a moment that Colorado’s landscape really shows off, typically from the middle of September to mid-October. The aspen leaves will soon turn gold, and now is the time to plot your course.
Whether you prefer to venture by foot or on the wheels of a bike or vehicle, and whether you prefer to stay close to the Pikes Peak region or go far, we offer this guide.
Some new things have been happening in Crystal City — but they’re rooted in old things.
Emmett Gould saw the value of the remote mining town and the picturesque “mill” nearby more than a century ago and set about consolidating the claims.
MARBLE — This small, remote outpost of Gunnison County near the headwaters of the Crystal River has long been left to its own devices.
Marble, a sleepy hamlet, is home to roughly 130 people, many of them retirees and other people who moved here for the peace and quiet. There is no cell service, Wi-Fi is available at just two locations and only one street is paved. The tourism association’s motto is “Colorado like it used to be” — and that’s how most people in Marble like it.
Discover the magic of Colorado at these four spots ripped from a fairy tale.
We already knew this, but just in case you needed a reminder, Colorado is a truly magical place. Not only is it full of beautiful and scenic places like the Paint Mines Interpretative Park, but it’s also home to several castles, hidden elves, and so much more. There’s no denying that the following four spots in Colorado are truly magical.
One of the most photographed places in all of Colorado, the Crystal Mill does not disappoint. But getting there is half the shot.
Whether you’re a professional photographer or budding Instagram superstar, it’s well worth the trip to visit this faraway, amazing, abandoned site.
The town of Crystal, near tiny Marble, Colo., was founded on the precious metal ores that littered tributary confluences in the valley. Its remote location, combined with the great difficulty of moving silver ore through a rocky, unforgiving valley road, eventually led to Crystal’s demise around the turn of the 20th century.
Let the masses take the shuttles to Aspen’s Maroon Bells, the crown jewel of Colorado autumn.
Look elsewhere this gilded season, taking trails and rugged roads where the aspen leaves glow for smaller audiences.
It’s a brief moment when the state’s landscape shows off even more, typically from the middle of this month to the start of the next.
Now is the time to set your course.
Red rock formations. Plunging canyons. Tumultuous rivers. Skyscraping peaks. The Mountain West has a geographical profile that suggests Mother Nature took a little extra time here—which is why experiencing some of her best handiwork is a must. From a long list of contenders, we selected 10 classic landmarks you should make plans to see as soon as possible.
“It’s a paradise,” Rob Anderson says as to why he’s made Crystal his seasonal home since 1977, along with other residents he counts on two hands. (No one stays for winter.)
The surrounding aspens are glowing on this recent weekday, bringing in the post-summer rush: Jeep tours join the four-wheel drives, ATVs, dirt bikers, hikers and mountain bikers. Motors rumble and cameras flash in a place that seemingly should be left to fade away.
Erwin and his wife, Lisa, like to visit the Crested Butte region frequently in the fall because of its scenic beauty. On a recent trip, Erwin photographed the iconic Crystal Mill near the ghost town of Crystal, a few miles east of Marble, with his Canon 5D III camera. “Built in 1893 as the Sheep Mountain Power House, the mill used the river to power an enormous air compressor that ran drills in the nearby Sheep Mountain and Bear Mountain mines,” Erwin tells EnCompass. “Although this 4-wheel-drive road is rough, this site is an iconic representation of Colorado. I was fortunate that even though snow had recently fallen, the trees were still brilliant”. Continue Reading
As the aspen leaves turn from green to gold, Coloradans who haven’t ventured to the Crystal Mill in western part of the state should put it on their to-do list.
After the Maroon Bells, it’s supposedly the second-most photographed site in Colorado: a wooden structure straddling a rock and seemingly on the verge of collapse after 125 years. It’s a classic scene of the state’s rugged mining history, best viewed when the magical woods surrounding it shine, perfecting the image combined with the impossibly blue and clear river running beneath.
After traveling tens of thousands of miles around Colorado, it’s safe to say I’ve visited some really interesting places. It’s also safe to say I’ve ended up in some rather unsafe places also!
Mind you, once you reach the ghost town of Crystal, you’re rewarded with beautiful scenery. However, getting there can be tricky and at some points dangerous. Continue Reading
As usual, my wife insists that it’s all my fault.
Some 20-odd autumns ago, Aspen’s three ritziest hotels, the Little Nell, Hotel Jerome and what was then the Ritz-Carlton (now the St. Regis), offered fall rooms at plummeting prices. Continue Reading
“I’d rather walk.” At least, that’s what I always think when I watch a four-wheeler crawling, herky-jerky, over a rough road.
One of my favorite area hikes up a Jeep road is Forest Road 314 out of Marble (that tiny burg in the upper Crystal River Valley, south of Carbondale) to the old Crystal Mill. Continue Reading
When it’s high season in Aspen, the arts and culture calendars swell and cosmopolitan crowds come to town in droves. But that relaxing holiday in the high country that visitors like to think they’re on? It can be a challenge to truly unplug.
From catching your friend taking calls on Smuggler Mountain to dealing with Snapchat-obsessed teens during dinner, the only way to escape your phones might be heading out of range to where those smartphones are mere cameras. Continue Reading
This old wooden powerhouse on the Crystal River in Marble, Colorado seems like it’s right out of a fairytale. Resurrected in 1892, this old mill was used as a water turbine (originally it had a waterwheel) to generate compressed air used to power machinery or tools for the silver mines. Continue Reading
When I told photo editor and hiking guru Chelsea Self that I was going to do the hike to Crystal Mill, her response scared me. “I nearly died on that trail,” she said.
It is eight miles to 10 miles (depending where you park) roundtrip of steep uphill, downhill, then uphill again. But it’s absolutely beautiful. Continue Reading
THE CRYSTAL MILL, reputed to be one of the most photographed sites in Colorado, is historically known as the Sheep Mountain Power House or Lost Horse Mill. Built in 1893, the mill harnessed the power of the Crystal River to run its massive air compressor which, in turn, drove power to drills in the Sheep Mountain and Bear Mountain silver mines. Continue Reading
The rustic old structure, the perfectly placed river, the jagged rocks, the waterfall, the bend in the river, the aspens and the mountains. The Old Mill is certainly one of the most beautiful, most picturesque spots in Colorado. Continue Reading
Red rock formations. Plunging canyons. Tumultuous rivers. Skyscraping peaks. The Mountain West has a geographical profile that suggests Mother Nature took a little extra time here—which is why experiencing some of her best handiwork is a must. From a long list of contenders, we selected 10 classic landmarks you should make plans to see as soon as possible. Continue Reading
The former mining camp looks like the ghost town it was labeled early last century. The remote meadow under these mountains in western Colorado grows tall grass that chokes the withered wood of the cabins, some of which with their cracked tin roofs appear abandoned. Continue Reading
Although difficult to reach, Crystal is a gem of a ghost town, with many buildings still standing and mining remnants scattered around. It’s hidden away on a dirt 4×4 road, 6 miles east of Marble in Gunnison County.
Crystal is home to one of the most sought after photographs for history buffs and explorers alike, the old Crystal Mill. This wooden powerhouse was built in 1893 as the Sheep Mountain powerhouse, on an outcrop of the Crystal River. Continue Reading
Built in 1892, the Crystal Mill is a log-and-frame structure atop a rocky outcrop along the Crystal River in northwest Gunnison County. At the time of its construction, the “mill” served as a powerhouse for local silver mines, allowing both the mines and the town of Crystal to stay afloat despite the crash in silver prices during the Panic of 1893.
The mill shut down with the mines in 1917. Treasure Mountain Ranch Inc. acquired the property in 1954, and in 1985 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. On account of its scenic setting, the Crystal Mill remains one of the most photographed historic structures in the state. Continue Reading
You have seen the jaw-dropping pictures and have maybe even hiked to it yourself, but do you know the story behind one of the most easy-to-recognize and most photographed spots in Colorado? If you are like me, you do not, which is why I am excited to share what I learned about the history of the iconic Crystal Mill! Continue Reading
Colorado offers a wide variety of outdoor adventures from hiking, world-class cycling, camping, fishing and so much more. Crystal Mill is one of those places, offering visitors brave enough to make the journey stunning views of the upper Crystal River, hiking, fly fishing and a chance to see how residents of the past lived and worked in the now ghost town of Crystal. Continue Reading
The Crystal Mill, part of the National Register of Historic Places, is an 1892 wooden powerhouse located on an outcrop above the Crystal River in Crystal, Colorado.
The Crystal Mill is located 6 miles east of Marble, just before the ghost town of Crystal. It is reachable only in the summer and fall months by a rough, one-lane, 4-wheel-drive road. Continue Reading
Less frequented than its neighboring mountain towns (i.e. Aspen or Snow Mass) – when you’re in Marble, Colorado you feel like you are a million miles from the rest of the world. The ultimate freedom.
Maybe it’s the lack of cell phone service, maybe it’s the personalities of the locals, but be ready to unplug, breathe deep, and let it all go.
As of the 2010 census, Marble had a population of 131. It is a quintessential small mountain town. Continue Reading