What it's like to take the Jeep tour from the small mountain town of Marble, Colorado, to beautiful Crystal Mill and the semi ghost town of Crystal.
While traveling in Colorado awhile back, we made the split-second decision to camp near Marble, Colorado. We wanted to experience slow travel, and really take our time exploring this beautiful area of Central Colorado.
Part of the experience was to take a Jeep tour from the small mountain town of Marble to the most beautiful place I've ever seen in my life, Crystal Mill, Colorado.
While we've since made the drive to Crystal Mill ourselves in our 4Runner (it's a 4WD road), we previously decided to give the Jeep Tour a try. No stranger to mountain roads (like the road to Mount Evans) and other scenic roads in Colorado, we were excited for the journey ahead.
Crystal River Jeep Tours offers several Jeep tours, including Lead King Basin, Devil's Punchbowl, and Sheep Mountain. We chose to take their Crystal Tour.
HOW TO GET TO CRYSTAL MILL, COLORADO
After purchasing our tour, we piled into Big Red with our driver, Chuck. The boys sat in a rumble seat in the back that allowed them to see from a slightly higher vantage point.
We learned that Chuck spends his summers in Colorado working with the tour company. He was full of stories and knowledge about the area, pointing out landmarks and sights along the way, telling stories of past residents of the area.
One such resident was Captain Helen Jack. Her story was so interesting, we purchased a book written by her when we arrived back home from this particular trip.
We passed by Beaver Lake as we made our way to the road that leads to Crystal. The road then quickly changed from paved to unpaved and eventually led to the Jeep trail.
DRIVING THE CRYSTAL RIVER JEEP TRAIL
The Crystal Mill road is narrow and rocky as it winds along, much of the time beside the Crystal River. It's a very narrow shelf road, built by settlers in the late 1800’s.
We did notice the wreckage of an old truck along the way.
There are small turnouts along the way, ensuring that if two vehicles meet, one can maneuver mostly out of the way and let the other one pass. Most of the time, one will have to back up to find said turnouts.
As we drove along, Chuck pointed out sights like Lizard Lake, natural spring waterfalls flowing down from the mountains, and signs that this was once a thriving mining community.
The Maroon Bells Wilderness is a sight to behold.
I could share pictures of the road and the mountains all day long, but they would not do the beauty of this Colorado backcountry justice.
Chuck told us that normally it's not as green as it was the summer we visited. It was so green, and there were gorgeous, colorful wildflowers everywhere.
MYSTERIOUS AND BEAUTIFUL CRYSTAL MILL
There's nothing quite like rounding the bend to finally see the mysterious Crystal Mill perched on the edge of the Crystal River.
It's a historical landmark and one of the most picturesque, photogenic places I've ever seen in my life.
Crystal Mill once operated as a powerhouse or power plant for mining operations. Its rugged appearance gives it a haunted look… The stories I bet it could tell, if old walls could talk.
The river swirls and flows below the mill, while Rocky Mountain peaks tower behind. I could have stood there forever just drinking it all in.
JUST AROUND THE BEND IS CRYSTAL, COLORADO
At one time, the town of Crystal, just around the bend from Crystal Mill, had 400 residents, most of whom were miners and their families.
Now it's pretty much a ghost town, though there are people who come there to spend their summers.
Roger Neal, an author who has written extensively about the area, spends his summers there, sharing his Crystal Tale Books with visitors who come to Crystal. We bought more than a few of his books while visiting.
He's written books with the history of Crystal and creepy tales of some of its residents. He shared with us that his family spent summers there when he was a child.
There are cabins and small houses still standing and in use in Crystal, some of which are available for short-term rental. You'll also find a general store (Crystal Store) and an outhouse.
The top “snow door” in one house gave us some perspective as to how deep the snow gets in the winter time.
A small stream flowed beside the road, a great way to keep drinks cold since there is no electricity in this mountain town.
And a flag in the center of town whipped back and forth in the wind.
If I had the opportunity to spend a week or more in this quiet mountain town, I totally would.
The road continues on through the town of Crystal and winds its way to Crested Butte via Schofield Pass.
I'm feeling adventurous enough that some day I would love to go back and do the entire loop, even the Devil's Punchbowl, which is considered one of the most dangerous 4WD trails in Colorado.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Before you book one of the Marble, Colorado Jeep tours, be sure to pick the right tour for you. Some tours involve hiking, and some require you to bring a sack lunch.
Also, a few more tips…
- Tours operate from Memorial Day to November 30.
- Bathrooms are few and far between, though there is one at your starting point in Marble and an outhouse in Crystal.
- Roads are quite rocky, meaning lots of bumps and jolts.
- Take your own drinking water, and pack any snacks or food you need for the trek. You may even want to pack a small cooler.
- Jeeps are open, so wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and carry a jacket, even in summer.
- Reservations are recommended, but they do take walk-ins. You'll want to be sure to arrive 15 minutes early, so you can pay and fill out paperwork, including signed waivers.
- If your family doesn't fill up the Jeep (our family of 5 did), they will fill it up with more people you may not know.
- Be sure to take your camera and/or your binoculars!
And finally, two more very important tips…
- The property along the road and even the mill itself is all private property. Do not trespass.
- Also, leave no trace! Pack out what you pack in.
Have you been to Crystal Mill? Have you taken some of the other Jeep tours? Share in the comments!
More Colorado treasures you may enjoy visiting:
- 5 Amazing Reasons to Visit Beautiful Marble, Colorado
- Hidee Gold Mine in Central City, Colorado
- Explore Nederland, Colorado
- Mountain View Chalet in the Colorado Rockies