Hiking From Aspen To Crested Butte
Even though I am from Arkansas, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado have been my second home since before I could walk. I have camped, fished, hiked, skied, whined, cried, laughed, fallen in love, had my heart broken, sung till I lost my voice, talked all night, slept under the stars and dreamed big in the Rockies. I grew up going to Colorado with my family every spring for skiing and every summer for hiking. I am trying to instill the same love for this place in my children, following in the footsteps of my daddy, who has climbed every fourteen thousand foot mountain in the state.
While our kids were little we took a camper to Colorado in the summer, but this year we decided they were all finally old enough to carry a backpack and camp along the trail. The older kids have done this for a week at a time each with my husband, and I spent lots of nights on the trail in my younger years, but this would be our first time to go as a whole family. To make the journey more fun, we went with another family who were even greener than us in backpacking in the mountains. We planned a fairly easy four day hike for our first adventure in family overnight trail walking, a fifteen mile walk from Aspen to Crested Butte, two of my favorite towns in Colorado. The mileage was low, but the elevation gain was steep (3000 miles), so we would need to pace ourselves, starting early each day and stopping for lunch on the way.
We got a late start on our first day leaving from Aspen so we did not get very far in on our first day. After driving all night long from Arkansas, we were also slowly adjusting to the altitude. We set up camp by a creek just a few miles into the backcountry. The ten of us were carrying two tents and a tarp for sleeping. Most of us slept under the tarp, which protected us from the rain, but we could still see the stars. The Colorado night skies are spectacular on a cloudless night.
The next two days we consistently gained elevation while marching up the mountain, through some of the most beautiful wildflower fields in the world. We had to make a few river crossings in the freezing cold water, but the views made up for the discomfort of frozen toes.
As we hiked, I watched my children run through Aspen groves and over boulder fields. They are so at home out in the wild that sometimes I wonder why we ever go back to civilization. Seeing our family enjoy the outdoors always makes me so grateful that we make the effort to get to Colorado every year. Even when they get tired or whine on the trail that it is too hard, they are always glad in the end that we came back for more of the mountains.
On our third day out, we made it over the pass and descended into a gorgeous mountain valley. Soon after we got set up for the night, we were hit with some of the worst hail I’ve ever experienced in the mountains. We huddled together under a tarp for hours while the storms came and went. Finally around sunset, the sky cleared and we could see the stars again. We ate the rest of the food we had been carrying since it was our last night in the mountains. I was a little bit sad for our hiking adventure to be coming to a close, but we had made a lot of great memories and even withstood some crazy weather.
The next day we had an easy four miles to make it to Gothic, Colorado where a free shuttle runs twice a day in the summer season to Crested Butte. It was all downhill on our last day, so everyone was in happy spirits. The sun was shining the whole way down and we only had to cross a few rivers. We were so proud of our kids when we all reached the bottom for all the hiking they had done and carrying their own packs full of sleeping bags, tents and food. We were all ready for a meal in a restaurant and a night in a bed, but we could not wait to start planning our next adventure in the mountains as a family!