Directions: From Carbondale and Redstone, follow 133 south past the turnoff for County Road 3 which leads to marble. Just before reaching McClure Pass look to the left for the dirt road which is the Huntsman Ridge Trail. There is enough room for a few cars to park. From the South, take 133 to McClure Pass and start heading down the other side, just passed the summit of the pass, turn left into the dirt road for Huntsman Ridge.
There are few places in Colorado as spectacular as McClure Pass in late September/Early October. The pass is dominated by aspen groves and alpine views. There are not however, a whole lot of hiking options on the pass. Luckily, there is the Huntsman Ridge Trail. This trail is open to ATVs but since it is rocky and steep, it is ideal for hiking.
The trail climbs up the southern flanks of Huntsman Ridge through dense groves of old growth aspen trees. The trail is definitely steep but it mellows out the further you hike. From the trail there are obscured mountain views but if you keep an eye out you can find openings with massive views of the Elk Mountains. One such view (see the sunset photos at the end of the gallery) is located just minutes from the trailhead, but you need to look out for it as it's not all that obvious, we only found it on the way down.
The trail passes through endless aspen groves but as you get higher pine and spruce start to mingle in. At just about the 1 mile mark, you'll come to an obvious side trail leading to a large clearing. This makes for a good destination however if you continue up the trail for another mile and reach the ridge, the mountain views should be glorious. As we were losing daylight and storm clouds were rolling in, the clearing was our destination and it too is glorious. The clearing is surrounded by aspens with a particularly beautiful orange grove on the far side.
Crossing the clearing is a bushwack, but an easy one in the fall. I would imagine this to much more difficult in the spring and summer. Running down the middle of the clearing is a creek, easily jumped over. The far side of the clearing is at a little bit higher elevation, just enough to get some beautiful mountain views in the evening light.
If you play your cards right and find a good viewpoint, you are rewarded with tremendous views of the 12,000+ and 13,000+ peaks of both the Raggeds and Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Areas. The most dramatic peak is Chair Mountain towering over McClure Pass. The mountain with the alpenglow that you can see in the photo gallery is Treasure Mountain near the town of Marble.
The Elk Mountains, including the area around McClure Pass and the Crystal River Valley is one of the prettiest spots for fall hiking. This area sees far less visitors then Aspen, Crested Butte, and Kebler Pass but the groves are just as impressive. That, coupled with the views of massive jagged peaks makes this an area I expect to come back to often.
HIKES BY REGION
NATIONAL PARK HIKES
- BENT'S OLD FORT NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK
- COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT
- CURECANTI NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
- DINOSAUR NATIONAL MONUMENT
- FLORISSANT FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
- MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
- ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
- GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK
- HOVENWEEP NATIONAL MONUMENT
- SAND CREEK MASSACRE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- YUCCA HOUSE NATIONAL MONUMENT
- HIKES BY CATEGORY
- $UPPORT GHC
- INTERACTIVE MAP
Huntsman Ridge Trail
White River National Forest
Date Hiked: September 30, 2019
Distance: 2.3 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 765 ft
Elevation Min/Max: 8,642 to 9,407 ft
Trailhead Lat/Long: 39º 07' 49" N; 107º 16' 50" W
Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service