Winter of 2018 through ‘19 brought a record breaking amount of snowfall to the state of Colorado. This was great for skiers and snowboarders, but it was also great for wildflower enthusiasts. The melting snow nourished the ground and helped produce massive amounts of blooming wildflowers and other spectacular vegetation.
Crested Butte is renowned as Colorado’s Wildflower Capital, and this summer, the town was surrounded by a super bloom. Naturally, I planned a trip into the heart of the Rocky Mountains as quickly as I could and was fortunate to have a group of friends who wanted to join John and I and our dog, Maria.
I scoured Facebook groups, Meetup discussions, and trail websites like AllTrails to help plan our trip and scope out where the best blooms were happening. Once I knew where the flowers were, I was able to narrow down my search to campsites and trails that were open and dog friendly.
Many of the campsites don’t take reservations and operate on a first come first serve basis, and many of them do not allow dogs or groups larger than 8. We were planning to have a group of ten or more (eight ended up going) with almost as many dogs tagging along. Through my searches, I found the ‘Oh Be Joyful’ and Lake Irwin campgrounds, and Ohio Pass Road was recommended for dispersed camping. I figured these sites would be good starting points for my search when I got into town Friday afternoon.
I was the first of the group to arrive in Crested Butte and was in charge of locating our home base for the weekend. I luckily tried Lake Irwin Campground first, and to my surprise, found dispersed camping in the national forest just past the campground. I am glad I continued driving around after reading that the Lake Irwin Campground was full, because the spot we snagged couldn't have been any better.
There were a few open sites that I could see from the road, but the marker for a campsite atop a steep hill caught my attention because of its privacy. I climbed the hill and quickly set up my tent to claim the elevated oasis in the heart of the Elk Mountain Range. Maria ran and played on the lush hill while I worked to get ready for everyone’s arrival.
It took several trips up and down the hill and back and forth to the car, but in just a few short hours, I was able to set up a nearly perfect campsite. Once I’d finished, Maria and I headed into Crested Butte for cell service to let the others know where I was set up and to ask them to pick up firewood. It took a little over an hour to go into town and back, and before I knew it, the party was arriving, and nightfall was approaching.
One couple and their pit bull pup arrived first, and shortly after, three other cars arrived with the last five humans and the other four dogs. Everyone quickly set up their sleeping arrangements and lugged their gear up the hill. It was already after 10 pm, but that didn't stop us from making smores and having a few drinks. Once the fire started to die down and a few of us got cold, we decided to call it a night.
Early the next morning, it started to rain, so everyone stayed in their tents a little longer than planned and snuggled up until it stopped. After the shower, I cooked cheesy scrambled eggs and southwestern hash browns in our cast iron skillets over the campfire for breakfast. Some made teas and coffees while John and I enjoyed some hot chocolate. Breakfast warmed and fueled everyone up for the adventures that were to come.
Some of the group decided to head into town, others went fishing in the lake, and we decided to try to summit the nearby 12,000 foot peaks that towered over our campsite. Unfortunately, we were turned around by private property signs and bursts of midday thunder. Lake Irwin was not far, so we turned around and set out on a trail that lead us right to the lake.
By sheer coincidence, we emerged from the wooded trail to find a waterfall and huge field of wildflowers at the very same time that our fishing friends were checking it out. We were all blown away by the site we had simply stumbled upon, and somehow, we had it all to ourselves
We spent a few hours wandering around the lake, stopping in fields of yellow, purple, and white flowers, and throwing sticks for the dogs to chase.
The fields of flowers were unlike anything I had ever experienced, and they were all surrounded by majestic mountain slopes and peaks. When we finished wandering around the lake and our fisherman had caught his fill, we all headed back up to the campsite for a late lunch and to meet up with the group that had gone into Crested Butte.
For the rest of the day, people meandered in and out of the campsite until we lit a fire and started cooking dinner. Between funny stories and conspiracy theories, I prepared a meal of turkey sausage, beef hot dogs, potatoes, brussel sprouts, and asparagus that cooked alongside turkey and black bean quinoa burgers.
We acted as if this wasn't enough food, and shortly after eating this hearty meal, we were making smores again and comparing techniques for how to best roast a marshmallow.
It was a beautiful evening spent with even more beautiful company, but like all good things, it came to an end when the clouds started to roll in and our exhaustion became apparent. We eventually put out the fire as everyone rounded up their dogs and hopped into their sleeping bags.
We all woke up for sunrise the next morning but were greeted by another grey and cloudy morning sky. After sitting around for a little bit and discussing breakfast, we realized how quickly the clouds were rolling in and that there was rain quickly approaching.
We all hit the ground running to pack everything as quickly as we could. We weren’t quite quick enough and got stuck packing up most of our gear as the rain fell. We eventually got everything packed and loaded into our cars, and we finished before the worst of the morning storm set in.
By that time, we were in Crested Butte looking for a place to score a warm breakfast. The rain didn’t keep the restaurant crowds down, and we ended up wandering around for a short while before settling on The Daily Dose for coffees, smoothies, and a few breakfast burritos. It was a cozy place that could accommodate a large group, so it was a nice place to sit and talk about how much fun we had all had during the previous few days.
It was so nice to hear how grateful everyone was to have been able to come together like this, and we started to plan more trips for this fall during breakfast! The weekend was perfect in every way, and the Crested Butte area provided much more than I could have ever imagined. I cannot wait to go back and see what the area has to offer during other seasons of the year!
Talkin' 'bout Tacos:
I'm Taylor, aka Tacos! I am sharing my journeys and experiences from across the world hoping to inspire travel and adventure in all who read.