Crystal Mill has been at the top of my Colorado bucket list since before I even moved here. At the time of this visit, I had made about a half dozen trips to Aspen and Carbondale without ever going near the mill. One weekend in June, John and I headed west just to see this special place.
We woke up Saturday morning ready to make the hike up, but when we checked the weather, we discovered an afternoon storm would be rolling through as we would be reaching Crystal Mill.
I was determined to not let this stop us, so we set out anyway hoping to beat the storm. On the way there, our friend suggested we rent an ATV to drive up to the top and outrun the weather. He told us that there is a rental place close to the trailhead, so we set our GPS to RPS Rentals in the town of Marble, Colorado.
You can see more from our day trip up to Crystal Mill on my YouTube channel HERE!
Outside the tiny rental shack were a fleet of off road vehicles. We spoke with the friendly owner, and he gave us the lowdown on the vehicles, the rental prices, and all of the rules. Unfortunately for the four of us, he only had a three-seater available.
While we were conversing back and forth about how we could manage seating arrangements, the owner received a call from his next reservation saying that they were cancelling because of the weather! It just so happens that the next reservation was for the four-seater. The timing was perfect!
The four-seater, for 2 1/2 hours and strictly 12 miles, cost us $350. It was something John and I would not have splurged on had we been alone, but we took the leap with our friends. In the end, it was worth absolutely every penny.
The OHV road to Crystal Mill had just been reworked during the previous fall and was in much better shape than we had anticipated. Another group of our friends were able to drive a Toyota Four Runner up to the mill. We realized that the rental wasn’t completely necessary, but the ATV was way more fun. There is no doubt in my mind that we made the right choice of vehicle
Even though the road wasn’t as rocky or bumpy as we thought it would be, it was still extremely narrow and windy. The entire ride follows the Crystal River and features absolutely breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. It was only about 5 miles from RPS rentals to the top of the mill, and it took us around 45 minutes to get there. We got to the top when we weren’t even expecting to be there yet.
We were driving up through a thick grove of aspen trees, seemingly out of nowhere, Crystal Mill came into sight. We quickly parked the ATV and walked over to get a closer look at the spectacular wooden structure. Somehow, we were the only visitors there! We couldn’t believe it considering that it was noon on a Saturday! This meant we were able to take pictures, talk, and walk around with only the sounds of roaring Crystal River in the background.
There was a nice, young ranger near the roped off trail to the shore who knew some facts about the mill and was collecting donations for the Crystal Mill Ranch Foundation. He said that if we made a donation, we would be allowed access to a trail that leads down to the river and closer to the mill.
We quickly handed him some cash and nearly sprinted down the short hill. We couldn’t wait to see the powerful river and feel the mist of the rushing water up close.
We walked down to the water and stuck our feet in the freezing cold water. The dogs took a dip too, while we all laughed and talked about how incredible all of this is. Soon after, we decided it was time to head further up the trail and check out the town of Crystal.
We made the quick drive up the road, and before we knew it, we were standing in the once-abandoned mining town. Crystal was once powered by the mill we were just visiting and is a very interesting place. It is called a “ghost town”, yet you can rent cabins or find college students living and working in the town for the Crystal Mill Ranch.
We pulled out of Marble with gigantic smiles on our faces laughing and reminiscing on how perfect the entire morning had been. We all agreed that this was the absolute best way we could have driven up to Crystal Mill, and as soon as we pulled out of RPS Rentals, the rain started. We all shared one last, big laugh at the perfect timing of our visit and headed over to Slow Grooving for a delicious bite of bar-b-que.
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.