Wildflowers and Waterfall by Lake Irwin
Crested Butte Area
In the middle of July, Crested Butte - Colorado's wildflower capital - holds a wildflower festival with many activities planned. We arrived the following week for a quieter visit and a short hike to Robinson Basin's waterfall (we kept it short because I stopped to take hundreds of photos and we had a toddler with us). The wildflower display was still quite impressive, even along the road west of town (below). We stayed 19 miles south in Almont because they had a cheap, clean cabin available with a month's notice. Almont also worked well enough for two day-trips to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Almont is about a 3.5 hr. drive from Colorado Springs.
Directions: From Crested Butte's White Rock Ave. head 6 miles west (it becomes County Rd. 12 or Kebler Pass Rd.). Just before the pass, turn right (north) on Lake Irwin Rd. (Forest Rd. 826). and pass Lake Irwin and the campground on the right. Continue along a rough dirt road until you see a ranch gate at a fork to the right. Go left like in the photo below.
Distance: 2.5 miles RT to waterfall in Robinson Basin or continue 1.5 to 2 miles farther along the road to a ridge for sweeping mountain views.
Elevation: Campground - 10,200', Robinson Basin - 10,781'.
My Neon struggled to reach this point because of the potholes, so we parked on the left side of the road here.
About a quarter mile into our hike, the road got rougher, requiring a 4WD which could take you a couple miles closer to a trail leading to a ridge with great views. Each SUV or truck that passed us kicked up dust. The abundance of loose dirt on the road felt like a slippery powder in spots.
Not far down the road I was delighted with the variety of wildflowers surrounding us and got busy taking MANY photos.
The shot below looks back at the path we just ascended. A couple of ATV's are to the left of the road in the field. Just to the left of the photo was a long trailer with a lone prime campsite overlooking the Anthracite Range and West Elk Mts. to the south.
Soon we saw a stream to the right and some tall wildflowers. Going straight from there was someone's driveway. The home owner was out riding his ATV and made sure we went the right way, following the road as it curved uphill to the left. It's actually not hard to tell which way to go, but he probably gets a few tourists in his yard each year. He said the road to his house is closed in the winter, so he takes a snowmobile then.
This King's Crown to the right interested me with its unique tower-like structure. I found Columbine in a number of locations (below). Some areas had a little shelter from the wind if they weren't near the top of a ridge or in a large field. However, I frequently got frustrated with the wind gusts because they kept shaking my delicate, colorful subjects around, creating blurry images. I just kept trying. I was constantly switching between my macro lens for flower close-ups and my standard lens to include the mountains or water. Maneuvering to get your lens at flower height can enhance your image.
We could see Lake Irwin down below to the SE. The path crossed a stream where I found moisture loving flowers in a swampy area.
As we approached the waterfall in Robinson Basin, a stream with a series of small waterfalls gurgled to our left. I continued to find wildflowers I had never seen before.
The view was quite rewarding when we turned the corner to see the tall cascading waterfall entering Robinson Basin. A small stream separated us from an easy climb to the waterfall. I didn't want to hike back with soaking boots, but Greg didn't mind, so he waded through the 6 inch or so water with the camera and tripod for a closer shot. I forgot to tell him to get low and close to a group of wildflowers and place them in the corner of a shot with the waterfall behind, but at least you can see the falls up close with the wildflowers dotting the edge.
This natural rock garden caught my eye with at least five different types of wildflowers (below). I was amazed at how well they grew in such shallow soil.
The photo at the bottom shows the 4WD road continuing north to a ridge some hikers had just come down from. They said it was another 2 miles or so further. They loved the views which included the Maroon Bells. This hike caused us to REALLY want a 4WD high-clearance vehicle to give us easier access to better trails. On a Saturday in the middle of the summer this trail was still fairly quiet, offering a peaceful escape.
This is the 4WD road continuing north to a ridge some hikers had just come down from. They said the ridge was another 2 miles or so. They loved the mountain views which included the Maroon Bells. This hike caused us to REALLY want a 4WD high-clearance vehicle to give us easier access to better trails. On a Saturday in the middle of the summer this trail was still fairly quiet, offering a peaceful escape.