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Marble: The Gateway to Wilderness

The town of Marble, Colorado may seem small when you look around at the few homes and cabins in the town proper, but it has a big presence when you look at all the wilderness access that begins in or around Marble. Marble borders the southwest edge of the famed Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness, whose northern boundaries are not far from Aspen and Snowmass. It’s a vast, beautiful, complex wilderness, with several peaks over 14,000 feet in elevation, and many more mountains that rise 13,000 feet or more above sea level.

To the south of Marble, the Raggeds Wilderness almost borders the town boundaries, it’s so close. The Raggeds Wilderness goes almost to the Crystal River right in town and extends far back into Dark Canyon and over almost to Highway 133 on the south side of McClure Pass.

The wilderness can be accessed from a variety of points in the upper Crystal River Valley. Backcountry travelers are restricted to traveling by foot or horseback, and no motorized vehicle traffic, bicycles or mountain bikes, hang gliders, or motorized devices such as chain saws are allowed. Still, there are plenty of people who make their way into the wilderness for a backcountry adventure. Hikers and backpackers, hunters, mountain climbers, backcountry skiers, fishermen, horseback riders, botanists, birdwatchers, and campers make their way into the mountains via a well-established set of trails.

From Marble, a wilderness traveler has a wide set of options. A hiker or horseback rider can decide to go into the trail system and back home along the same trail; make a loop into the wilderness and back to Marble; or travel to and from Aspen, Redstone, Dark Canyon, Gothic, Schofield, Crested Butte, and Snowmass. Pretty cool, eh? Some of these journeys can be accomplished in a day of traveling by foot or horseback, while other trips can take up to four or five days, depending on the route.

When traveling across the wilderness from one town to another, it’s impossible to make the trip without cresting out at least one high-elevation mountain pass. Indeed, one intrepid guidebook writer made a big deal of the “Four Pass Loop,” a journey over West Maroon, Frigid Air, Trail Rider, and Buckskin passes, a 25-30 mile, four-day hike whereby all the passes are over 12,400 feet in elevation. Now everybody has to do it, and most people begin their trip at the crowded parking lot at the Maroon Bells near Aspen. However, the trip can be started at several different points near Marble.

If you want to make a trip that’s off the beaten path, think about starting at the marble quarry and heading over Yule Pass to Crested Butte. You won’t see many people. Another fun trip is to start at Mile Marker 3 on County Road 3, where the trailhead starts at the Darien Ranch. You can ride or hike all the way to Redstone via Big Kline, Little Kline, and Hawk Creek. It’s a long day ride or a 2-day hike. The Darien family controls a half-acre parcel at the trailhead and sometimes they give access and sometimes they don’t. Stop and ask at their house across the road. Otherwise you’ll have to cross the river below the bridge.

When you’re traveling through Marble on your way to wilderness, it’s easy to fall in love with the area. I get a lot of phone calls from people who have spent time in the lovely surroundings and want to buy a cabin site or a vacation home. If that’s the case, give me a call, and I’ll do my best to match you up with your dream cabin in the woods, hunting lodge, vacation home, wilderness retreat, or fishing cabin. I’ve hiked, hunted, ridden, and skied all over the valley and the wilderness in the Marble area, and I know my way around.

Marble, Colorado: Snowmass/Maroon Bells Wilderness, Raggeds Wilderness, Marble to Crested Butte hiking skiing horseback riding