Marble, Colorado ELK HUNTING, FLY FISHING, MOUNTAIN BIKING, BACKPACKING, HIKING, FOUR-WHEELING IN THE MARBLE, COLORADO AREA
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Reasonably priced Colorado mountain real estate can still be found in the North Fork Valley communities of Paonia, Crawford, Hotchkiss and Cedaredge. Excellent hunting, fishing, four-wheeling, boating, horseback riding–it’s all there in a small-town environment. www.paoniacrawfordrealestate.com
Hunting, fishing, horseback riding, backcountry skiing, four-wheeling, hiking, backpacking, kayaking—if you’re into outdoor adventure, Marble, Colorado is the place to be. As a former wilderness outfitter, fly-fishing guide, and hunting guide, I know quite a lot about the Marble area. It’s a great place to buy a secluded mountain cabin for a mountain vacation getaway, a riverfront fishing retreat, or a mountain ranch property. Situated between Aspen and Crested Butte in the stunning Elk Mountain Range, Marble is an adventurer’s paradise. The town itself is a quiet little village on the Crystal River, tucked away on a good paved road 6 miles from scenic Highway 133. Marble is at the end of the road for those driving sedans and motorhomes, but for four-wheeling enthusiasts, hunters, fly-fishermen, backpackers, and horseback riders, it’s the beginning of the trail.
MARBLE, COLORADO OUTDOOR RECREATIONAL REAL ESTATE OPPORTUNITIES
Just east of town is the scenic Beaver Lake, owned by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. About 20 acres in size, the DOW stocks the lake every year with nice catchable-sized rainbow trout. It’s a popular destination for folks who aren’t intrepid enough to tackle the difficult footing in the nearby Crystal River. Bait and lures are allowed, though fly-fishing from a float tube or canoe can bring excellent results. No motors are allowed on boats, and it’s a peaceful place to canoe under the beautiful mountain background. Anglers may take 4 fish per day.
The Crystal River offers good trout fishing for a variety of species, including native cutthroat trout, rainbows, brookies, and German brown trout. On several occasions I have guided clients who caught all four different species in the same day. There is good public access starting about a half mile upstream of the turnoff from Colorado 133, all the way up past the Bogan Flats campground to the first bridge over the Crystal, where it turns into private property. This stretch has over 2 ½ miles of public access. Right in the town of Marble, there’s about half a mile of public access downstream from the Millsite Park, and it’s pretty good fishing there.
I don’t recommend fishing with lures or bait on the Crystal, because the bottom is so rocky and it’s very easy to lose your tackle. Also, the fish populations are not plentiful enough to allow for killing fish, and spinner and bait fishing makes it extremely difficult to release a fish without injuring it. I recommend catch-and-release fly-fishing on the Crystal. Fish populations are fair, but cannot sustain much pressure from folks killing fish.
Average fish are in the 9-12” range, though you’ll occasionally hook into a feisty 16-inch rainbow or 17-inch brown. My best day of guiding on the upper Crystal brought 25 rainbows to the net, but my client that day was an excellent fly-fisherman who could wade the rough, rocky bottom.
River frontage real estate is expensive and hard to find. Although there are only a few undeveloped parcels that have good river frontage, there are some parcels available. From time to time, riverfront homes and cabins come on the market. Values are influenced by the nearby Aspen market, so don’t expect to find a gorgeous riverfront lot for $100,000. They don’t exist. Riverfront homes will be priced above $500,000, but typically the construction is very nice.
ELK AND MULE DEER HUNTING
The Marble area offers some of the best big game hunting in Colorado. Elk herds are plentiful, and opportunities at branch-antlered bulls are excellent. However, Colorado manages its herds for quantity, not quality, so your chances of bagging a big 6×6 bull are not good. If you see a nice stout 5×5 bull in the Marble area, shoot him if you’ve got a tag in your pocket. That being said, there are large herds of elk and public land accessible to hunters is abundant. For hunters seeking a real trophy, the Marble area has excellent hunting for large mule deer. However, this hunt is not for the slow, the unfit, and the lazy. The large bucks are found at very high elevations and bagging a trophy mulie in this country is difficult. Hunting cabins and lodges are easily found in the Marble area. There is so much land with public access that you can drive 5 minutes from town and be in good hunting terrain within minutes. Cabins and mountain homes are fairly easy to locate in the Marble area, though values are escalating fairly rapidly. The bottom dollar for a hunting cabin with an acre or two is about $300,000, and nice mountain homes can be found at price ranges between $400,000 and $500,000. Many properties in the Marble area abut National Forest lands, so hunting access is literally out the back door. Call me if you’re looking for a hunting retreat. I might just know of a nice cabin or mountain home.
Back in the 1970’s, a development company attempted to make Marble a ski area resort, but they made some fundamental errors. First, they located their runs with a southwest view, making for iffy snow conditions. Secondly, they failed to secure the proper permits from the U.S. Forest Service to cut trails on nearby mountains, and the entire venture folded. However, that doesn’t mean that Marble doesn’t have excellent skiing. You just have to hike for it. There are several routes that backcountry skiers take to access the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness and the Raggeds Wilderness. One of the most popular routes begins at the Yule Creek trailhead, near the portal to the Colorado Yule marble quarry. The trail climbs up the west side of the Yule Creek basin to Marble Peak. North of Marble Peak, Raspberry Ridge stretches north almost all the way to Marble. The terrain consists of steep open mountainsides with intermittent patches of aspen and dark timber. The skiing is glorious, though, of course, skiers must be trained in avalanche techniques and carry the proper backcountry gear. There are several other backcountry routes, such as Mount Daley, Treasury Mountain, and Chair Mountain, but this is the most popular one. At the time of this writing (January 2008), more backcountry skiing enthusiasts are buying lots and building cabins to enjoy the superb skiing in the Marble area. Trailheads are very close to town, so access is very easy.
Kayaking is coming on as a big recreational sport in the North Fork Valley. Some of the most technical routes in the U.S. include the North Fork of the Crystal River through Lead King Basin, with Class V whitewater; the Crystal Canyon just above Marble (where there are several large drops of more than 40 feet); Yule Creek to the south of town; and the Crystal River from Marble all the way down to Carbondale. The highest water flows come in May and June; safer boating is found in July. The Crystal through Marble can be low enough to be impassable even with a kayak in August and September.
The trails surrounding Marble make for outstanding horseback riding. If you want to go for a week-long horseback pack trip, Marble is a great destination. You can ride all the way from Marble to Redstone, Marble to Aspen, Marble to Crested Butte, or even Marble to Crawford. OutWest Guides, (LINK: www.outwestguides.com), my former outfitting company, does a great job of offering horseback riding expeditions. The scenery on Marble horseback rides is simply stunning. The terrain is fairly steep, though trails on Elk Mountain and up past Lily Lake are fairly gentle. The valley floor is at almost 8,000 feet, and you can ride up to 12,000 feet. The summer wildflowers and autumn leaves offer a visual treat, and the contrast to the snowcapped peaks is simply breath-taking.Horse properties are a little harder to find in the Marble area, although they do exist. Much of the terrain outside town is steep, and keeping horses on a steep oak brush hillside with no irrigation water is not a very good prospect for keeping horses. However, there are some good flat irrigated parcels available, though they will be fairly pricey. Winters are hard in Marble and snowfall is abundant, so most people that own horses in Marble bring them over to Crawford or Hotchkiss for winter boarding. (For quality Colorado winter horse boarding, call Doris Hubbell or log on to link: www.mountainhay.com for information on horse hay for sale and winter horse pasture.) Budget is also a consideration. Not many horse properties can be found in the Crystal River Valley for under $1 million, and quite possibly much more, depending on acreage, facilities, irrigation rights, and more.However, reasonably priced horse properties can still be found in the North Fork Valley communities of Crawford, Paonia, Hotchkiss, Cedaredge, and Delta. Check out this North Fork Valley website (link: www.paoniacrawfordrealestate.com ) to view Colorado mountain horse properties, ranches, and residential real estate in Paonia, Crawford, and Hotchkiss. One of the best horse properties to come on the market in several years is Ralph Hubbell’s Ten Peaks Ranch property, a 56-acre mountain retreat with 1,000 feet of river frontage, a beautiful flat horse meadow, and an aspen grove bordering the Raggeds Wilderness Area.
Marble is a popular destination for bush pilots to explore. There is a private 4,600-foot grass landing strip in Marble that is well maintained and accessible to the public. The landing strip is bordered by the Crystal River on one side and County Road 3 on the other, but it’s plenty wide enough to accommodate larger single-engine and even some twin-engine planes. The strip is at 7,800 feet in elevation, so pilots must keep in mind the increased power demands on their planes. The owner of the landing strip hosts an annual fly-in, where pilots bring a tent and a cooler of food and camp out on the landing strip. There have been as many as 45 planes parked at the airstrip at one time. This parcel may come up for sale in the future, so stay in contact with me if you’re interested in a truly special mountain fly-in destination. The parcel is 92 acres, has several homesites, and over 6,000 feet of Crystal River frontage. FOUR-WHEELING Marble has two outstanding four-wheel-drive routes. If you drive past Beaver Lake on the east end of town, the road suddenly gets very steep at Daniels Hill, where you need a high-clearance 4WD vehicle. Half a mile up the road, the trail forks. To the left, the road climbs up to the ridgeline above Lead King Basin and then down into the basin, a total of 6 miles. In the basin itself, there is a parking area and trailhead to the wilderness beyond. The Lead King Loop, as it is called, is a very popular route for 4WD vehicles, ATV’s, and motorcycles. It is, however, a rugged trail that is unforgiving to all-wheel-drive vehicles with lower clearances. Once you reach the trailhead in Lead King Basin, the route follows the river down to the old mining town of Crystal, home to a dozen or so hardy residents in the summer. The mile-long route from Lead King Basin to Crystal is very rough terrain, with a couple of very tight turns and some axle-grabbing rocks. Just before you get to Crystal, the road to Schofield Pass takes off to the east. I would not recommend this route even for high-clearance Jeeps. The road climbs up a 20-degree slope and is chiseled out of a sheer granite cliff. At one particular section, there are six or seven vehicles piled on top of one another in the Devil’s Punchbowl, 300 feet below the road, representing 14 fatalities. It’s just not worth it. If you’re on an ATV or a motorcycle, you have a little more room to maneuver, but this route is very narrow, steep, and slick, and the stakes are high if you screw up. If you continue on to Crystal, which I recommend, you’ll pass through the old mining town and then you’ll see the beautiful Crystal Mill. Erroneously known as the “Dead Horse Mill” (why does everything in the West have to be named “Dead Horse This” and “Dead Horse That”?) the mill was historically known as the Sheep Mountain Power House. The penstock of the mill was turned by water diverted from the river at a point upstream, and it powered air compressors that drilled holes in the walls of the local mines. Once the holes were drilled, the miners filled them with black powder or dynamite and touched it off, yielding ore to be smelted for silver and gold.The route back from Crystal is a gorgeous drive that follows the river. Though it’s a difficult and rough four-wheel-drive route, it isn’t nearly as dangerous as the route over to Schofield. It’s about six miles to the Crystal Mill, and the road ends up right at the fork in the trail at the top of Daniels Hill. The terrain along this drive is covered with old patented mining claims. Occasionally there are mining claims for sale along this route, and can be used for cabin sites. Call me for details.
HIKING, BACKPACKING, AND CLIMBING
Marble has some of the most outstanding wilderness trails in the world just out the back door. Wilderness routes to Redstone, North Anthracite basin, Crested Butte, Aspen, the Raggeds Wilderness area, and the Maroon Bells/Snowmass wilderness area. Several hiking routes cross over passes at 12,000 feet or higher. Hikers and climbers regularly ascend the Maroon Bells, Snowmass Peak, Hagerman Peak, and Capitol Peak, all over 14,000 feet. Famous routes such as West Maroon Pass, Trail Rider Pass, Anthracite Pass, and Frigid Air Pass are all in close proximity to Marble. Many backpackers choose to hike the famous 26-mile “Four Pass Loop” over Buckskin Pass, West Maroon Pass, Frigid Air Pass, and Trail Rider Pass. Though Marble doesn’t have many famous vertical climbing routes, mountaineering in the area is spectacular. Routes up Chair Mountain, Whitehouse Peak, Little Gem Lake, and the fourteeners are all challenging and noteworthy. In the winter, the Crystal River Valley is known as one of the most famous locales for ice climbing. From Redstone to Marble, there are almost a dozen famous ice climbing routes, as pillars of ice form where waterfalls flow in the spring. For adventurers seeking a home base for their treks into the wilderness, Marble is an ideal location to buy real estate. Compared to the stratospheric real estate prices in Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, and Crested Butte, Marble is a real value.
IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR MOUNTAIN REAL ESTATE IN MARBLE, COLORADO
Maybe it’s been your dream to own a mountain bed-and-breakfast inn, a Colorado hunting cabin, a fishing lodge, or a ski vacation home. Call me and I’ll show you around in Marble. I believe that Marble, Colorado, offers great value when compared with other mountain towns. The recreational opportunities, scenic beauty, remote yet accessible location, and quality properties make a Marble purchase a good investment. I know the Marble area and I know it well—from every peak and ridgeline, to every ranch and cabin. Call me to get the straight scoop on real estate in Marble, Colorado.