Scarp Ridge Out-and-Back

Crested Butte

A stunning hike into the alpine along a knife-edge mountain ridge.

Hiking Difficult

Distance
7.9 km
Ascent
630 m
Descent
630 m
Duration
2-3 hrs
Low Point
3.3 km
High Point
3.7 km
Gradient
12˚
VIEW ON MAP
Scarp Ridge Out-and-Back Map

Description

If you’re looking for a hike in Crested Butte offering panoramic vistas of mountains in all directions, look no further than this out-and-back hike on Scarp Ridge! On this hike, “you’ll get incredible open meadows full of wildflowers, and exposed ridgelines with sweeping, 360-degree views of the mountains, rust-colored cliffs, and emerald alpine lake,” according to Travel Crested Butte.

This version of the Scarp Ridge hike begins at the signed Scarp Ridge parking area near the lodge. It quickly begins climbing in earnest up a switchbacked trail to reach the ridge. After just a few minutes, you'll break out of the trees into breathtaking alpine meadows, affording stunning views of Lake Irwin below you and the mountain peaks ahead.

As you continue climbing, you'll eventually truly leave the treeline behind as you ascend the alpine ridge, making for a high point at the top of the ridge.

It takes less than two miles of climbing to reach the high point, and the views from there are absolutely incredible! You'll enjoy stunning vistas of the iconic Scarp Ridge below you, the mountain peaks above, and the entire West Elk Range spread out all around you. Most people choose to turn around at this high point for a roughly 3.5-mile round-trip hike. If you're not feeling too adventurous, then it's best to turn around as well. But if you're up for an adventure, carry on.

The route as mapped descends off the high point to traverse the full Scarp Ridge to the base of the nearby mountain peaks, before returning by the same path. While the hiking isn't highly technical along this section, the trail grows faint, and the exposure is extreme. I don't use that term lightly: you'll be hiking along the edge of a thousand-foot cliff, a fall from which would be deadly. So while there isn't any serious rock scrambling to be done, the loose dirt and scree combined with the potential for a deadly fall isn't to be trifled with. Hikers unused to this type of airy exposure could be susceptible to vertigo, so tread with caution.

If you're up for the challenge, continuing along the ridge will leave the crowds behind and will offer you plenty of time to absorb the surreal views of the towering rock cliffs, the sheer knife-edge ridge, and the majestic peaks soaring above you.

Scarp Ridge has to be seen to be believed. Put it on your bucket list today!

Difficulty

Difficult

Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

Extreme Exposure

4 out of 4

Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.

Remoteness

3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

July, August, September

Features

  • Alpine
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area