Hiking Anthracite Pass Trail in Colorado’s Crystal River Valley

Three snow covered mountain peaks

If you enjoy a great hike with a fair amount of climbing and panoramic views, then hiking  Anthracite Pass Trail in Colorado’s Crystal River Valley is for you.

White River National Forest

There are many wonderful hiking trails in this section of White River National Forest, but the Anthracite Pass hike has taken a top spot on my list.

We’ve been coming to this part of Colorado for decades.  It is a beautiful section of the U.S., and every year it seems that more people are discovering the hiking trails around Marble, Co.

marble-city-map.png

Personally, I’ve hiked Treasure Mountain, Mount Daly, Ragged Mountain (Raspberry Creek), as well as shorter treks to Crystal Mill, Avalanche Creek, and parts of Lily Lake. This year was our first experience on the Anthracite Pass trail.

Almost every bit of it was scenic.   We hiked through aspen and evergreen stands, across wildflower meadows and gurgling creeks.

Getting to Anthracite Pass Trail

There are two ways to reach the Anthracite Pass trail, where you’ll find spectacular views.

The peak of Whitehouse Mountain is seen from Anthracite Pass
Looking toward Whitehouse Mountain

Both choices include steep climbs, but special gear isn’t necessary.

You can begin the hike from the Yule Creek trail head, or the Raspberry Creek trail head,  both of which are accessed via the Marble Quarry Road out of Marble, CO.

map showing Yule Creek, Anthracite Pass, and Raspberry trail heads

To get to the Yule Creek trail head, take the Marble Quarry Road about  2 3/4
miles. The Yule Creek trail head is on your right, about 1/4 mile before the marble quarry.

This portion of the Yule Creek trail is very steep, but it is a shorter climb.   Soon after beginning to hike up the Yule Creek Trail, (and just when you think you won’t make it!) take a right turn onto the Anthracite Pass Trail.

Young man with backpack hikes through aspen trees
The aspen groves provide dappled sunlight

We chose to begin the hike at the Raspberry Creek trail head.  It is located about 1/2 mile up the quarry road from Marble. You should park in Marble and hike up the road.

After beginning the Raspberry Creek trail, you will hike about a mile before reaching a fork. You can take the right fork to stay on the Raspberry Creek trail; we chose the left, heading up to Anthracite Pass.

You Can Make It!

The route we took is just shy of a ten mile loop, including the Marble Quarry Road (3C).

The trail is rated moderate to difficult. I am 58 years old, and am in decent shape, but not an extreme exerciser. The climb was challenging (when is the “up” ever going to end??!) but not excruciating.

Reaching the pass is an awesome experience. The panoramic views are some of the most heart-stopping I’ve seen around here.

Various peaks are viewed from the pass, including Whitehouse Mountain and Daly.
Panoramic views from the pass

If you get to the pass via Raspberry Creek Trail, be aware that if you continue on the Anthracite Trail to the Yule Creek Trail making a loop, you still have quite a hike to get back.

To shorten the hike, just head back the way you came in via the Raspberry Creek Trail.

With some caution, stamina, and planning, you will fall in love with this hike, too.

Snow covered peaks above Yule Creek
Reach for the sky!

Summer Wildflowers on the Trail

What would a hike be without noting the flora and fauna around you?

Colorado wildflowers are vivid and plentiful during the summer months, so don’t forget to bring your camera.

It must be something about the crisp, clean air, piercing sunlight, and cool evenings (50° F) that makes the flowers just a little bit bigger and a little bit brighter.

False Hellebore

False hellebore leaves are large and veined.
Veratrum viride contains toxic steroidal alkaloids. Sheep razing in the alpine meadows are often poisoned by it.

Delphinium

Just like in the eastern U.S., delphinium shines blue in the mountains.  It is a member of the buttercup family.  The name delphinium comes from the closed flower’s resemblance to a dolphin.

Wild delphinium sparkles bright blue among green foliage
Nuttall’s larkspur (Delphinium nuttallianum)

Fairy Slipper Orchid

a small patch of purple orchids is found in the shade of pines
The Fairy Slipper orchid (Calypso bulbosa) is a rare species, and like all wildflowers, should never be picked.  I was reluctant to touch it, thus the downward facing blossom.

Fendler’s Waterleaf

waterleaf
Hydrophyllum fendleri (Fendler’s Waterleaf)

Sierra Fumewort

ferny foliage and pink/white flower stalks cover the plant
Though I haven’t positively ID’ed this plant, I think it is Corydalis caseana, Sierra Fumewort. This is another toxic plant containing alkaloids.  Interesting that it was growing with the false hellebore.

Yellow Avalanche Lily

A yellow lily hangs its head
Erythronium grandiflorum, yellow avalanche lily

Alpine Forget-me-not

Forget-me-not
Alpine forget-me-not (Myosotis alpestris)

Refueling

As you can imagine, there aren’t a lot of dining choices once you complete your day hike. You probably will be too hungry to wait to get back to Carbondale or Glenwood Springs.

However, there are two great options in the vicinity.

Slow Groovin’ Barbecue, Marble, Co.

Photo of barbecue restaurant bar, padded bar stools
credit: Larry Lamsa, CC 2.0

This place is a destination for many travelers around the Crystal River Valley.  The reason?  It serves the best pork barbecue, and you can get some mean brisket, too.  There’s outdoor seating, or indoor, if you prefer.  The craft cocktails are outstanding.

Redstone Inn Grill

Redstone Inn signage and exterior alpine architecture
credit: Jeffrey Beall

The historic Redstone Inn is about 25 minutes from Marble, on Highway 133.  The Inn has a full service restaurant that is excellent, but for more casual dining, head for the grill.  Here, you can enjoy sandwiches, burgers, salads, and selected entrees.  If the weather permits, enjoy your nosh poolside.

A Good Night’s Rest

After hiking and dinner, you will find yourself reflecting on what a memorable day it’s been.  Physically strenuous, yes; but, worth every ounce of sweat!  Plus, you definitely burned off enough to treat yourself to a piece of pie.

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3 comments

  1. John Lovasz says:

    Awesome looking hike! Another for my to-do list.

    1. Thanks! It was something to remember…

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