Hike the Dyke to Dark Canyon Loop

Colorado Horse Ranch Park

Added by Johnathan Valdez

The area west of Kebler Pass has one of the largest aspen groves in Colorado which makes for some excellent Autumn hiking. Thick aspen forests, babbling brooks, and stunning overlooks makes this loop a leaf peepers paradise.

Kebler Pass near Crested Butte is a leaf peepers paradise considering that one of the largest groves of aspens in Colorado makes its home here. If you want those postcard views of rugged mountain peaks and vibrant aspens, then I recommend hiking the Dyke Trail to Dark Canyon loop. Put this on your Autumn To-Do list because it’s one of the best fall hikes around. This loop can be completed in either direction from the trail head, but I recommend doing it in a counter-clockwise fashion to avoid some steep inclines on the Dark Canyon side.

From the parking area, head to your right to start on the Dyke Mountain Bike Trail #838. You will encounter some steep inclines right from the get go, but at least you will be hiking through a thick stand of aspens that will provide you with shade. Keep in mind that this trail is also open to mountain bikers, so keep your eye out for bikers coming down the incline. After about 1.3 miles of steady uphill hiking and about 1,000 feet of elevation gain, you will reach an intersection with the Irwin Lake trail. Bear to your left and follow the sign towards the Raggeds Wilderness boundary for another 0.8 miles. A few sections of incline remain, but you will soon be reaching the trail’s high point, keep an eye out for a scree field on your left hand side as this will lead you to a spectacular overlook of Marcinella Mountain to the west and East Beckwith Mountain to the south.

After leaving the high point, the trail will lead you on a mild grade towards an open meadow below Ruby Mountain and Mount Owen. A steady descent remains towards the Raggeds Wilderness boundary. Upon reaching the boundary marker, cross a brook and prepare for a short incline that takes you through a geologic dyke. It’s not very long, but be sure to turn around once you get to the top and admire your view of Ruby Mountain. After 0.4 miles you will reach an intersection with the Oh-Be-Joyful Pass trail. Take a hard left at the intersection. From here, your path is downhill pretty much the whole way and you will begin to understand why its better taking this loop counter-clockwise. After 0.6 miles you will reach another intersection, this time with the Dark Canyon Trail. Again, stay to the left to continue towards completing the loop, only 3.4 miles remain until you reach Horse Ranch Park.

A final incline of about 200 feet remains, but generally the Dark Canyon Trail is pretty mild and flattens out quite a bit. The trail will take you on a pleasant stroll through thick aspen groves and photo opportunities are everywhere, soon you’ll feel like you’re walking through a Colorado postcard. Keep an eye out for overlooks on your right and make sure to stop and take in all of Mother Nature’s beauty. If you happened to time your hike around peak leaf color (generally late September to early October), then you’ll be hard pressed to pull yourself away from the amazing vista. Pause for a water break and a snack, you definitely won’t regret it.

This hike can be completed in about two and a half hours, but I highly recommend blocking out at least four hours and taking your time. With all the fantastic views, you’ll be stopping more than you think to enjoy them.

Pack List

  • Sturdy hiking boots / shoes
  • Day pack
  • Water (at least 2 liters)
  • Hat
  • Light layering jacket
  • Snacks / Lunch
  • Sunscreen
  • Trail map (or take a photo of the map at the trailhead)
  • Camera or cell phone for taking pictures
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Activities:

Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:

Intermediate

Season:

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:

Loop

Distance:

6.5 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1700 Feet

Rating:

Features:

Easy Parking
Forest
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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How to Get There

11 months ago

Amazing Scenery

You did a really good job of showing what there is and what it offers. We know everyone needs to read to find out more info but what really matters is the photos great job!

11 months ago

Added by Johnathan Valdez

I'm a Colorado native that's passionate about photography, exploring nature, live music, and craft beer. On my free days you'll most likely find me on the trail and behind my camera. Life is short, get out there and explore! Follow my adventures here on The Outbound and on Instagram @capulinflicker.

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