Gunnison County, Colorado
Gunnison National Forest
Gunnison Ranger District
View this on the Colorado Trailheads Map
Forest Service Roads: 314, 317
Trail Type: Straight Through
Nearby Towns: Marble, Crested Butte
Nearby Trails: Lead King Basin, Crystal City, Paradise Divide
Trail Length: 4.6 miles
Elevation: 9,246 to 10,598 feet
Named Obstacles: Devil's Punchbowl
The large obstacle in the middle of Devil's Punchbowl has been cleared but there are still rocky sections you must climb or descend.
This trail connects the loop of Crystal City and Lead King Basin to the loop made by Paradise Divide. It is quite a bit more difficult than the other trails because of the Devil's Punchbowl, a large section of trail about 3/4 of a mile long where passing another vehicle is nearly impossible and a mistake will send you into the Crystal River far below you in the canyon. There are rocky sections in the Devil's Punchbowl, and these pose the greatest challenges. If you start from the north end the obstacles are climbed, and if you start from the south end the trip is almost all downhill. These instructions start at the end of the Crystal City and Lead King Basin trails.
The trailhead is at a three-way intersection. One way points to Marble along the Crystal City trail. The other way points to Lead King Basin. Take the other way up the hill of bumps. The trail is nice as it climbs in the trees. There are a few places to pull off to let someone by, but the trail is usually too narrow.
The bottom of the Devil's Punchbowl comes at a place where you round a corner and see the trail ahead of you on an exposed shelf. You can see a short distance to see oncoming vehicles, but you can never see all the way to the top of the climb. The trail gets a bit more difficult from this point on. You can see Crystal Mountain on the right as you climb up Crystal Canyon, the crack that contains Devil's Punchbowl.
Midway through Devil's Punchbowl you can pull a few vehicles into a wide spot just before a metal bridge covered in dirt and small rocks. Walk a short distance along the creek here to see a nice waterfall with blue water below it. There are lots of photo opportunities here.
Before crossing the bridge, look up the canyon to see if there is any oncoming traffic. You can't see the entire way to the top from here but it's worth it to check before proceeding. Carefully cross the metal bridge -- this part may be intimidating for wider vehicles.
The rest of the Devil's Punchbowl is a fun and rocky climb on a shelf road. Many years are not warm enough to melt all of the snow here in the shade, and we do not recommend continuing if there is snow here. This portion is almost always in the shade. The old, rocky obstacle used to be in this stretch but it has been removed and flattened so it is not much of a concern anymore. Still, 4-wheel drive is recommended.
Once you get to the top of the Devil's Punchbowl there is a lot of parking just before a shallow creek crossing. The rest of the trail is bumpy but it is no longer on a shelf road so it is much easier. When you come to a wooden bridge you should follow the trail through the creek and not use the bridge. This is a great place to stop for a break to see the other waterfall along this trail. There is plenty of parking near the campsite here.
The trail soon opens up into Schofield Park and it is maintained and much easier. Follow it out until the intersection with the Paradise Divide trail. Schofield Pass itself is actually on the Paradise Divide trail just after the end of the Schofield Pass trail. You can take either half of Paradise Divide to get out to Crested Butte.
Information last updated on August 21st, 2012.
From Denver take I-70 to Glenwood Springs and Highway 82 south to Carbondale. At Carbondale take Highway 133 until you see a sign for Marble and Road 314. Just past Marble on this main road through town you will see signs for Lead King Basin. Follow this trail to the signs for Schofield Pass. Take the Crystal City or Lead King Basin trail to the trailhead.
Meet at Java Joe's at 433 Main Street in Carbondale.