Larimer County, Colorado
Roosevelt National Forest
Canyon Lakes Ranger District
View this on the Colorado Trailheads Map
Forest Service Roads: 344, 344.A
Trail Type: Out and Back
Nearby Towns: LaPorte, Ft. Collins
Nearby Trails: Ballard Road, Moody Hill, Old Flowers Road, West White Pine Mountain, Monument Gulch, Greer Road South, Pennock Pass
Trail Length: 4.3 miles
Elevation: 9,600 feet
This trail climbs up Crystal Mountain with a great series of obstacles. Some of them can be legally bypassed whereas others near the top are mandatory. If this trail is wet it may not be possible to climb the muddy rocks to the top.
You can start by running Moody Hill first, or drive up Crystal Mountain Road to the intersection of Crystal Mountain trail and Moody Hill trail. The trail starts as a fairly mellow ride on dirt roads with a few loose rocks. At 3.8 miles turn right and go uphill. If you continue to turn right whenever there is a choice and the right-most trail looks well travelled you should not miss it. This is an important turn.
You'll know you're on the right trail when you're treated to some deep whoopdeedoos in the dirt trail. You can get some great flex here.
Soon after that is the playground, an area with many different routes to the top of a big slab of rock. There is a steep hill that will high-center a vehicle that doesn't have a lot of clearance, an area of rocks with deep cracks to flex your suspension, and an easy bypass on the right.
You continue to climb and it gets more and more steep and challenging. There is a section of rock here that starts on a hill of dirt, so when it gets wet it is almost like clay on the rocks. This section of rocks marks the start of the tougher part of the trail. It is steep in most places, and there are lots of rocks. You often have a choice of routes through some of the sections, so you can make it as difficult as you'd like. There are also a couple places where rocks will tip you toward trees that are waiting to damage your hood or soft top. If you watch for beat-up trees on the side of the trail you'll easily see where these sections are.
There is an intersection as you approach the top of the mountain. If you go straight at the intersection you quickly get to a dead end at a hiking trail that goes up to Donner Pass. There are miles of hiking trails in that area. If you turn right and go up the steep and rocky hill you get to the top and a loop that can be done in either direction. At the far end of the loop you can stop and climb to the top of the highest rock to get a 360 degree view of the area that is worth the easy climb to the top.
Turn around and enjoy the descent down the rocks to go back out the way you came in.
- June 24th, 2006: ran by Bill S., Corrie, Dane, Don, Eric B., Mark U., Micheal, Mike S., Monica, Patrick D., Perry, Rob C., Roger and Walt
- July 16th, 2005: ran by Monica, Rob C. and Walt
- June 26th, 2004: ran by Bob S., Brian E., Jeff B., Kendall, Ladd, Landon, Mike C. and Monica
From Denver, take I-25 north to the Ft. Collins exit 269B. Head west and follow signs through town to Highway 14 north. Follow the sign to LaPorte where Highway 14 intersects with Highway 287. Turn left at road 52E, marked with signs pointing to Rist Canyon (not a large sign). You will come to an intersection at 13 miles where you turn left on Stove Prairie Road 27. Continue 4 miles and turn right on Buckhorn Road, marked 44H (small sign). If you want to start with Moody Hill you will see the trailhead on the left in 1.6 miles, with an air-down area across from the trailhead on your right. If you only wish to do Crystal Mountain, continue 7.2 miles from there to turn left on Crystal Mountain Road. When you get to the intersection of a few major trails, take the trail to the right.
If coming from Denver, meet at the McDonald's at the Longmont I-25 exit 240. If you are further north it might be a better idea to meet at the trailhead for Moody Hill.