Just what is letterboxing? It’s an intriguing outdoor treasure hunt that combines hiking, artistry, and a bit of detective work to scout out boxes filled with unique stamps.
Local artists teamed up to create stamps of our beautiful valley. Hidden on Crested Butte Land Trust properties, the stamps highlight the many uses of Land Trust lands. They depict images of ranching, wildlife, and mountain biking as well as our valley’s iconic landscapes.
With beginnings dating back more than 150 years, this “hike-and-seek” adventure uses clues to provide exciting goals for anyone who likes a quest. Letterboxing offers an inexpensive activity to share with family and friends and a wonderful way to connect with our lands. Find letterboxes under rocks, nestled into tree nooks, and other clever places.
– Woods Walk
– Peanut Mine
– Lower Loop
– Upper Lower Loop
– Washington Gluch
– Schofield Park
Packets with a basic map, and a Letterboxing Passport are available at the Chamber of Commerce, Crested Butte Heritage Museum, and the Crested Butte Land Trust office for $5. They also include the clues below.
CLUES FOR CRESTED BUTTE LAND TRUST LETTERBOXES
Difficulty: Very easy, less than 1/4 mile, very gentle walking.
Clues: Go up Kebler Pass Road (leaves town from Whiterock Ave.). The trailhead is directly on the right after Treasury Hill Road. Park on the south (left) side: you’ll see an interesting sign ‘Welcome to the Coal Creek Watershed’. Head out the trail, veer left through fence posts at the first junction. After the first meadow, you’ll see a large boulder snuggled next to two aspens. Head west (left) off the trail 15 paces, and look amongst the rocks to seek your treasure! From here you can continue on to enjoy several Woods Walk loops, head out to the Lower Loop, or return directly to your car.
Difficulty: More strenuous, some climbing. Distance from Restricted Lot: one-half to one mile.
Clues: Find yourself near the end of Peanut Lake Road (past the ‘Alien Shack’…you can hike from the Woods Walk, bicycle out, park at the Land Trust parking spaces at the start of the road, or if needed, drive to the restricted access lot further down the road). Cross a cattle guard and climb the stairs for enlightenment…you’ll know more about your location when you descend! Head back to the Restricted Lot and take the trail that heads up along the fenceline. Stay right and begin a series of switchbacks up the slope. You are actually walking on another Land Trust project, called the Budd Trail, which was built by a volunteer crew in the spring of 2010. Once you get high on this trail, you’ll enter some trees, eventually passing some rusty old cans leftover from mining days on your right. Cross through the rebar portal, and climb the steep hill, passing more relics from the past. When you see the LARGE ‘Wheel of Fortune’ to your right (you may have noticed a smaller wheel or two), it’s time to stop! Stand in front of it and appreciate the amazing reclamation work that has been done below you. From 6 o’clock on the wheel, take six paces towards Peanut Lake. You’ll find what you seek amongst the gnarly roots.
Difficulty: Easy, gentle walking. Distance from Restricted Lot: less than one mile.
Clues: Find your way out Peanut Lake Road and to the trailhead of the Lower Loop. (This can be reached by walking the Woods Walk, or driving/bicycling to either the first or second parking area along the road. You also have the option to make this a loop with the Upper Lower Loop Trail, in which case see adaptation below). Take either the Wide Path or Singletrack Trail, and soon reach a junction for either the Upper Lower or Lower Lower Loop trail. Go right (Lower Lower), and follow the Slate River along an old road grade. Keep your eyes open for herons…there is a rookery nearby! After a bit, you might like to enjoy a little ‘couch’ time on the lovely bench set near the river in Barbara’s memory. (You will have already passed several other benches by this point.) Continue briefly on the road until you see a trail (the KB Connector) take off to your left. (If you reach another bench you have gone too far.) Follow this gradual trail back towards Mount Crested Butte. When you are almost directly above Barbara’s Bench, gaze to your right to see a beautifully shaped pine tree, standing all alone. Scramble up the somewhat rocky slope until you reach its base. Turn around, and at 2 o’clock you’ll see a large boulder being overtaken by some rather prickly shrubbery. Nestled among the rocks you will find your treasure.
(If coming from the Upper Upper Loop, you will walk all the singletrack of the Lower Loop. Once you hit the obvious old railroad grade, look for the second bench (Barbara’s) and follow the clues! You will see the KB Connector on your right before you see that bench.)
Upper Lower Loop
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous. Distance from Restricted Lot 1.5 to 2 miles.
Clues: See Lower Lower Loop clues to reach the junction after the Wide Path or Singletrack Trail. (This can be done as a loop with the Lower Lower Loop Trail, adaptation below.) When you reach the junction, take the singletrack that winds up to your left. Climb the gradual hill, enjoying the shade the aspen groves provide. After that you will emerge to find yourself on a rolling, open trail that winds across the hillside. After a bit, you will find yourself on an obvious slate-colored (dark grey) bluff, with views of Mount Crested Butte to the east and amazing Paradise Divide to the west. Enjoy the vistas across Land Trust-preserved land…when you’re ready to enjoy a new discovery, stand directly in the center of the circle facing Paradise Divide, and head 30 paces to the base of a long-ago avalanche’s victim. Look amongst the roots to enjoy yet another perspective on Paradise!
(If you are returning on this trail from the Lower Lower Loop, you will have climbed up the Gunsight Pass Road until you see the singletrack trail signed ‘Entering Public Lands’. Once on that trail (that heads back in the general direction of town) you will walk through a small aspen grove, through several thickets of willows, eventually entering open meadows. Again…seek the obvious slate-colored bluff…)
Gunsight Bridge NO LETTERBOX UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE: STOLEN LAST YEAR
Difficulty: Easy, gentle walking. From parking area less than 1/2 mile.
Clues: Find your way out Slate River Road to the Gunsight Bridge. You will see the results of a reclamation project to restore the wetlands that was completed in the fall of 2011. Cross the bridge over the Slate River (heading toward the Lower Loop). From the end of the bridge take 40-45 paces down the road. Turn 90 degrees to your left and note the towering evergreen in the distance. Head toward this tree, passing a small rotting stump and numerous smaller evergreens. What you thought was one is actually two! Seek your reward at the base of the northernmost friendly giant!
Difficulty: Moderate. Though less than .25 miles (you can see your destination from your car!) it does involve some climbing.
Clues: Drive up Washington Gulch for approximately six miles, until you see the big, green, square ‘6’ sign. There is a small pull-off on the left side of the road, where you can park. (Please don’t park in the private drive ahead.) Get out of your car, and walk in the direction you were traveling. You will pass a small sign (facing the opposite direction) stating you were in the Crested Butte Land Trust’s Washington Gulch parcel. On your right is a sea of corn lilies (these ubiquitous plants are commonly misidentified as skunk cabbage, but don’t you think they look more like corn?!) Continue past the gated driveway, and then turn right to leave the road and climb along the perimeter of the corn lilies. As you climb to attain the ridge in front of you, spectacular Gothic Mountain looms above. Once you reach the small ridge’s top, SURPRISE! Between you and the peak you’ll discover the amazing handiwork of some industrious beavers. From this ridgetop vantage, notice there are four separate evergreens. Go to the evergreen closest to Crested Butte. (Don’t be confused by the clump of tall trees down off the ridge closer to the ponds.) At the base of this easternmost tree (the smallest of the four), you’ll find what you seek!
Difficulty: Easy, gentle walking. Less than a half mile from parking area. A vehicle with good clearance is suggested for this drive (or you can bike!).
Clues: Drive out Gothic Road and continue 9.5 miles past the town of Gothic until you reach a small parking area past Schofield Pass. You will see a large yellow sign that reads “Narrow Steep Road”. Park here and begin walking back down the road you drove up. Soon you will pass a large willow on the right side of the road across from which are a row of spruce trees growing snug to the road. Continue down the road, to the left you should spot a tall fence that is protecting a long-term research project. You are not there yet, walk a little further and you will come to an opening on either side of the road. On the left side of the road are several spruce tree stands. On the right side of the road grow several healthy willows. Continue slowly on the road and see if you can spot an orange colored pile of rocks. They will be on the right side of the road, about 100 feet away. Once you have spotted rocks turn 180 degrees so you are facing the left side of the road. You will see another stand of spruce trees with some dead trees sticking out of the canopy like needles. Walk up the short hillside, to the right side of the trees. You should see four large rocks embedded in the ground. Walk four paces past the rocks to an opening in the tree cave. Once you have entered the tree cave search amongst the fallen branches for your treasure!
MORE CLUES SOON TO COME…. the Slate River Trailhead!