Smith Hill Conservation

Conserving Our Backyard

Smith Hill is the ridge of land in between the Slate River Valley and Washington Gulch to the east, where the Lupine and Gunsight Connector trails are located. Whether you enjoy a wintertime ski up Slate River, an after work bike ride down Lupine 1, or stroll around the Gunsight Bridge area on the weekends, it’s basically the community backyard!

This ridge was once home to the Town of Anthracite on its flanks and the Anthracite Mine, now known as Smith Hill Mine, in its valley, and the ridge is formally known as Anthracite Mesa. All of these areas were named for the high quality anthracite coal mined deep underground and transported through the Slate River Valley well into the 20th century. Today, the iconic view of Paradise Divide from the Town of Crested Butte is framed by Smith Hill’s gentle grass and sage covered lower slopes that give way to aspen and conifers higher on the ridge. Much of the land on, below, and around Smith Hill has been protected by the Crested Butte Land Trust.

Mine Clean Up and Reclamation

In 2003, the Land Trust purchased the 120-acre Anthracite Mine property, today known as the Gunsight Bridge area. At that time, only a skeleton of a bridge was in place, and the Land Trust repaired it for use by hikers and bikers, installing new decking and hand railings. Over the next two decades, we have worked on restoring the wetland habitats, built a more sustainable bridge over the Slate River, and monitor the area annually to ensure it’s continual care. 

Conservation One Parcel at a Time

Smith Hill was entirely private property until the Crested Butte Land Trust’s first major conservation acquisition in the area of the Kikel parcels on the eastern flank of the ridge near Nicholson Lake in 2007. Conservation of the first two Kikel parcels helped catalyze the acquisition of the Kochevar parcels starting in 2010 by the Town of Crested Butte in partnership with the Trust for Public Land and the Crested Butte Land Trust. Since the first conservation projects on Smith Hill, land acquisition and conservation easements have protected hundreds more acres on both sides of the ridge with the acquisition of the Coralhouse parcel in 2013, Long Lake in 2020, and the Kikel Lot 3 parcel in 2021. 

Now home to the popular Lupine Trails, the Smith Hill landscape doesn’t exist on its own. Conversed properties interlaced with federal lands throughout the Slate River Valley, Washington Gulch, and the East River Valley form a contiguous corridor for wildlife, protected views, recreational opportunities, and grazing. Through intentional collaboration and work with willing land owners, an area once guarded against public access and at risk of development is now conserved forever. Conservation on Smith Hill supports people, ranching, and wildlife, and the Land Trust is proud to partner with our neighbors, agricultural producers, and local government to care for this special landscape forever.

Responsible Trail Use

  • Plan your trip at less popular times to avoid overcrowded trailheads and trailsTo minimize parking traffic, walk or bike to the trailhead whenever possible, and if the parking areas look full, consider going somewhere else that day.
  • If you drive, park at the first lot along Peanut Lake Rd and reserve the secondlot for those with wheelchairs or strollersDo not park along the road or block right-of-ways or driveways; there is private property along Peanut Lake Rd
  • Be mindful and respectful of other users on the trailsKnow who has the right-of-way, and do not cut switchbacks; when allowing others to pass, step off to the side and wait (do not walk along the side) and watch where you step to avoid trampling wildflowers and other plants
  • Go before you goThere are no restroom facilities at trailheads; public restrooms are available at the 4-Way parking lot or at the old Town Hall at 2nd and Elk Avenue
  • Use designated trails onlyObey signage and don't trespass
  • Leave no trace, pack it in, pack it outPick up after yourself and leave the trailheads and trails better than you found them
  • Recreate safely and responsiblyBring plenty of water, food, and layers, and check the weather before you leave
  • Share the love - educate others who aren't following best practices

Thank You for Recreating Responsibly!

Click below to learn special rules and best practices on each Land Trust owned and managed property

Protect What You Love

As pressures on the Gunnison Valley increase, you can be part of the solution.
Leave a legacy of open space protection by donating to the Crested Butte Land Trust today,
and ensure that you and generations to come will continue to enjoy our unique quality of life.


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