wildflowers on hasley basin loop near crested butte

Happy Hiking: Hasley Basin Loop

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With as many hikes as I’ve been doing in Crested Butte, I would normally try to condense them into a few blogs.  But the wildflowers in Crested Butte during mid-July are simply remarkable.  It’s hard enough to condense my daily barrage of photos just down to ten.  As a result, each hike warrants its own post. Today, Hasley Basin Loop gets the honors.

Morning Mishaps

Oh my goodness, boy did my day start out less than ideal.  After an entire week of hikes, I finally wore out my dog Annie on a 9-mile hike to Rustler’s Gulch.  She passed out all day.  Unfortunately, that was not the case for the night!  She woke me up on multiple occasions.  At first, I thought she was upset over the deer in our campsite which she barks at before 6am most mornings. 

But eventually, after she darted back and forth in VANgo, I realized she was sick.  Outside we went at 3:30am.  Fortunately, this episode, which seems to occur monthly, corrected itself in one outing.  And I have to admit the stars were pretty.

Getting to Hasley Basin Trailhead

Though only about 12 miles to the Hasley Basin Trailhead, the drive was long and arduous. It is about equidistant from Washington Gulch Road and FS 317.  Having been on both roads over the past week, FS 317 seemed like an easier drive, though I hadn’t been on either in their entirety.

The limited reviews on AllTrails didn’t mention anything about 4×4, but one mentioned the first half of the trail is heavily trafficked because people are hiking West Maroon Pass.  I vaguely remembered this portion of the trail as part of the Crested Butte/Aspen hike I did five years ago.  For this hike, we used a shuttle service and 4×4 was necessary.  It also required a parking permit.

I remained cautiously optimistic, however, as AllTrails usually provides very good descriptions of the trails and the roads getting there.  Well, my optimism vanished about 2 miles from the trailhead when I had to maneuver VANgo over the one lane, potholed road with a giant drop-off to Emerald Lake.

Fortunately, the difficult part was short-lived, but I still had over a mile to go with no idea what to expect.  I spotted a pullout on Schofield Pass.  It was 0.75 miles to the trailhead.  Adding 1.5 miles to the 5.2-mile loop seemed much more reasonable to me at the time than driving the short distance, as I hate cliffs!

It turns out, I could have driven the rest of the way, but so be it.  It gave me time for my nerves to settle and prepare for the loop that is difficult to navigate without the AllTrails map.  I figured, if I couldn’t find my way on the lightly trafficked portion of the loop, I could always return through the heavily trafficked area.

Hiking Hasley Basin Loop

  • Distance:  5.2 miles
  • Type: Moderate, Lollipop Loop
  • Elevation Gain: 1,558 ft
  • Other: Dogs Allowed
  • All Trails Link

At 8 am on a weekday, the parking area was pretty full as no permit was required.  I braced myself for the highway of humans.  We began the hike with a very short stint through the woods.  We climbed the stairs, rounded some switch backs, and passed an old mining cabin in short succession before we ended up in a mountainside of gold.

mining cabin on hasley basin loop

This was the trail I had hiked previously, though we connected to it from a different trailhead.  As a result, I was a little bent out of shape.  With so many trails to hike, I rarely repeat one.  Adding to that the scary 4×4 road in a top-heavy vehicle and people in every one of my photos, I wondered if Hasley Basin Loop would really be worth all this effort.  Especially with so many wildflower hikes in Crested Butte that are much more easily accessible.

wildflowers on hasley basin loop

The Less Traveled Portion

After passing through solid sunflowers for at 1.5 miles, I soon reached the Hasley Basin Loop / West Maroon Pass junction.  I turned up to the left.  A girl resting at the junction yelled, “Are you doing West Maroon Pass?”

wildflowers on hasley basin loop near crested butte

“No,” I responded.  It was nice of her to make sure I didn’t miss the turn which is poorly marked by a small sign on the ground.

As I climbed, I approached a girl in a fluorescent pink jacket.  She hollered down, “Do you have the map?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Good, mine wouldn’t come up.”

“I saved mine,” I responded.  That’s a very handy feature on AllTrails.  As long as you “favorite” the trail by selecting the heart, you will have the offline map.

Anyway, as I climbed, I thought to myself, the reviews said, “No one takes this portion of the loop, so you’ll have it to yourself.”  It’s just my luck to have someone 30 yards ahead dressed in fluorescent while I’m trying to snap photos. 

I chalked it up to a lot of photo editing because at the same time, I was glad to have someone along if the trail was difficult to find.

As with just about everyone on the trail thus far, however, they speed ahead, stop to take a photo, and as you near, they speed ahead again.  So, if you are behind someone, you have to be creative in your photo shooting and find an angle to block them out. At any rate, she kept looking back to make sure I was around, but then moved away. 

wildflowers on hasley basin loop near crested butte

Trail Finding

Upon climbing out of meadow, the trail splits.  The girl turned to the right.  This way seemed more traveled, but I knew I had to go left at some point.  I got out the map as I turned right first.  Upon expanding the map, I, as the blue dot, was slightly off course.

As a result, I returned the 10 yards to the left and tried the other way, which was correct.  I tried to get the girl’s attention with a holler and a wave, but she had stopped looking back once she thought she had confirmed my path to the right.

Additionally, while she asked if I had the map, we never discussed whether we were both hiking Hasley Basin Loop.  So, after standing at the ridge for another minute, hopeful she would look back while she passed over the other side and out of sight, I turned left.

I followed the lightly trafficked trail up a little more through the tundra where the trail splits again.  This split is marked by a cairn.  The more heavily trafficked trail again veers right to a ridge.  I headed that way while watching the map, and once again, the blue dot indicated I was slightly off course.

Local Hiker Help

I kind of wanted to continue to the ridge to see the other side, but I also wanted to save my energy for potentially getting lost and for climbing 0.75 miles up Schofield Pass at the end!  As I turned around watching my iPhone, I ran into another hiker who was a local.

I asked, “Are you doing Hasley Basin Loop?”   

“Yes, after I hike to that ridge over there.  As if I haven’t seen enough wildflowers already, I can’t miss one.”

pink indian paintbrush

I had to laugh; I thought the same thing!

She continued explaining, “Did you see the cairn back there? Take that split.  The trail comes and goes through the valley.  You’ll see a snow patch that your dog can cool off in, and then you’ll see a more defined trail to follow.”

Her instructions were perfect.  And despite having a map, my confidence grew knowing where to look. 

Since she said she was a local, I asked which road a was a better drive, as I wasn’t looking forward to that cliff again.  She assured me that FS 317 was the easiest way out.  Oh well.

We said our brief farewells, and I said, “I’ll see you when you catch up to me.”  She was traveling much lighter and faster without a heavy pack, dog, garmin, and big camera.  She also knew where she was going, while I didn’t exactly.

Mouse and Deer

As I wandered off through the tundra, the trail disappeared.  I just trusted what she said as I watched the map.  In the meantime, Annie caught a mouse.  I yelled, “No.”  She dropped it.  Then caught it again.  I yelled, “No,” again.  And she dropped it again.  We did this one more time before it finally scrambled off.

“I was standing right there.  It was underneath my feet! She didn’t have to go far to catch it. I don’t know why it didn’t move!”

When I told my mom, she asked, “Did she bring it to you?”

Next, we spotted a deer in the distance.  She went from 0-60 in the blink of an eye.  I yelled, “No” again.  Fortunately, she stopped in her tracks.  She probably only made it 15 yards and was not even close to the deer, but I don’t want her thinking it is OK to prey.  Boy, was she wearing me out today.

For the last 8 hours, since 1:30am, probably the only words I’ve said to her were “no” or “stop it.”  I don’t know what got into her.  Yesterday, she was an absolute angel.  My thousands of dollars of training seemed like money well spent as I praised her constantly.  Today, not so much, though she did respond to “no”!

On top of it all, at this point of the intermittent trail, there was hardly a wildflower to be seen.  Maybe I should have walked to the ridge!

Wonderful Wildflowers and Views

Soon I connected with the well-defined trail and descended a steep ridge with panoramic views.  The more we descended, the more wildflowers lined the trail.  Soon we were surrounded by meadows blanketed in blossoms without a soul to be seen.  It was fantastic!

wildflowers on hasley basin loop near crested butte

I just can’t get over how many wildflower hikes in Crested Butte I’ve been on, and these colorful gems just get better!  This time the sunflowers, ligusticum, and lupine juxtaposed marbled mountains in the distance.

Sure enough, the local girl caught me and wanted her picture in the marvelous meadow with Annie!  Of course, I obliged. She said she missed her dog who just had ACL surgery.  Before she jogged off, I thanked her for her help and mentioned my concern for the hiker in fluorescent.  She spotted her too, and said she was hiking back this way on an upper ridge.  Whew! I had been hiking rather slowly in hopes she’d find me if she turned around.

After admiring some pink elephant ears, and taking a few more pictures in the sweeping meadows, I took a hint from my low camera battery and forced myself to stop taking photos!  I was never going to finish this 5.2 mile loop!  Fortunately, when I got back to my campsite in Washington Gulch, I only had to sift through 100 photos rather than the 169 I took yesterday at Rustler’s Gulch!

elephant ears on hasley basin loop

Back to the Campsite

Surprisingly, the hike up Schofield Pass to VANgo wasn’t so bad, and the drive down the aforementioned scary road was not that scary.  I guess it is more of the fear of the unknown which gets me.  Regardless, I will be sure to add in the AllTrails review that 4×4 is necessary!

My rough morning, turned into an amazing afternoon, which turned into a frustrating evening.  The trials and tribulations continue with Annie and VANgo.  Annie finally snapped her long lead as she lunged at the chipmunks in the campsite which have been taunting her all week.

In the meantime, while I was cooking dinner, my grey water tank overflowed.  Apparently, the drain clogged.  I didn’t realize it, as I tend to just turn the drain handle once a week without checking on it. Amidst that emergency, I had pulled out one of my sliding trays to get a hose in order to drain the tank from the inside.  A gust of wind slammed the back door into my tray which bent the tracker on my pullout!  Ugh!!

Limited on sleep, I had had enough and called it a night at 7pm and just reveled in my wildflower photos.  I can see why Crested Butte calls itself the wildflower capital of Colorado.  The Hasley Basin Loop was definitely worth the effort!   ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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