In the tent: Lake Irwin beckons

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – I scoped out the Lake Irwin campground outside of Crested Butte a few years back and made a vow to return and pitch a tent.

Having finally done so, for two nights last weekend, I’ve made a vow to return and do it again.

We actually planned to stop at the Lost Lake campground, closer to home on Kebler Pass Road, but discovered it is closed for reconstruction, so we kept on driving. Though it was midafternoon on Saturday by the time we pulled into Lake Irwin, located about 7 miles west of Crested Butte, we lucked into an open campsite, no doubt because some of the better sites (ones with views of the lake) can’t be reserved in advance; they’re first-come, first-served sites.

The lake, at 10,200 feet in elevation, is popular with day users, particularly on weekends, but it’s surprisingly large, making it easy to distance oneself from the kids and teenagers splashing on the shoreline near the campground.

It’s open to canoes and kayaks, but apparently not motorized boats, another plus.

We set up camp and set our canoe on the water for an early evening, picturesque paddle around the lake.

The next morning, we set out on the Dyke Trail, accessed straight out of the campground. It’s open to equestrians, mountain bikers and hikers, and a handful of bikers flew down the single-track, the late-season wildflowers a blur in their peripheral vision. The trail offered meadows ringed with mountain views, aspen groves (I’ll bet its breathtaking in the fall) and an endless downhill that meant we had a long uphill to return to camp.

We quickly agreed any return trip would involve biking the entire 14-mile loop, a combination of single track and a climb back to the campground on Kebler Pass Road.

This time, since we had our dog in tow, we wore her out on the hike, then let her nap in the back seat of the truck at our shaded campsite while we stole back down to the lake for some fly fishing in the canoe. Stocked rainbow trout hit hard and tugged hard. I don’t doubt we’d have been out there until dark, were it not for the pooch.

I don’t doubt we’ll be back to Lake Irwin, either.