Nestled deep within the picturesque Gunnison National Forest in Colorado lies a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers. The name says it all. There is no way one can be in a bad mood when hiking the Oh-Be-Joyful Trail. We discovered the trail in a recreation area located just outside the charming town of Crested Butte, Colorado. This entire beautiful and mountainous region offers a pristine wilderness experience that is quite extraordinary.
Our Hike on Oh-Be-Joyful Trail
One early September morning, we packed our day packs and started walking the 13.7-mile round trip hike towards Blue Lake. The path follows the Slate River most of the way. Several times on the ascent, the river’s crystal-clear waters invited us to stop and view the several waterfalls and natural wading ponds along the way.
The trail meandered through a gorge at the base of Peeler and Garfield Peaks. The hike reminded us of other high altitude gorge hikes we had climbed such as, Fay Canyon, Black Canyon of Gunnison and Natural Bridges.
Signs that autumn was arriving soon was reflected in the colors of the valley. Golds, browns and red vegetation were everywhere.
Even so, the summer season was not giving up easily. The vivid blue sky and bright golden sun helped the hardier plants to remain green and lush. The contrast between the two seasons was striking. There were still stubborn wild flowers in full bloom despite recent freezing night temperatures.
When we reached mile five, we stopped to rest and discuss whether we should continue. We wanted to hike to Blue lake but the additional mile and a half to the water seemed like it might be further than we wanted to do that day. We knew for every mile we added going up were we’re adding two miles to the round trip.
Our bodies were still getting used to the high altitude and our walking strides were more labored than usual but we opted to continue.
Blue Lake Does Not Disappoint
The final climb on the Oh-Be-Joyful trail to Blue Lake was the steepest section of the trail. The final half mile was a forty percent incline on a switchback path. We pushed forward but took our time doing it knowing we were not on a schedule.
When we finally reached the water’s edge of the lake, we instinctively knew it was time to relax. The lake’s elevation is about 12,000 feet above sea level, and the water was green cast (despite its name), amazingly clear and welcoming.
We spotted a flat rock that was halfway out of the water and halfway submerged. It gave the illusion of a mini beach, and we quickly removed our footwear to soak our feet in the ice-cold water.
We knew we had found the perfect place to eat lunch and swim!
The Oh-Be-Joyful Swim
I’m not the bravest person in the world when it comes to swimming in cold water, but the day was perfect for wading into these glacier waters. The sun was warm and the air temperature was nearly 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even so, there was no preparing my body for the shocking cold I was about to put my body in. Worried about slipping and falling, I tip-toed into the beautiful water until I got about waist deep. From there, I did a full body plunge. It was both terrible and wonderful at the same time.
I splashed around in the frigid liquid as long as I could but turned back to shore when I realized my legs and feet were turning numb.
Once I returned to our mini-beach, I quickly dried off and put my clothes back on. I felt great – even invigorated! My body and spirits were renewed and ready for the hike back down the mountain.
Summary of Oh-Be-Joyful Trail
The Oh-Be-Joyful Trail is a hidden treasure waiting to be explored. The out-and-back pathway is generally considered a difficult route and takes an average of 5-6 hours to complete. The area is popular for backpacking, camping and cross-country skiing, so expect to see others on the trail. Dogs are welcome and may be off leash in some areas.
When we hiked the trail, there were free range cattle along the way. We hiked past them within a few feet and had no problems.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker seeking a new challenge or simply a person searching for a serene escape into nature, this trail will leave you joyful in the truest sense of the word.
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