Judd Falls

Crested Butte / Gothic, Colorado, USA

About Judd Falls


Hiking Distance: 2.4 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 90 minutes

Date first visited: 2020-10-16
Date last visited: 2020-10-16

Waterfall Latitude: 38.95939
Waterfall Longitude: -106.98108

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Judd Falls was perhaps the most accessible waterfall in the Crested Butte area, and so it didn’t surprise us that it also got a lot of visitation.

Considering how tiring high altitude hiking can be, I found this trail’s modest distance and fairly gentle elevation change to be a good introduction to the hiking in this part of the Rocky Mountains.

Judd_Falls_020_iPhone_10162020 - Looking down at Judd Falls from the main lookout
Looking down at Judd Falls from the main lookout

As you can see in the photo above, Judd Falls was basically a two-tiered twisting waterfall nestled within a canyon that was quite shadowy by the time we showed up on our mid-October visit in 2020.

So even though the larger lower half of Judd Falls was bathed in afternoon light, its upper tier was darkened out by the shadows.

I’d imagine that mid-day to early afternoon would be the best times to see this waterfall without as many shadows impacting the viewing and photographing experience.

We managed to do a hike from the lower trailhead parking area (see directions below) and make it to the lookout area after about 1.2 miles (or 2.4 miles round-trip) according to my GPS logs.

Judd_Falls_012_10162020 - Julie on the initial uphill between the lower and upper parking areas for the Judd Falls Trail
Julie on the initial uphill between the lower and upper parking areas for the Judd Falls Trail

The most strenuous part of the hike was pretty much in the first half-mile or so when we climbed roughly 200ft or so in elevation to reach the upper trailhead parking area for Judd Falls.

We noticed that some people have managed to drive to this upper trailhead parking area (including a sedan, which I’m sure he must have suffered some scrapes to the undercarriage of the car given how rocky the trail/road was).

People who have managed to drive up to here would shave off about a mile of the overall distance round-trip.

A gate and some trail signage marked the official start to the Judd Falls Trail, which traversed through private property that I’d imagine belonged to the nearby hamlet of Gothic down below.

Judd_Falls_077_10162020 - Julie walking past one of the few trees still holding onto their aspen leaves while hiking the Judd Trail. As you can see in the background, pretty much all of the aspen trees had lost their leaves by mid-October 2020
Julie walking past one of the few trees still holding onto their aspen leaves while hiking the Judd Trail. As you can see in the background, pretty much all of the aspen trees had lost their leaves by mid-October 2020

Speaking of Gothic, there were other roads and trails that would have made for a much shorter walk to reach Judd Falls, but they’re unsanctioned given the off-limits nature of the trails coming up directly from the “ghost town”.

After the trail leveled out not long after surpassing the gate marking the official start of the Judd Falls Trail, it passed through some open terrain flanked by some aspen trees (most bare and a few still clinging to leaves during our mid-October visit).

Then, the trail descended for about 100-120ft or so before reaching an unpaved road where we had the option of continuing further upstream along the Copper Creek Trail (eventually leading to Copper Lake) or briefly going downhill to the right towards Judd Falls.

Right near the gate with warning signs about how the land was private behind the gate leading back down to Gothic, this was where we went left to a lookout bench peering right down at the falls.

Judd_Falls_018_iPhone_10162020 - Context of the lookout bench and the limit viewing space peering down at the Judd Falls (mostly unseen from this spot since the falls was further below into the depths of the canyon)
Context of the lookout bench and the limit viewing space peering down at the Judd Falls (mostly unseen from this spot since the falls was further below into the depths of the canyon)

Overall, we spent a little under 2 hours in total, but we really took our time, especially since we were still getting acclimated to the elevation (at around 9,800ft).

Authorities

Judd Falls resides in the Gunnison National Forest just above Gothic and near the town of Crested Butte in Gunnison County, Colorado. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service, but the trail passes through private property (belonging to the Gothic). For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Gothic_Road_013_iPhone_10162020 - The Judd Falls adventure starts off with an unpaved drive along Gothic Road shortly after leaving the village of Mt Crested Butte
Gothic_Road_015_iPhone_10162020 - Shortly after passing through the hamlet of Gothic, the Judd Falls Trailhead was just a few more minutes drive away
Judd_Falls_005_10162020 - Looking further along the Gothic Road from the Judd Falls lower parking area. So you can see there's plenty of parking space here
Judd_Falls_006_10162020 - Trailhead signage at the Judd Falls lower parking area
Judd_Falls_008_10162020 - Julie starting to ascend the rough road from the lower parking area to the upper parking area and the Judd Falls Trailhead
Judd_Falls_014_10162020 - Julie continuing to ascend the initial stretch between the lower parking area for Judd Falls and the Copper Creek Trailhead, where it was clear to us that we had missed the peak of the Autumn colors as most of the aspen trees were bare
Judd_Falls_017_10162020 - Julie going past some rocky stretches of the rough road between the Judd Falls lower parking area and the Copper Creek Trailhead
Judd_Falls_021_10162020 - Just to give you an idea of how far we had climbed so far, here's a look back at the lower parking area for the Judd Falls Trail
Judd_Falls_023_10162020 - Julie continuing to go past some more rocks jutting up from the road leading to the Copper Creek Trailhead
Judd_Falls_030_10162020 - Julie walking past some very rocky sections of the road between the lower parking area for Judd Falls Trail and the Copper Creek Trailhead (i.e. the upper parking area for Judd Falls Trail). This made us glad that we didn't drive further up this trail just to save a half-mile in each direction
Judd_Falls_034_10162020 - Julie approaching some sedan that actually chanced going up the road to the Copper Creek Trailhead. I'd bet he had to have sustained some undercarriage scraping to even get this far
Judd_Falls_036_10162020 - A high-clearance truck was making its way down as Julie was getting closer to the Copper Creek Trailhead
Judd_Falls_041_10162020 - Julie continuing to walk between ghostly bare groves of aspen trees flanking the Judd Falls Trail
Judd_Falls_043_10162020 - Trailhead signage at the official start of the Judd Falls Trail near the Copper Creek Trailhead
Judd_Falls_055_10162020 - Julie going past some welcome sign for the Judd Falls Trail that also served to remind us that we were passing through private property
Judd_Falls_059_10162020 - Looking over the Judd Falls Weather Station, which was managed by the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic
Judd_Falls_061_10162020 - Julie walking past an open rocky stretch of the Judd Falls Trail as we approached more bare aspen trees
Judd_Falls_067_10162020 - Julie and I were quite surprised to see this grove of aspen trees along the Judd Falls Trail still had their leaves and put on a colorful display for us that contrasted well with the deep blue skies
Judd_Falls_076_10162020 - Looking up at an interesting lone aspen tree contrasting well with the blue skies along the Judd Falls Trail
Judd_Falls_092_10162020 - Julie about to descend the Judd Falls Trail in an open stretch with Mt Crested Butte way in the distance
Judd_Falls_103_10162020 - Julie descending on the Judd Falls Trail with Gothic Village in the background
Judd_Falls_110_10162020 - Julie heading right at this road, which was pretty much at the Judd Falls Lookout. The Copper Creek Trail actually continued further to the left of this junction
Judd_Falls_111_10162020 - Our first glimpse at Judd Falls though this was actually the upper tier of its two-tiered drop
Judd_Falls_136_10162020 - This was the gate right by the Judd Falls Overlook.  Behind this gate was the private road leading to Gothic. The maps suggest that this was the shortest trail for Judd Falls, but this was actually off-limits
Judd_Falls_123_10162020 - Julie looking down at Judd Falls from the sanctioned lookout
Judd_Falls_142_10162020 - Context of Judd Falls and its surroundings as seen from the sanctioned lookout
Judd_Falls_132_10162020 - A memorial bench dedicated to Garwood Hall Judd, after whom this waterfall was named
Judd_Falls_134_10162020 - Looking back at the sanctioned lookout for Judd Falls
Judd_Falls_147_10162020 - Julie on the return hike back to the Judd Falls lower parking area, which initially made us go uphill before it was all downhill after that
Judd_Falls_156_10162020 - Context of how little Autumn foliage was left during our mid-October visit to Judd Falls
Judd_Falls_179_10162020 - Shadows were growing longer as we were returning to the Judd Falls lower parking area
Judd_Falls_184_10162020 - Julie descending to the lower parking area for Judd Falls Trail to end our excursion


Judd Falls was near the hamlet of Gothic, which was roughly 6 miles north of Crested Butte along the Gothic Road (Road 317).

The Road 317 becomes unpaved shortly after passing through the village of Mt Crested Butte, but it was quite doable by 2wd sedans (with care since there were some potholes, especially in the beginning).

Judd_Falls_025_iPhone_10162020 - Looking back at the lower parking area for the Judd Falls Trail, where the road cutting across was the Gothic Road 317
Looking back at the lower parking area for the Judd Falls Trail, where the road cutting across was the Gothic Road 317

It took us roughly 25 minutes to drive from Crested Butte to this trailhead, which gives you an idea of how fast (or slow) we had to go on the Gothic Road.

Once at the Judd Falls Lower Trailhead Parking Area (which was pretty obvious given the restroom facility as well as plenty of parking spaces), we had a choice of starting the hike here or reducing our hike by another mile round-trip.

We opted to start at the lower trailhead, which made the round-trip hiking distance about 2.4 miles round-trip according to my GPS logs.

However, we could have tested the clearance of our rental SUV and kept driving up part of the Judd Falls Trail to the Copper Creek Trailhead (or what I’ve called the Upper Parking Area for the Judd Falls Trail).

Judd_Falls_042_10162020 - Julie approaching the gate and trailhead signs by the upper parking area for the Judd Falls Trail. Notice that when we visited in mid-October, pretty much all of the aspen leaves had fallen off their trees
Julie approaching the gate and trailhead signs by the upper parking area for the Judd Falls Trail. Notice that when we visited in mid-October, pretty much all of the aspen leaves had fallen off their trees

For context, Crested Butte was about 28 miles (over a half-hour’s drive) north of Gunnison, 92 miles (under 2 hours drive) northeast of Montrose, 128 miles (about 2.5 hours drive) northeast of Ouray, 157 miles (over 3 hours drive) northeast of Telluride, 152 miles (about 3 hours drive) east of Grand Junction, 153 miles (about 3.5 hours drive) south of Marble, 199 miles (about 4.5 hours drive) south of Aspen, and 187 miles (about 4 hours drive) southwest of Denver.

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view of the falls from a couple of spots right at the sanctioned overlook .


starting from the private road fence before descending towards the sanctioned lookout for the falls from a couple of spots to reveal different parts of its two twisting tiers .

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Tagged with: gothic, gunnison, colorado, crested butte, rocky mountains, waterfall



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