Crystal Mills is one of those places which will give you goosebumps at the first sight, will make you think about it, and finally, you will give in to the beauty of the mill standing tall with its surroundings. A house with a mill at the edge of the cliff, trees are surrounding the house everywhere and a river at the bottom- everything is out there! This place is like a fairy tale, only it is not a castle but a mill. You will love it. The exciting part of the journey is the drive to the mill. You will not be bored for a single minute- I can assure you that.
This former mill, which is located just outside of a small town named Marble, Colorado, is one of the most photographed landmarks in the state. This mill was built in 1892. The irony thing is that it was never a working mill; it was a powerhouse. Formerly known as ‘Sheep Mountain Power House’, it contained a turbine that was driven by the water force of the Crystal River. At that time, it used to be an air compressor that supplied power for pneumatic tools and helped to provide air ventilation to the mines nearby. In 1917, when the Sheep Mountain Mine closed, the mill was abandoned. After sixty years of being abandoned, this mill was recognized as a landmark and in 1985, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today this place is one of those attractions that is visited by hundreds of visitors, adventurers, hikers, and photographers. The beauty of the mill sitting high atop the rushing river is hard to describe in words. You will not be able to find any settings perfect than this- the combination of the natural landscape and industrial craftmanship evolution.
No doubt this mill is amazing and beautiful. But the drive to the mill is exciting and you will need a four-wheel-drive for that. This is not one of those drives that can be doable with a two-wheel vehicle in the dry season. You will need a four-wheel-drive for sure. The road is rough, bumpy, ragged, and narrow at places. You can rent a four-wheel-drive from the nearby town and drive only the last few miles to the mills. If you do not want to drive by yourself, you can take a guided tour. There are a lot of tour companies that will take you to the mill for a charge or payment. In that way, you will not have to drive the bumpy road and you will be able to enjoy the ride without any tension or stress of driving. In my case, I love to drive, and I love challenges. That was the main reason why I decided to drive the road to the mill and rented a four-wheel drive. The five-mile distance took more than one hour, and it was a bumpy ride. Not a single moment was boring, and I had the pleasure of driving that bumpy dirt road. Another way to reach the mill is to hike or bike. We saw a lot of people hiking up to the mill. Do not forget to visit the small-town Marble, located about seven miles off Highway 133 on Country Road 3. This town has a certain rustic feeling that will give you the feeling of the west.
The whole drive to the mill is amazing. You will come across two lakes- Beaver Lake and Lizard Lake. Both lakes are beautiful. You should step out and take your time to enjoy the gorgeous view of the lake. I saw the most beautiful rolling clouds with fall foliage while taking a stop near Beaver Lake. Lizard lake on the other hand is small, made up of runoff from the snowy mountains. When we were visiting, it was fall and according to the foliage forecast, it was a bit past peak. But we got the most amazing fall color the whole way. The mill, the forest, and the river together provide a stunning view during any time of the day. But I found it most beautiful during the fall. With all those yellow golden fall colors, the mill looks extremely beautiful. If you can get the golden glow at the back, it adds a dimension to the picture. You can simply stand near the side of the road and relish the view of the mill. You can also go down to the river and enjoy the view from another perspective. But for that, you have to pay a small fee and sign a waiver. The mill is currently on a privately owned property. To get a good picture from the bottom you have to purchase the pass. Once you get the picture, visit the mill, it’s time to say goodbye. Don’t forget to make a stop at the town Marble and get a bite there. They have some amazing food over there, which will complete your journey of visiting Crystal Mills.
At a glance/fact
- Activity: Driving, Hiking
- Drive distance: around 9 miles round trip
- Elevation change: 1000 ft
- Difficulty: moderate
- Location: Marble, Colorado
- Co-ordinate: The starting point of the road that leads to Crystal Mill (from Marble, CO): 39.072612, -107.182906. Crystal Mill Coordinate: 39.05915, -107.10453
- Permit/Fee: No fee required. A small fee required if you want to get down to the river.
- Best time to visit: Summer and fall.
- Parking: There are a few parking spots nearby the road.
- Amenities: none
- Please check the weather and plan accordingly. Bring sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, snacks, and water with you.
- The road is narrow, be cautious while driving on it. Please note that you will have to share the road with hikers, bikers, ATVs, horseback riders, and also other vehicles. Please be respectful to each other and provide room for driving or passing as much as you can.
- Let us practice leave no trace principle. We are also a part of nature, so we should enjoy it, love it and protect it.