Colorado’s Iconic Crystal Mill

Hi friends! I went on an unexpected break from posting last week but I’m as excited as ever to share what I’ve been up to! First, I’d like to extend my sincere gratitude to those of you that continue to support my adventures, endeavors, and matters of the heart as well as welcome those who have joined me on this platform in recent weeks. It is a pleasure to connect with you all! So let’s get to it shall we?

This past weekend we made one of my bucket list items a reality!  I have been dreaming and talking about visiting Colorado’s iconic Crystal Mill for years. Just ask my husband who (we’ve spent hours talking about it) was arguably more excited to cross this one-off the must-do-queue. If you’re unfamiliar, the Crystal Mill is a famed spot for photographers and explorers alike. In the 10 years I’ve been around Colorado, I have seen captures of the mill from every angle and in each season, except winter now that I think about it.

Old Hotel in ghost town of Crystal, Colorado

You can access the mill from either Marble, CO or Crested Butte, CO via Schofield pass. Both routes require 4×4 vehicles, experienced drivers, and/or the endurance to hike it yourself. The roads are single track, dirt roads from the mining days and are not for the faint of heart. The gnarliest part seems to be the rock crawl that runs parallel to Devils Punchbowl where the drop offs are completely unforgiving. I, however always opt to hike, even while knowing our truck could handle the travel, my anxiety cannot. We were the only people we saw on foot and most seemed to think our decision to hike to the mill and back in one day was far out.

Cabin in Crystal, Colorado

The Crystal mill is approximately 9-10 miles roundtrip when starting from the top of Schofield pass. It’s a moderate hike, almost entirely downhill to the town of Crystal, and after a lunch/photo break, the 5 miles uphill isn’t excruciating by any means. Not to mention your walking in a jaw-dropping canyon, lined with emerald hued waters and cascading waterfalls. The town of Crystal was founded by miners in the 1800’s and sustained by local silver mines. When the town was booming there were a few hundred residents and now it seems to have a dozen or so seasonal residents. It is indeed considered a ghost town and certainly felt like a walk through time as many of the structures have been there since the first miners. I pondered all the stories they might tell if they could.

Historic cabin in Crystal, Colorado

It takes only a minute or two to walk through the town before you start down a small incline where The Crystal Mill sits just above the Crystal River. Even though I had seen countless photos beforehand, it did not discount the utter amazement and awe I felt upon seeing it for myself. Weathered wood surrounded by the contrast of the dark green pine trees, bright green aspens and the Crystal river flowing alongside. Picturesque would be an understatement. What you can’t see are the swarms of flies and crowds of people who trickled in and out. The people, not the flies. They were consistent. Most folks seemed to be on their Sunday drives in their buggies, stopping to appreciate the historic mill for a few moments before moving on.

Colorado's iconic Crystal MillColorado'd iconic Crystal Mill along the Crystal River

When in operation, the Crystal Mill was called the Sheep Mountain Power House. It housed a compressor which was powered by water running down the ladder like structure also known as the penstock. The compressor powered the machinery used to bore the nearby silver mines. The turquoise waters made me believe that must have been how the Crystal River got its name but I have no real insight as to whether there’s any truth to that or not.

Historic Sheep Mountain Power House aka The Crystal MillVictoria Lise in vintage couture dress at iconic Crystal Mill

Last year a dear friend of mine had gifted me a dress of her mothers. It was vintage couture and tailored just for her mom. The dress happened to fit me almost as if it were made for me and I was so touched to have been given a dress with a story that I wanted to do something unique to showcase such an extraordinary, one of a kind piece.

Victoria Lise sits on Crystal River in vintage couture dress

I packed the dress along thinking The Crystal Mill may just be the place I envisioned shooting with the dress. To my delight it was perfect. The colors of the water and the dress complimented each other wonderfully while the dress and the mill shared a timeless essence.

Victoria Lise sits in Crystal River with iconic Crystal MillVictoria Lise in Crystal Waters next to Crystal Mill

It was harsh afternoon lighting and not the most ideal for shooting but the pillow-y clouds made for an interesting shade when partially covering the sun. It wasn’t a challenge to make the best of an already sunny situation. Although I can check it off of my bucket list, I don’t know that once was enough. I already have an aching to venture back again, a longing to swim in the pristine waters and the desire to capture the Mills magnificence in a new light.

Crystal Colorado Iconic Historic Mill

If you’re interested in reading more about The Crystal Mill itself you can find background and preservation information here.

And to find a gallery of incredible captures simply Google: Colorado Crystal Mill!

Thank you all for joining me here and until next time, 

Happy trails ♥

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  1. Wow, gorgeous! Lived in the Denver area for 8 years and have never been there…or even heard about it! ::embarrassed to say::

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is, thank you!! I haven’t seen many captures out in the open of the mill in the Denver area but all over the Western Slope!! Do you miss Colorado ?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I miss the wide open spaces of Colorado! We moved to San Diego and the population is so much denser here. We used to love just hopping in the car and going for a drive and exploring there…with no SoCal traffic! You are fortunate!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. aircooledadventures

    Some beautiful photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I am so appreciative~

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Debi walls

    Tori ur photography and writing keeps getting better with each entry as do ur adventures thanks for taking me to so many breathtaking places . 👣💋


  4. Great post! I have been wanting to visit and photograph this iconic spot myself. Thanks for the tips!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so very much! I’m so glad you found it useful. I really hope to make it again this fall during peak colors!


  5. Laura James

    Thank you.


  6. That’s beautiful 🌹

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is! Thank you!! x

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love your sense of adventure drive and determination. … a lifestyle most folks can only dream about… wonderful photos and a beautiful dress with a great story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Dad! You’re the best!


  8. […] but always exhilarating and always worth it. We passed by Emerald last weekend when we visited Colorado’s Iconic Crystal Mill in Crystal, Colorado. It was on our way home down a twisty, narrow, dirt road. All routes are the […]


  9. Fabulous Victoria – a tick off your bucket list and an amazing vintage dress which looks beautiful on you! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so very much, Wendy! It was everything & more than I hoped it could be. Hope you are fabulous! Will be coming by to catch up soon. xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow – sounds amazing Victoria! I look forward to you ‘popping over’ whenever you get chance.. xx

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh my, this is gorgeous!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I really appreciate you saying so! It is tough to bring justice to a place of such beauty!!

      Liked by 1 person

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