The Crystal Mill was built in 1893 to provide compressed air to a Sheep Mountain mine. The structure that leads down to the Crystal River is called a penstock, according to a display in the Marble Historical Society’s museum, which is open Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 3pm until early October. Photo by Lynn “Jake” Burton.

An entomologist for the Colorado State Forest Service is predicting a good leaf-changing season this year. “They (aspen) look better than they’ve looked in a long time,” the entomologist told the Denver Post. As usual, the peak leaf-peeking time is late September to early October.
With that information in mind, it might be time to consider heading up to the Crystal Mill outside Marble to catch the colors, which provide a backdrop for the historic structure. This article gives photographers tips on how to get to the Crystal Mill and recommendations on snapping the thing when you get there.
First, the road. Crystal River Jeep Tours in Marble has driven this reporter to the mill twice in the past two years. I can’t stress this too much: the five-mile trip to the mill is four-wheel drive only. A pair of signs tell that to motorists, but non-four-wheelers still try it.
I talked to a Marble resident this summer who knows a couple who lived at the last house before Daniel’s Hill. Every year, people in conventional vehicles got into trouble and came to their house asking for help. In one case, the gas tank got ripped off the underside of a late model sedan.
As for Daniel’s Hill, it starts a little less than a mile past Beaver Lake and is widely considered the most treacherous part of the route.
Experienced four-wheelers recommend vehicles have at least an inch of lift, while others say two is the magic number. Lift or no lift, it’s a good idea to let some air out of your tires for traction, and don’t forget to reinflate them when you get back to town. The one-lane road is narrow in parts, so your shiny new four-wheeler might return home with some scratches.
Another reminder: vehicles going up have the right-of-way when faced with vehicles coming down.
OK, now for some photo tips.
For starters, it’s a good idea to bring a fully-charged camera, or a portable charger. You don’t want to run out of juice after the sometimes treacherous road to the mill.
Let’s go straight to what I consider one of the best vantage points for shooting the mill — as seen in the accompanying photo. This was shot from just off the road. The angle shows both Crystal Mill rooftops, with emphasis on the ladder-like structure leading down to the Crystal River. Some photographers bring a ladder or step ladder to get up even higher and shoot down on the mill. There is a similar angle about 50 feet down the road. That spot doesn’t show the east side of the mill, or the two rooftops
As long as you’re spending an hour each way up and back, you might consider shooting some wide angle or zoom in for a popular postcard image. With camera phones and DSLRs (digital single lens reflex cameras), photos don’t cost anything, so you might as well shoot ‘em up.
Wrapping up, the old town of Crystal City is less than 100 yards upstream from the mill and is worth a look. On the way up or down to the mill, you might want to stop and photograph Lizard Lake, especially in the fall. If you’re lucky it’ll be a calm day, with the water reflecting the foliage like a mirror.
Final thoughts: there is no cell phone service at the Crystal Mill or in Marble. Consider bringing some basic survival gear because you never know when some lunkhead will block the road and you will have to hike back to Marble or spend the night up there.
That’s about it. Happy trails. I might see you there.