Hike Butler Gulch

Colorado Butler Gulch

  • Activities:

    Photography, Running, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    5 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1500 Feet

Dog Friendly
Family Friendly
Forest
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Get amazing views of alpine lakes and and an up close view of this wildflower heaven. The trail is very accessible from the Denver Area. If you have a little more energy, it also makes for a great trail run.

Butler Gulch is a pristinely beautiful day hike in the heart of the Arapaho National Forest near Idaho Springs, Colorado. Easily accessible from Denver, Butler Gulch is full of jaw-dropping views in all seasons, and anyone in good health can enjoy this gem.

The hike is five miles long and rated moderately difficulty. The hike begins at about 10,500 feet and ends at about 12,000 feet for a 1500 foot elevation gain.

In summer, especially in July and August and following a snowy winter, Butler Gulch is one of the best places to view wildflowers in the Front Range. It's known as a "century" hike thanks to over 100 species of wildflowers along the trail. Among the most recognizable are the Colorado state flower, Rocky Mountain Columbine, and plentiful Indian Paintbrush.

While you are still in the wooded area, you will appreciate the snowmelt creek that runs near the trail, and at one point offers a beautiful vista of small waterfalls up and down the mountainside. Above the tree line, the sea of flowers against a backdrop of mountains takes your breath away. If you are truly breathless by then, you can turn around and go back, but there is more if you are up for it! The trail takes you past two abandoned mine sites, where you can explore the old machinery and structures that have been weathering the elements for ages. Cross a year-round glacier and enjoy a mid-summer snowball fight en route to the trail which continues up the side of the ridge. Climb this section carefully as the narrow trail is perched on a steep hillside. Once on top of the ridge, enjoy 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains. In summer you can see two pretty lakes to the south. At this point you'll be standing at about 12,000 feet above sea level.

Directions: From I-70, take Exit 232 (US-40 West toward Empire and Winter Park). Soon after passing through Berthoud Falls (9 miles), turn left on Henderson Mine Rd/Jones Pass. As you approach the Henderson Mine (about 2 miles), keep right to remain on Henderson Mine Rd. In winter, park in the parking area on the left. In summer, continue to a fork in the road (about 1 mile). Jones Pass continues on the right; Butler Gulch is on the left. Park near the gate, or along the roadside nearby.

Tips:

  • No restrooms are available at this site. The closest public restroom is at the Big Bend Picnic Area, the first left you encounter upon entering Henderson Mine Rd.
  • Go early. To avoid a crowded parking area and a crowded trail, you should begin your hike by 8:00 am.
  • Afternoon thunder and lightning storms are common in summertime Colorado, another reason to go early. It is dangerous to be caught above the tree line in a storm.
  • Never, ever, for any reason, approach a wild animal.
  • Picking Columbines in Colorado is illegal. Please don't do it!
  • With several stream crossings, your feet may get wet, so carry extra socks.
  • Going on the weekend? Plan for heavy and delayed traffic on westbound I-70 due to construction and increased volume of traffic.

Pack List

  • Trail Shoes or Hiking Boots
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Daypack
  • Trekking Poles (if needed)
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Reviews

Overall rating: 

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I have now hiked this in both summer and winter. There is a trail to follow in the summer and in the winter there is a bit of route finding towards the top. But that's the fun part! Blaze your own trail and see where it leads you. Serene and beautiful! Well worth the effort!

7 months ago
7 months ago

This hike was harder than I thought--lots of climbing, but the payoff is fantastic. We hiked this 8/2/16--many wildflowers still in abundance. Lots of water for our dogs--that was a plus! Thanks for sharing this information; directions were spot on

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

Amy KesicStoryteller

A mom who decided to get fit a few years ago, I took up running and hiking to keep myself moving. Since moving to the Front Range foothills a year ago, I've spent my free time discovering all the trails I possibly can. I'm in love with Colorado and the Rocky Mountains; I also like to take pictures, and I share my adventures here on The Outbound and on Instagram at @run2themountains.

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