Hike Butler Gulch

Colorado Butler Gulch

Added by Amy Kesic

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.

  • 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)
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Hiking, Photography, Running

Skill Level:



Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



5 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1500 Feet



Dog Friendly
Family Friendly

Are we missing something?

Suggest an edit

How to Get There

3 months ago

Beautiful Wild flowers

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

3 months ago

Added by Amy Kesic

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.

More Adventures Nearby

Hike the Spearhead

Colorado / Glacier Gorge Trailhead

Beginning from the Glacier Gorge trailhead, follow trail signs towards Mills Lake. At Mills, continue onward past Black Lake, and then continue hiking up into the incredible basin above Black Lake.

Kyle Frost
2 Saves

Hike Mt. Elbert via Black Cloud Trail

Colorado / Black Cloud Trailhead

Directions:  Heading south from Leadville from U.S. 24: West on CO 82 for 10.5 miles to a hidden right turn that leads to a trail head. If you make it to the Mt.

Mike Stevens
2 Saves

Backpack to Dragon's Back via Horsethief Trail

Colorado / Horsethief Trailhead

The Uncompahgre Wilderness stretches out through the mountains and forests of southwestern Colorado, with worn trails lingering beside abandoned 19th-century mines and crossing old alpine sheep pastu.

Jonathon Reed
13 Saves