Saturday, August 4, 2012

Butler Gulch

Distance: 6 miles round trip
Elevation: 10, 546 ft - 11,963 ft (at the Jean Mine)
Elevation Gain: 1,238 ft
Date Hiked: 14 July 2012
Dogs: Off leash, National Forest
Bathroom at Trailhead: No

Mountain Views on the Butler Gulch Trail
Butler Gulch,  near the large switchback on the way to Berthoud Pass, is a close-to-Denver alpine journey filled with wildflowers, waterfalls, historic mining ruins, and make-me-move-here scenic views. This trail is fantastic!

The parking area is just the road by a gate
While most of the route follows an old road, it  occasionally gets soggy
Columbine near the trail
Another stream crossing
You get to Butler Gulch by first turning off of Highway 40 at County Road 202 and then heading due west towards the Henderson Mine. Just before the mine, a dirt frontage road splits off and parallels the paved road.  Continue on this dirt road until the parking area right at the junction with the Jones Pass Road.  Park along the side of the road by a large gate.

Monkshead along the trail
The waterfall at 1.5 miles
Indian Paintbrush along the trail
Mosses extend like beach sand from the "forest" of this riparian ecosystem
The lower sections of Butler Gulch are soggy and tree shrouded with several stream crossings and numerous stands of wildflowers. As the trail rises, it comes to a long cascading waterfall at 1.5 miles and finally breaks out of treeline at 1.8 miles. From this point on, the trail travels westward across a wide alpine shelf and finally reaches the remains of the Jean Mine at 2.7 miles.

View to the west as the trail breaks out of the trees
Heading across the shelf to the mine
The Continental Divide to the north
More flowers because I could not resist
Wildflowers dot as well as carpet this high altitude play land and I found myself irresistibly drawn to them as our group continued on their way. I would scurry to catch up only to be distracted by the latest colorful bauble.

From the western end of the shelf looking back at the Continental Divide
Getting closer to the mine
The mine tailing come into view
The ruins of the Jean Mine are interesting as well.  Purists may be offended by the piles of metal, old cars, and defunct machinery that covers the area, but this is our Colorado history and it has been part of the landscape for good or evil for the last 100 years.

Playing with an old car
More ruins
Behind the mine and wrapping around the entire area is the Continental Divide.  There is also a small spur trail leading to a shelf that formally contained a small glacial tarn.

Near the mining ruins was a whole field of Indian Paintbrush
When you see clouds like this above treeline, you should run away!  
If you are from the Denver area and are trying to decide whether to petal peep at Diamond Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness or on Butler Gulch, choose the latter.  It will be significantly less crowed and may actually have more wildflowers.


Linda W. said...

Wow, this looks like an amazing hike! Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos.

Linda said...

Oh wow, the wildflowers....
'Gulch' - what a redolently American word.