Trail: Butler Gulch
Length: 5.5 Miles RT
Elevation Gain: 1,811 ft
Highest Point: ~12,000 Ft
Where: Arapahoe National Forrest
Closest Town: Empire/Idaho Springs
Directions: i70 west exit Empire (like you are going to Winter Park)
Hiking Butler Gulch
Y’all, this hike is hands down one of the best hikes I have ever done in Colorado! Gorgeous views, incredible wildflowers, and a waterfall all in roughly an hour’s drive from Denver make this hike a fav
- I suggest getting to the lot by 8 am and packing a snack or lunch to enjoy on the mountain so you can be off by early afternoon before storms *could* roll in. We started a little after 8 am and were back at our car by 12:30 pm.
- This trail is not for someone who just got off the plane. Please take time to acclimate before going on a big hike like this – the elevation gain is no joke.
- Bring Poles! With a steady incline and one big push this hike is 10x easier with poles
The trail starts off totally covered with a few water crossings before you reach a spectacular waterfall surrounded by wildflowers. As I said, this is the best hike near Denver for wildflowers. The first third of the trail continues in the woods until you are above the tree line, so don’t forget your hat and sunscreen.
This is a lollypop hike – you really want to go clockwise (turn left) at the junction otherwise, you will be scrambling down a very steep hillside, and you would much rather go up this than a town. This hike is a steady climb from the get-go, then has one very vertical section (again, you want to be going up here). With the steady include and steep sections, poles are a must – and I was grateful for them on the way down too.
Once on top, the views are spectacular. You can see pretty far on a clear day. We hiked a little further along the ridge before stopping for a cheese plate. Yes, I brought a cheese plate – you can see all my adventure cheese plates here #channingandthecheeseplate.
The hike down can be a little narrow, but the views of the valley are amazing, with more and more fields of wildflowers. The Arapahoe National Forrest is truly a special place with some of my favorite hikes close to Denver, like Herman Gulch.
Find my other favorite hikes around colorado here and read my must-have hiking gear guide here