Butler Gulch Backcountry Skiing

Butler Gulch West from the East Chutes.  Photo: Rob Writz

Butler Gulch is a non-motorized winter playground. The proximity to the Denver area makes Butler Gulch popular with snowshoers, cross country skiers, and backcountry skiers. The quick approach and open bowls is great for skiers new to the backcountry and trying to get a feel for the sport. The main skin track up the Gulch allows for efficient access to the lines on Butler Gulch West and the Butler Bowl. The winter winds hammer the open bowls of Butler Gulch so get here quickly after a storm for above tree line freshies.


Butler Gulch East & West

  • Season: Winter
  • Summit Elevation: 12,085' (Bulter Bowl), 11,920' (Central Gully)
  • Aspect: East
  • Elevation Range: 10,465’ – 11,920’
  • Vertical: 400’ – 800’
  • Snowmobile Access: Snowmobiles are not allowed in Butler Gulch.

Skin Track:

The skin track to Butler Gulch starts at the west end of the winter trailhead at the obvious Forest Service signs. Ski a hundred yards up the road to the split from Jones Pass road, and there is a sign showing Jones Pass to the right and Butler Gulch to the left.

Butler Gulch has a primary skin track that follows a ski trail up the center of the valley paralleling the creek. At approximately 1.45 miles, the skin track splits near the base of the Headwall Glades: left and east to Butler Gulch East, and right and west to Butler Gulch West. [39.755, -105.861]

The path to Butler Gulch West follows an old jeep road to tree line and Butler Bowl. This skin track frequently ends at 11,600' in Butler Bowl. Traverse across the bowl to access the northern end of Butler Bowl, Power Line, and Point 12,085.

The path to Butler Gulch East continues into the Headwall Glades at the previously mentioned split. Continue to climb south through the Headwall Glades towards the Central Gully. Part way up Central Gully the skin track splits with the left leading to the East Chutes and straight continuing up Central Gully. The avalanche exposure increases in Central Gully and above this where the skin track traverses the East Chutes. The skin track ends at the saddle above Central Gully (11,920’) or at the last of the East Chutes.


The Butler Gulch routes all lead to the creek. You may need to climb out of the creek and uphill to reach the skin track that climbs the middle of Butler Gulch. The Central Gully and East Chutes of Butler Gulch East all return to the main skin track that climbs Butler Gulch.


1 - Creek Chute - Also known as Halfpipe Gully, this low angle chute is lined with rock walls. Drop in directly in from approximately 11,400'.

2 - Butler Gulch Bowl - A wide bowl with many options, Butler Bowl is a great place for beginning backcountry skiers learning the sport.

3 - Power Line - This is the power line that leads to Jones Pass. The upper portion is open, then into tighter trees that end near the clearing on the main skin track. Did we mention tight trees?

4 - Point 12,085 Glades - A small bowl and glade drops east from tree line below Point 12,085 into tight trees.

5 - Headwall Glades - Short glades surrounding you on the skin track climb to Central Gully.

6 - Central Gully - This north-facing and slide-prone gully below the saddle between Butler Gulch and Woods Creek.

7 - Hourglass and East Glades - These are the longest runs in Butler Gulch. Several steep and west facing chutes and glades convert to fun gullies in the trees back to the skin track. You will be exposed to significant avalanche hazard traversing from Central Gully to these chutes and glades.


Jones Pass (10,465’)

Jones Pass and Butler Gulch share a winter trailhead. If you are coming from Interstate 70, leave the highway at Exit 232 for Winter Park and Highway 40. Drive slowly through the town of Empire as the town strictly enforces the 35 mph speed limit. From the Interstate 70 exit, drive 7.2 miles to the first major switchback on Berthoud Pass. Turn left on Henderson Mine Road to Jones Pass. Drive to the Henderson Mine complex and to your right is a small road leading 800 feet to the winter trailhead. [39.7712, -105.8548] If there has been significant snow, this small road may not be plowed and not passable. To the left is a large lot that you can park in. This lot is commonly used by snowmobiles. The Jones Pass and Butler Gulch winter trailhead serves both motorized and non-motorized winter users. Most trucks and trailers park at the lower lot near the mine, or in the first of the upper two lots.


Below we have included a link to a Google interactive map and a curated list of photos of the mountain.

  Clicking on map above will open interactive Google map website

Clicking on map above will open interactive Google map website