Last week we got lost and accidentally climbed the wrong 12,000′ mountain. Initially we had intended to end up in Butler Gulch, which I had been told was Colorado’s best kept snow shoeing secret. Well…. we started out in that direction and saw some crazy beautiful scenery, but somehow we ended half way up Red Mountain instead. While it was really lovely, it wasn’t where we were trying to get to, and that was somewhat of a problem.
To be fair, we didn’t know for sure we we had been lost until we got back home and double checked a map. Once we reached this point (photo below), I was pretty sure we weren’t headed into a “gulch” of any kind, but for some reason we kept going…
It’s important to bring maps, especially when you hike somewhere new. We knew that, but we still didn’t do it. Don’t be like us, or you will end up climbing the wrong mountain. Even if you think you know what you’re doing you can still get lost or off trail. We thought we knew here we were going having studied a topo map the night before, but, distracted by the beauty of the landscape, we blindly followed a well-defined ski trail instead of looking for signs of the trail we really wanted to follow. Lucky for us, this time we ended up on a well-populated mountain top filled with downhill skiers and snowboarders, but it could have ended up a lot worse if we had been in the back country. We made the mistake of not bringing or following a map, luckily we were in the best possible place, somewhere we weren’t actually in trouble being lost. We got lucky.
All this being said, this was a gorgeous hike and we have no regrets ending up where we ended up. “Breathtaking” doesn’t even begin to describe it. Well, actually it does. Climbing the side of a 12,000′ mountain sucked the breath right out of us. Butler Gulch trail/what ever trail we were on was one of the most picturesque winter hikes we’ve ever been on. If it wasn’t so cold at the top we would have stayed a lot longer and gotten more photos and video, but the below-zero temps with gusting wind-chills were crazy intense so we didn’t stay long. Here’s what we did capture…
Got 45 seconds? Check out this short video of views from the summit:
CLICK HERE FOR DIRECTIONS TO THE TRAILHEAD (We can only lead you to the trailhead, we can’t make you follow the right path.)
STARTING ELEVATION: 10,427′
ENDING ELEVATION: About 12,000 feet, for either the correct route or where we ended up.
DIFFICULTY: Difficult. Some websites have it as “moderate” but we’re calling it difficult due to the high elevation and steepness of some parts of the trail. It might be more moderate without snow, but some parts were very challenging for us even in snowshoes.
PROS: Stunning views, peaceful scenery, not crowded.
CONS: Trails could be better marked.
• Get to the trailhead before 9:30am in order to secure a parking spot.
• You may see and hear tons of snowmobiles for the first 1/4 mile but they turn off on a different trail (Jones Pass) real quick and won’t bother you.
• In the winter downhill skiers and snowboarders will bomb down the trail, which looks totally awesome and I would love to do that some day. However, be aware of this at all times and keep far to one side of the path. If you hear one coming give a shout to the rest of your group and make sure everyone knows which side of the path to leap to.
Do not blindly follow the path others have trod. Think while you’re hiking and be aware of where you are and where you are going. Make note of the landscape, check your map every once in awhile, and if you start to get the feeling you’re heading up a mountain instead of toward a gulch, think about what that means. Stay safe out there!