Crested Butte Trails: Rustler Gulch

In Hiking guide by Josh Futterman

First things first: Add Rustler Gulch to your bucket list. There aren’t many hikes that can compete with the amazing variety and abundance of wildflowers you’ll find here. This is one of those rare treats that occur in a very short summer window (late July, early August). In addition to the vivid colors and fragrances, this valley also treats you to numerous waterfalls and mountain views.

Highlights:Wildflowers, Mountain views
RT Length:7 miles
Approx. Time:4 hours
Elevation Gain:1850 feet
Max Elevation:11,400 feet
Trailhead Elevation:10,250 feet
Travel Time to TH:45 minutes

Click photos to view multi-season gallery


From the Town of Crested Butte: Take Gothic Road (135) north past Mt. Crested Butte for 4.3 miles. Bear right past the Snodgrass Trailhead parking lot and descend into the East River Valley for another 6.5 miles past the town of Gothic until you reach the signed Rustler Gulch road. Turn right and drive this rocky road 0.2 miles to the East River (check the depth). Cross the river [0] and park on the right side, or continue driving on a steep narrow road for another mile to the TH sign. There is limited parking for 5 to 6 SUVs. Cars can make it to the East River (although the road is rough the last 0.2 miles). A high clearance SUV is recommended to cross the river and go up the steep road to the TH.  Map


From the start, you will be surrounded by tall wildflower meadows [2]. Look behind you for fantastic views of Gothic Mountain [1]. There is a creek crossing just past 3/4 miles in, which may get your shoes or boots wet. For a drier alternative, check a hundred yards downstream and find a big tree that crosses over. Find another creek crossing in about 3/4 of a mile. The path dries out ahead as it ascends some rocky trail toward the jagged red rocks ahead.

Follow the trail as it curves into the gulch and parallels the stream below. Take in the views of the 13,000 ft Precarious Peak looming at the end of the valley [11]Continue ascending and notice the wildflowers species changing with altitude. Near the turnaround you’ll pass some old mining equipment [15], now reclaimed by nature. The waterfalls at 3.5 miles are a great point to take some photos and head back down.


The trail continues for a short bit beyond the waterfalls. If you’re feeling ambitious, continue up for greater views of the valley below.  Rustler Gulch is a non-mechanized, dog and horse friendly trail.

Click photos to view multi-season gallery

Trail Map & Profile

More Hiking Guides:

 Head back to the Hiking Guide for more hikes like this
 Don’t forget your Mountain Manners!
 Looking for wildflowers on your hike? Check out our Wildflower Guide!

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