Gothic Valley near Crested Butte, Colorado:
Note: All pictures are in Gothic Valley. Click any of the pictures to see a larger image and more information.
Gothic Valley is just north of Crested Butte, Colorado. Get there by driving from the town of Crested Butte to Mount Crested Butte where the ski area is located. Follow the road through Mt Crested Butte and out the north end of town, to Gothic, where the University of Colorado Science Camp is located. Keep going another 1/2 mile or so and you are in Gothic Valley. While you are in Crested Butte I recommend that you stop in one of the several book stores on Elk Street, the main drag, and pick up a copy of the Aspen, Crested Butte, Gunnison Recreation Topo Map. This is a water-proof map of the whole area that is quite good. The maze of back roads and trails in the area can get quite confusing. A good place for dinner in Crested Butte is Slogar's where they serve family dinners of fried chicken. It's kind of an upscale place with down-home food at reasonable prices. People come from all over to eat here.
I suspect Gothic Valley isn't the official name for this beautiful valley surrrounded by towering Rocky Mountain Peaks. However it is in the shadow of Gothic Mountain, near the town of Gothic and Gothic Road runs through it so most people call it Gothic Valley. At any rate it's a great place to spend the weekend. There is a campground in the valley but it is very small and I wouldn't count on finding a place to camp. There are various spots in the upper part of the valley that are not official campgrounds but they are signed as OK to camp in. These spots get more plentiful as you go up the valley. There used to be another campground a couple miles beyond Schofield Pass which is a few miles further along Gothic Road; I think it's still there. If you are going on a weekend, I would get there as soon as possibly if you want to find a place to camp. Be aware that there is often a snow drift that closes Gothic Road about mid way up the valley until the middle of July or so. There is also a peaceful picnic area on the right about half way up the valley that is a great place for lunch. Gothic Valley can be a busy place in mid summer and the main road can get a bit dusty but there are a such a multitude of trails and side roads to get away from the hoardes that it turns out to be a great spot. The terrific scenery especially makes it worth the trouble.
Except for the snow drift, Gothic valley is a good place to go in June when much of the rest of the high Rockies are inaccessible. In early June there are usually lots of Glacier Lilies, especially at the far end of the valley. Later on in July there are Columbines, Lupine, Alpine Dasies, Paintbrush, Fireweed, Showy Daises and many other wildflowers.
The Copper Lakes trail goes off of the main road just a half mile or so into the valley. The mile long hike up to Judd falls is a very plesant hike up through meadows that are often brimming with wildflowers. Probably mid July or maybe a little earlier is the best time for this hike.
Near the campground, there is a road off to the right that goes up to Rustler Gulch, a higher basin that is quite good for wildflowers in July. It is full of Columbine and Paintbrush and all sorts of great wildflowers that I haven't figured out the names for yet. If you don't have 4 wheel drive, stop and park at the point the Rustler's Gulch road crosses the creek. You should have a 4WD vehicle for this road beyond the creek. There is about a mile of steep uphill from the creek to the point where you leave the road and enter Rustler Gulch at a locked, yellow, metal gate. Park at the gate; the trail up into Rustler Gulch begins there. Be prepared for a bit of creek hopping and primitive log crossings in the early part of the year. I found the columbines on the left in rustler Gulch and the Glacier Lilies below in Gothic Valley.
If you continue up the Gothic Valley road there are all sorts of possibilities ahead. The drive up to Emerald Lake can be gorgeous if you have hit the wildflower peak. This peak usually happens in mid July; you can usually see Columbine, Alpine Daises, Fireweed, Showy Daises and all kinds of other great flowers, many more than I know the names of. Drive past Emerald Lake up to Schofield Pass. Near the top of the pass a road heads off to the left to Paradise Divide and Paradise Basin where there are often fields of flowers. Or go straight ahead, over Schofield Pass (the road is not difficult and you should be fine in a passenger car, even though an SUV does feel a little more secure) and down the other side. In a couple of miles or so you will come to creek crossing. This is the East Fork of the Crystal River. Immediately after this crossing there is a turnoff to the right into a campground. This is the beginning of the West Maroon Pass Trail. This is one of the best wildflower hikes in Colorado with Columbine, Paintbrush, Alpine Sunflowers and hundreds of other wonderful wildflowers covering the mountain sides. You can hike up to the top of West Maroon Pass or you can go all the way over the Elk Mountains to the Maroon Bells near Aspen. It's about four miles to the top of the pass with an elevation gain of almost 2500 feet. It's a tough hike at high elevations so be prepared.
If you are interested, I have a section in my website devoted to the Crested Butte area where you can see a lot more pictures of the Gothic Valley.
Have a good time. I'd enjoy any feedback you care to send to me. Email me.