Backcountry Hiking & Camping

RMBL’s high-altitude location in Gothic, CO is an ideal site for research and exploration


Gothic, Colorado and its back-country is a great location for exploring the West Elk Mountains on your days off. Some of the most famous mountain biking and hiking trails in Colorado are literally right outside your door, so get out there and enjoy them. Just make sure you’re doing it responsibly. Let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll return, bring plenty of food, water, first aid supplies, and extra layers. Always be aware that the weather and conditions can change dramatically from one moment to the next.

Notify Someone

An important part of hiking and camping safety is letting a friend, roommate, or staff member know where you are going and when is the latest you should be back by. For example, “I should be back by 6 pm but be concerned if I am not back by 7 pm”. As a final step, be sure to let this trusted individual know when you return.

Alternatively, if you are entrusted with someone’s hiking plans, set an alarm on your phone and if they do not check in with you by the time they were set to return, try to reach out to them first, if that doesn’t work consider alerting staff and/or calling 911.

Be Prepared

Always have a plan. Take a map of the area. Ideally, have a physical map and a map app such as GAIA GPS or CalTopo (both free) loaded on your phone and an extra charging source with you. These applications are useful in showing you a map of the area you are traveling in, and where you are on the map. Be sure to pack plenty of layers and warm clothes, even if the day is warm. You never know when something might happen and you have to stay out longer than you expected, or even overnight. Bring the following items:

RMBL class on Triangle Pass - photo from RMBL Archives
RMBL class on Triangle Pass – photo from RMBL Archives

List of  Items to Take on a Hike

  • Dry, warm clothes, extra socks, warm hat
  • Rain gear for upper and lower body
  • Gaiters and Mittens for snow
  • Plenty of food
  • Plenty of water (at least 2.5 liters/day)
  • A first aid kit (see below)
  • Sunscreen, sun hat, and sunglasses
  • Watch
  • Comfortable hiking shoes and thick hiking socks
  • Blister treatment like Moleskin
  • Flashlight with extra batteries (in case you are delayed and get back after dark)
  • Pocket knife
  • Insect repellent
  • Matches in waterproof container like film canister (for emergency fires)
  • Map of where you are going (and compass if you know how to use it)
  • Toilet paper and baggie to pack it out
  • Two garbage bags (to keep you and your stuff dry if it rains)
  • Sandals (for river crossings)

List of Minimum Items for a First Aid Kit

  • Ace bandage- to support sprains or construct splints
  • Duct tape, strong string, or rope – to secure splints
  • Iodine ointment for cleaning wounds
  • Band-Aids
  • Sterile gauze dressing, for large wounds
  • Adhesive tape, to attach dressing
  • Antibiotic cream, like Neosporin
  • Pain killer/ anti-inflammatory (i.e. Ibuprofen)
  • Antihistamine (i.e. Benadryl)
  • Signal mirror or whistle – in case you get hurt or lost
  • Candy or Sugar packets (for quick energy)

Hikes from RMBL

Copper Creek/Lake Trail– Starts at Judd Falls/401 trailhead just north of RMBL property.  Gradual elevation gain for 3-4 miles, last mile before Copper Lake/East Maroon Pass is steep.  The trail is an old wagon/jeep trail.  There are several crossings of Copper Creek where wading is required.  5-6 miles to Copper Lake/East Maroon Pass, 12 miles RT. Nice out and back, you can choose to go any distance.  Good views of White Rock Mountain, Avery basin ridges, Gothic Mountain.  Lots of wildflowers and pika.

Deer Creek Trail- Starts just south of RMBL, < 1 mile on the old Kettle Ponds Road. Gradual elevation gain, out and back trail.  Go as far as you like, up to 4 miles out, 8 RT.  No stream crossings.  Lots of wildflowers!!  Great views of Gothic Mountain and East River meanders.

Virginia Basin/Avery Peak– Starts at Judd Falls/401 trailhead just north of RMBL property.  Trail is unmarked, turn East at RMBL property sign at the intersection of the Judd Falls trail that transitions from a jeep road to a hiking trail.  Gradual to steep uphill, with fabulous views of the valley, Baldy Mtn., Bellview, Avery Peak.  Once in the basin, can choose to climb Avery Peak, poke around the basin waterfalls and wet alpine meadows, or pick your way to the back of the basin for the views.  Out and back the same route.

Rustler’s Gulch trail-  Starts at Rustler’s Gulch parking area on Gothic Road about 3 miles North of RMBL.  Requires vehicle ford or wading across East River. Long (7 mile) out-and-back in the wilderness.  Lots of wildflowers and views of peaks.  Good chance to see elk or goats in the high basins and ridges.

403 Trail– This trail is the start for climbing either Gothic or Baldy Mountain but is also a nice out and back to the Washington Gulch saddle (~ 6 miles RT).  Trailhead is 1.5 miles North of RMBL, just past the Gothic campground, day parking only.  Moderate to very steep.  Climbing the peaks requires route finding and a good map as there is no signage.

Other Valuable Resources

The Gothic Visitor’s Center carries useful items for hiking in the vicinity including:

  • Timber, Talus, and Tundra by Mary Ann Tarr (RMBL Alumna), a hiking guide book for Gunnison County
  • Latitude 40 Maps: Waterproof, tearproof maps of the local area
  • Wild About Wildflowers by Katherine Darrow (RMBL Alumna), a great field guide to the wildflowers of Gunnison County
  • Field supplies such as sunscreen and insect repellant
  • Hiking snacks
  • Water bottles

Consider reviewing Leave No Trace Principles to assure you are having minimum impact on the environment. The 7 Principles – Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics (

It is possible to purchase a Colorado Search and Rescue Card (CORSAR) to help defray costs if you should need to be rescued. Purchasing a CORSAR contributes to a fund that pays for Search and Rescue team costs if you should need to be rescued by the local Crested Butte Search and Rescue team. It will not cover medical transport. CORSAR cards can be purchased online here.

The most accurate forecast for weather in the Gothic area can be found at NOAA.

Information on Crested Butte Search and Rescue can be found here.