Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Buchanan Pass

Distance: 10 miles round trip
Elevation: 8,650 ft 9,816 ft
Elevation Gain: 1,166 ft (net), 1,366 ft (cumulative)
Date Hiked: 24 Sept 2015
Bathroom at Trailhead: Yes
Dogs: Off leash until the wilderness boundary (5 miles)
Tags: #peaktopeak, #hike, #coloradooutdoors
Other hikes in area: Caribou Ranch, Lake Dorothy, Arapaho Glacier



Looking down on Middle Saint Vrain Creek  from the rocks around Timberline Falls on the Buchanan Pass Trail
The Buchanan Pass Trail is a gentle, wooded trail that travels from Camp Dick off Highway 7 north of Nederland, over the Continental Divide, to Monarch Lake. The full length is primarily used by backpackers but day hikers can easily do an out and back of any length. This post describes and out and back to the wilderness boundary located five miles in for a ten mile round trip hike.

Map to the trailhead
Parking area with kiosk to the left and 4x4 road straight ahead
Buchanan Pass is largely forested.
To access the trail, drive all the way to the end of FSR 1141 (through the Peaceful Valley and Camp Dick campgrounds) until the road dead ends at a large parking lot (see map). There is a kiosk to the left and a gnarly 4x4 road that heads due west. Start by hiking over the large pile of rocks at the start of the road. The rocks were put there by the Forest Service to deter anyone without a tank from proceeding further. The official trail veers to the right at 0.14 miles at an obvious trail sign.

Unnamed cascade along the creek
Fall color
At 2.3 miles in is the large rock overlooking a gorge that is technically Timberline Falls. You can't see much of the falls, but you can climb onto the boulder and for nice views up and down the river. This is a perfect destination for a shorter hike.

Another view of the creek from around Timberline Falls
Fall color
At 3.13 miles the route crosses the creek and at 3.75 miles it travels across a large talus field. Shortly thereafter, at 4 miles, is a very large meadow with views of Sawtooth Mountain (12,304 ft). A titan-sized gum ball on the right makes for a dramatic locale. This is another great place to turn around for a shorter hike.

Talus field from the far side looking back
Large meadow with views of Sawtooth Mountain
In the final mile between the meadow and the wilderness boundary, the route will rejoin the 4x4 road and walk along a rocky segment to a large backcountry camping spot. Stop here or continue a few hundred yards to the wilderness boundary.

Fall color
View of the creek near the backcountry camping spot. 
The Buchanan Pass Trail is a great spot to enjoy a long hike or a shorter hike with out of town guests. It is both serene, dog friendly, and lovely in the fall.

Intersecting the 4x4 road
Wilderness Boundary 

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