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Buchanan Pass Trail

Basics
Location:
West of Boulder
Setting:
Mountainous
Length:
18.2 mile roundtrip
Difficulty:
Intermediate,
Difficult
Time:
10 to 11 hours
Trailhead Elevation:
8600 feet
Elevation Change:
3200 feet
Season:
June - October

Description

From the Buchanan Pass TH, the Buchanan Pass Trail #910 parallels the north side of the Middle St. Vrain Creek. It is a gradual climb, from 8,600 feet to 9,800 feet in 3.8 miles, to the Middle St. Vrain 4x4 TH. The first 1/2 mile of trail is day-use only. The next 3 miles is open to dispersed camping and no permits are required. Check with the Boulder Ranger District office regarding possible campfire restrictions.

At the Middle St. Vrain 4x4 TH, the Buchanan Pass Trail picks up the old road which follows the creek on a gentle uphill grade. In a short distance, it comes into a large meadow with fine views of Elktooth. The Indian Peaks Wilderness boundary is 0.6 miles to the west of the Middle St. Vrain TH. Backcountry permits are required for camping within the Indian Peaks Wilderness. At the Wilderness boundary the Buchanan Pass Trail intersects the St. Vrain Mt. Trail #915, which heads uphill to the northeast. The Buchanan Pass Trail continues up-valley for 0.9 miles before intersecting the St. Vrain Glacier Trail #917.

Right after the intersection, the Buchanan Pass Trail crosses the creek on a narrow bridge and hooks to the south, heading down-valley on an old pack trail, that ascends the slope for 1.1 miles to the 0.6 mile spur trail to Red Deer Lake (elev. 10,372 feet). Another 0.8 miles past the Red Deer spur trail, after crossing into the next valley, The Buchanan Pass trail meets the Beaver Creek Trail #911 1.6 miles west of the Coney Flats TH.

From there, the Buchanan Pass Trail climbs more steeply west to Buchanan Pass (elev. 11,837 feet) at the Continental Divide. The northeast-facing pass holds snow late into the summer, which can become very hard and icy. In the very late snow year of 1995, the pass never cleared of snow. Continuing westward on the Buchanan Pass Trail, you would reach the Monarch Lake Trailhead, after hiking an additional 10 miles. The Buchanan Pass Trail takes you through spruce/fir woodlands and riparian meadows, and offers spectacular views of rugged peaks and majestic alpine lakes and meadows. Note: The Red Deer Lake Cut-Off Trail, shown on the Allenspark Quad, no longer exists.

Length: From the Buchanan Pass Trailhead (TH) at Camp Dick Campground to: Middle St. Vrain 4x4 TH - 3.8 miles; St. Vrain Glaciers - 8.4 miles; Red Deer Lake - 6.9 miles; Buchanan Pass - 9.1 miles.

Details

Location:
West of Boulder
Setting:
Mountainous
Length:
18.2 mile roundtrip
Difficulty:
Intermediate
Difficult
Time:
10 to 11 hours
Trailhead Elevation:
8600
Elevation Change:
3200
Season:
June - October
Useful Map(s):
USGS Maps: Allenspark, Isolation Peak quads
Camping Info
Permits required for camping
Additional Details:
PERMITS ARE REQUIRED FOR CAMPING ALONG THIS TRAIL WITHIN THE INDIAN PEAKS WILDERNESS BOUNDARY June 1 - Sept. 15. THE FIRST 1/2 MILE OF TRAIL WEST FROM THE TRAILHEAD AT CAMP DICK IS DAY-USE ONLY.

Map + Directions

Basic Directions

The Buchanan Pass TH is at the west end of the Camp Dick Campground.

Camp Dick is one mile west of the Peaceful Valley Campground, accessed off of Highway 72 at mile-marker 50.

This is approximately 4 miles south of the intersection of Hwys. 7 and 72. Turn west onto FDR 114 at Peaceful Valley and drive SLOWLY through the Peaceful Valley and Camp Dick Campgrounds.

The section of the road to Camp Dick is paved, but has large speed bumps.

Limited parking is available in the lot at the west end of Camp Dick.

In a 4WD vehicle with high clearance, you can drive 3.6 miles further on FDR 114 (a.k.a. Middle St. Vrain Rd.). This is a rough 4WD-only road, closed from late October through late June or early July.

This road parallels the Buchanan Pass Trail on the south side of the Middle St. Vrain Creek, and provides access to the Middle St. Vrain Trailhead (TH). Park at the end of the road, cross the creek on the footbridge and hike the old road 100 yds. to the Buchanan Pass Trail.


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