From ColoradoHorseProperty.com

Horse Trails
Buchanan Pass Horse Trail NW of Denver Property
By Coloradohorseproperty.com

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When it is time to gallop out from your Colorado horse property, plan to spend at least an afternoon on the Buchanan Pass Trail and the Continental Divide in the Arapahoe National Forest.  Better yet, camp out and explore the rugged peaks, peaceful spruce and fir woodlands.  And stop for a photo shoot with your mare in a riparian meadow along an alpine lake, and bring back a memento to hang in your Denver home.

As with most trail property in Colorado, the Buchanan Pass Trail is multiuse.  Most of the time, others yield to the horses coming through.  However, be sure that your friend Flicka does not get spooked by a novice adventurer who may whiz by!  Sometimes folks who are used to life on the freeway take a while to chill out.  They may not even notice the wild Columbine decorating rural Colorado real estate—and they may not even notice you!

The Buchanan Pass Trailhead #910 is located at Camp Dick, which is located 1 mile west of Colorado State Highway 72—the Peak-to-Peak Highway—at mile-marker 50.  It is approximately 19 miles north of Nederland and 20 miles south of Estes Park.  Turn west on paved NFSR 114.  Go one mile to Camp Dick and park in the trailhead parking lot at the west end of the campground.

Camp Dick is situated in a glacial valley adjacent to Middle St. Vrain Creek.  It was once the site of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp, established in the 1930s.  Recreation opportunities exist for hikers, backpackers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, 4x4 and off-highway vehicle users, and anglers.  Only dogs on leashes are allowed in the campground and in the wilderness.  Plan to arrive early for the weekend or consider making a reservation.  Peaceful Valley Campground, approximately one mile east, is another option.

If you are camping, in the morning, start out on the Middle St. Vrain Trailhead where the Buchanan Pass Trail #910 parallels the north side of the Middle St. Vrain Creek.  Take the gradual 3.8-mile climb from 8,600 to 9,800 feet to the Middle St. Vrain 4X4 Trailhead.  Note that the Indian Peaks Wilderness boundary is 0.6 miles to the west.  (The first 0.5-mile of the trail is day-use only and the next 3 are open to dispersed camping.)  

The Buchanan Pass Trail then picks up the old road, which follows the creek on a gentle uphill grade.  It comes into a large meadow with nice views of Elktooth and then intersects the St. Vrain Mountain Trail #915 and continues up for 0.9 miles before intersecting the St. Vrain Glacier Trail #917.  At that point, it crosses the creek on a narrow bridge and hooks to the south, uniting with an old pack trail that ascends for 1.1 miles.  It meets a spur trail to Red Deer Lake at elevation 10,372 feet.  After crossing into the next valley, the Buchanan Pass Trail climbs steeply to the Buchanan Pass at an elevation of 11,837 feet at the Continental Divide.

It's best to go prepared.  Good information can be found at the Boulder Ranger District office (303) 541-2500 and at the Forest Service website at www.fs.fed.us.  One thing to find out is the status of any fire restrictions.  Although permits are not required on this trail, if you want to camp in the Indian Peaks Wilderness a permit will be necessary.  Another consideration is snow pack.  The Buchanan Pass rises to an elevation of 11,837 feet at the Continental Divide and it is common to encounter very hard and icy snow on the northeast-facing side even as late as August.  After all, you are nestled in a high alpine cirque near Arapaho Glacier, one of only a few glaciers still found in Colorado. 

Do remember a map.  It will come in handy when other trails crisscross your path. 


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