Buchanan Pass Trail, Buchanan Pass Trailhead, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado

Buchanan Pass Trail - 7.7 miles

Buchanan Pass Trailhead

Fall colors along Middle St Vrain Creek

Fall colors along Middle St Vrain Creek

Round-Trip Length: 7.7 miles
Start-End Elevation: 8,755' - 9,630' (9,630' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +875' net elevation gain (+1,029' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: Yes
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Buchanan Pass Trail - 7.7 Miles Round-Trip

The Buchanan Pass Trail begins at Camp Dick off Peak to Peak Highway and runs 9 miles west to Buchanan Pass (11,837') on the Continental Divide. It continues west of the Divide to the Cascade Creek Trail, which leads to Monarch Lake.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The Buchanan Pass Trail offers access to Red Deer Lake, The Gibraltar Lakes, St Vrain Mountain and Gourd Lake along it's long and varied path. Its lower eastern section traces Middle St Vrain Creek through the Indian Peaks' biologically diverse upper-montane ecosystem to Coney Flats.

Visitors will enjoy minimal elevation gains and level footing in a luxuriant forest and streamside setting:

From the parking area at the west end of Camp Dick, follow Middle St Vrain Road to the Buchanan Pass Trail and backcountry board (.1 mile). Bear right across Middle St Vrain Creek; once over the Buchanan Pass Trail bends west and closely parallels both for the next 3.7 miles.

The trail is quickly absorbed by aspen, hanging mosses, thick ground cover and large boulders. The creek is generally accessible throughout (audible when not immediately visible), with many eddies and nooks suitable for fishing or a private respite.

Conditions, scenery and difficulty vary little over the first 1.5 miles; in 1.75 miles the trail climbs more assertively to Timberline Falls (2.2 miles : 9,223'), a deep, staged gorge capped by immense boulders accessible from the trail.

The falls' energetic chutes can be surveyed from above, or more intimately from two steep social trails - fore and aft - leading down to them. Exercise caution when scrambling about, as all viewpoints are generally slick, drop-offs long, and currents perilously swift.

The trail moderate past the falls, crosses a dilapidated foot bridge (2.85 miles : 9,335'), and rises to an abrupt opening on the edge of Coney Flats (3.35 miles : 9,530'). Coney Flats is a marshy expanse of diminutive pine and aspen separating Mt Audubon (south) and St Vrain Mountain (north). Wildlife viewing is good in this rich habitat, notably for moose in late summer.

The trail crests in a small talus field with views of Sawtooth Mountain (12,304') and undulates gently back to the creek and completion of the Buchanan Pass Trail's first segment (3.85 miles : 9,625').

Here a long bridge connects back to the 4x4 road on which you initially began; the Buchanan Pass Trail continues west on a circuitous route through Coney Flats and over the Continental Divide with connections to St Vrain Glacier, St Vrain Mountain (12,162') and Red Deer Lake (10,372').

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 07.797 W105 31.451 — Buchanan Pass Trailhead (Camp Dick parking lot)
  • N40 07.945 W105 32.193 — .75 miles : Trail opens through aspen-circled meadow
  • N40 08.167 W105 33.524 — 2.2 miles : Timberline Falls
  • N40 08.306 W105 34.731 — 2.85 miles : Cross dilapidated footbridge
  • N40 08.322 W105 34.731 — 3.35 miles : Crest talus field at edge of Coney Flats
  • N40 08.257 W105 35.145 — 3.85 miles : End of lower trail segment -trail continues

Worth Noting

  • Mild grades and good maintenance make The Buchanan Pass Trail family friendly and suitable for a variety of year-round activities.

  • The Buchanan Pass Trail is notable for exceptional summer wildflowers, autumn colors, and mushrooms.

  • This is a multi-use trail for hikers, mountain bikes, and horses. Dogs are allowed but must be leashed. Be cognizant of fast-moving bikes on the trail. Yield for horses along the trail.

Camping and Backpacking Information

NO PERMIT IS REQUIRED for backcountry camping on the lower eastern section of the Buchanan Pass Trail. HOWEVER, no camping is allowed along the first half-mile. Beyond that, dispersed camping rules apply. Contact the Forest Service for specific camping guidelines.

Rules and Regulations

  • Campfires are prohibited on the east side of the Continental Divide, as well as Caribou Lake, Columbine Lake, Gourd Lake, Crater Lake and in the Cascade Creek drainage above Cascade Falls.

  • Pets must be on a handheld leash at all times.

  • Permits are required for all overnight campers June 1 through September 15.

  • Permits are required year-round for day and overnight use for large groups (8 or more people) or organizational groups such as scouts, churches, schools and hiking clubs.

  • Group size is limited to a maximum of 12 people or people and packstock combined.

  • Camping is prohibited in the Four Lakes Backcountry Zone from May 1 through November 30.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100 feet of lakes, streams and trails.

Directions to Trailhead

The Buchanan Pass Trailhead is located on the far west end of the Camp Dick Campground parking lot. The parking lot is located 1.3 miles west of the turnoff from Highway 72. The turnoff from Highway 72 is located 17.8 miles north of Nederland CO, or 2 miles south of Highway 7.

Contact Information

Boulder Ranger District
2140 Yarmouth Avenue
Boulder, CO 80301

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"The Buchanan Trail really should have been closed to allow for clearing of trees across the trail and allow runoff to not be flowing down the trail. This forced us to detour around maybe 2/3:of the way up to Timberline Falls. I'm sure staying on the 4wd road would have been fine. With the high waters in the Middle St. Vrain it was too dangerous for some of our group to safely cross over. About 500 ft short of the Falls, the water flowing on the trail was too deep to continue, so we decided to turn around. The members of my party who's first time it was on this trail said it was beautiful and want to return when dried out. Yes, someone in water shoes could have waded through on the trail but still would have had to detour downed trees. Enjoy! Be Safe and check out my photos on my instagram @alan_outdoors"
Alan Murakami  -  Colorado  -  Date Posted: May 30, 2017


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