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Buffalo Pass with Will, August 15, 2010

September 4, 2010


Headed up to a section of the Zirkels that I hadn’t ever seen.  Buffalo Pass.  It’s right on the southern end of the Zirkel Wilderness area. It’s also a pretty neat area of the Continental Divide trail (this section is number 1101).  Starting just below timberline, the trail heads north along the Continental Divide up to the Wyoming border.  A large chunk of which is spent in the Zirkels.

That all said, this was kinda a teaser trip.  Cause, well, we had other things we wanted to do besides see new country.  Part of the plan for the day was to visit Kate (and the Pus : ) in Walden, CO.  The other big plan was to do a little target practice with our hand guns.  And the final piece of the plan was to be back in Fort Collins early enough to hit the Rio : )


Before I go any further in the trip’s description, here is my standard comment. Please check my photo galleries here for all the larger and higher quality photos for this trip. The photos in the gallery are a quantum leap in size and quality compared to the little teaser photos I put in this site’s trip narrative (and there are more of them). In addition, I have two other links that will help locate the area if you are interested in making the hike yourself. A Google Earth map can be found here. Use the scale bar on the left side of the Google map to help zoom in or out to help locate the area based on where you live. (If you want to see all my trips, this link will direct you to a Google map that shows ALL my trips.) In order to help you with the actual trail itself, you can use this link to view a topo map (care of the great National Geographic TOPO program( ) that one of my sons purchased for me : ) of the Continental Divide trail 1101 on top of Buffalo Pass. Please note that all links open a new browser window.

So, this was just a short “check it out” trip to Buffalo Pass.  The road up from the east was dusty and winding (with a few rough spots).  It did cross our minds that just maybe this was going to be a flop.  It went through some okay mountains, but other than lower down near the Teal Lake turnoff, it wasn’t that wonderful looking.  Turns out, it was just fine.


In addition to the Google map link above, below is a Microsoft Live map. The red tack shows the general location of the trail from Fort Collins, CO. You can click on the map to bring it up in a “live” mode and zoom in or out (and move the map around) to get more detail.

Map image

One thing we found out real quick was that the area was pretty popular.  Much more so than the northern end of the Zirkels.  The biggest reason for that is because it is only about a 12 mile drive from Steamboat Springs, CO.  So, lots of families coming up from the small city to go hiking and camping (also a pretty popular horseback riding area).  Some of the reasons that it is so popular is due to the fact that it is on the continental divide, it’s cooler than the lower elevations in the heat of the summer, and, it’s “relatively” flat hiking.  Sure, you go up and down a little, but it’s pretty mellow.  Course, the air is a little thin.  The pass is at an elevation of 10,300 feet.


Will taking a drink while waiting for me to catch up.


The views along this section are nothing spectacular, but they are nice.  This is looking west (maybe SW) towards Steamboat Springs and beyond.


It was pretty dry up on top, and the summer season is pretty advanced, but you could still find some color.




But I wondered.  Just how long would it stay this way?  Could it go on for a long time?  Was there anything of interest to see?  The answer was coming.


Oh yes, there was much more.  I could tell that from here that while the southern end of the Zirkels were quite different in nature than the northern section (where I have spent more time), there was going to be some good hiking here in the future.


Less Will : )


We went a little further before stopping and heading back.  But it looked good.  Very good.  Lots of wide open wide open.


Zoom on trail heading to places I want to go.


But, we had some other things we wanted to do.  So, we made plans to come back and headed to the car and Walden.


Looking down into North Park to the east.  On my larger photos at smugmug, you can just barely make out Longs Peak.  On my full photo on my hard drive, it stands out pretty tall over everything else.  We could see it pretty good with our eyes.


We even had a pretty good view of Rabbit Ears from the back side.


Well, here, let me zoom a little.


We said our good byes to Kate and the Pus and went off to the firing range to kill some paper.  Was perfect weather and I actually hit the target a few times.  Will hit the target much more than I did, but I told him that’s cause his gun cost twice as much as mine : )

Last, but no where near the least, we made it back to Fort Collins and the Rio and had a great meal while relaxing in their back patio.  I even had a margarita (Will made me : )   Great food and atmosphere.

– Geoff Weatherford

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2010 3:47 pm

    I enjoy reading your blog and looking at all of your pictures. I live in Laramie and have done many of the same hikes as you–I had the same idea for Ute Pass in the Zirkels, only I encountered a herd of elk instead of the bears! It’s fun to see them from your perspective. Like you, I am a fan of the crazy-long loop hike.
    I haven’t yet been up to Buffalo Pass because it looks like most websites suggest driving to Steamboat and up. I wondered if you thought the eastside road from Walden would be passable in a passenger car. How rough were the “rough spots”?
    Thanks and keep up the great site!

    • September 26, 2010 12:51 pm

      Well, the road up from the east is very doable in a passenger car. I think even a corvette stingray could manage it (may have to slow down in a few spots). It was no problem for my little Hyundai Accent. There were one or two spots where if it was raining you might have to drive through some shallow streams as they did not allow for a culvert, but as long as it’s dry, should be no problem. Pretty wide also, which means normally you should not have to pull to one side if you encounter another vehicle. There is plenty of room for two vehicles to pass each other going the opposite directions.



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