Buffalo Peaks from the North
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Difficulty:
 Class 2 
Risk Factors:
Rockfall Potential: Moderate  
 
Trailhead:Buffalo Peaks Road
Start:10,600 feet
Summit:13,326 feet
Total Gain:3,346 feet
RT Length:10.75 miles
Author:BillMiddlebrook
Last Updated:7/2015

Trailhead

From the intersection of CO 9 and U.S. 285, in Fairplay, drive south for 13 miles and turn right (west) onto Buffalo Peaks road (FS 431). Reset your tripometer and start down the 431 road. Stay left at 3.25 miles and the road becomes a bit more rough. The unmarked "trailhead" is at 8.3 miles and there is parking for a few cars, plus a car-camp spot to the left. If you get to the junction of the 431/4312D roads, you've gone 0.1 mile too far.

Route

From the parking pull-offs on the side of the 431 road, begin by walking up the lower one - #1. Pass a "No Motorized Vehicles" sign and a gate (#2), walk approx. 100 yards up an old road and turn left on a trail which shortcuts the road - #3. Walk up the trail briefly to intersect the old road - #4. Now on the road, hike southwest to get your first view of Buffalo Peaks (#5) and continue east as the road switchbacks up a hill. The road is really a trail now and a bit overgrown, with an occasional fallen tree in your way. Continue over 1.5 miles up the hill before heading southwest again and walking another 0.5+ mile to reach the end of the road (#6), near the unmarked wilderness boundary. Follow cairns to the left, walk through a short trench (#7) that looks like a road section and pop out of the trees in a small clearing, near 11,600' - #8. Remember this spot and mark it on your GPS, if you're carrying one; It's a good spot to return to on your descent. Coordinates of this location: 39.00567° N, -106.1046° W

Now, without much of a trail, hike southeast up through small clearings and willows - #9. Near 12,100', exit the willows to see East Buffalo's northeast ridge - #10. Walk up to the base of the ridge and start your ascent - #11. On somewhat-loose rock, bypass an initial rocky obstacle on the left (#12) and continue along the left side of the ridge. Bypass a 2nd rocky section (#13) and carefully ascend loose rock to regain the ridge, just below the summit - #14. Walk over a small point and up to the top - #15.

Now for the mile-long traverse. Leave the west side of East Buffalo's summit and begin your ascend along the connecting ridge - #16. Hike along the easy ridge to reach the saddle between these peaks - #17. Continue along the ridge as it becomes more rugged, with some exposure to the right - #18. Near 12,900', pass a rock band (#19) on the left or climb right over the top and then battle some loose, dinner-plate rock (#20) to regain the ridge - #21. On easier terrain, continue up to the summit of West Buffalo - #22, #23 and #24.

Unless you choose to go back over East Buffalo and descend via your ascent route, you're descent off West Buffalo should be well-planned, in advance. In short, the best way back is to descend West Buffalo is to skirt the north side of West to regain your ascent line at that spot near 11,600'. So, walk northwest from West Buffalo's summit and drop (#25) to 12,900' before turning northeast and then east (#26) along the north side of West Buffalo - #27. Again, your goal is to get back to that spot at 11,600', so you don't want to drop too far before starting your traverse along the north side of the peaks. Near 11,900', descend east into the forest (#28) and without losing much elevation, work your way through the forest (#29) and over small drainages to exit the trees near 11,700', at some clearings - #30. Again, without losing elevation, continue northeast to a larger clearing (#31) and back to that spot near the wilderness boundary. Retrace your route back to the end of the road and walk nearly 3 miles back to your vehicle.

Notes

None

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Route Photos  Print Options

Photo #1
#1: Parking area at the start of the hike.
Photo #2
#2: Starting up the old, closed road.
Photo #3
#3: 100 yards after passing the gate, turn left on a shortcut trail.
Photo #4
#4: Intersect the old road and follow it all the way to the wilderness boundary.
Photo #5
#5: Following the road, with the Buffalo Peaks ahead, to the south.
Photo #6
#6: Near the end of the road.
Photo #7
#7: Walk up through this trench (part of the old road?) and follow cairns to the wilderness boundary.
Photo #8
#8: At 11,600’, exit the trees and follow a faint trail to the willows. You’ll want to return to this point later.
Photo #9
#9: Ascending southeast past the willows.
Photo #10
#10: Near 12,100’, with East Buffalo’s east ridge in view.
Photo #11
#11: Gaining the east ridge.
Photo #12
#12: Bypass the first obstacle on the left. You’ll find some loose rock here.
Photo #13
#13: Stay left of the ridge crest and bypass another section on the left before regaining the ridge.
Photo #14
#14: Approaching the summit.
Photo #15
#15: On the summit of East Buffalo, looking southwest.
Photo #16
#16: Leave the west side of East Buffalo and begin your descend along the connecting ridge.
Photo #17
#17: Near the saddle.
Photo #18
#18: On the West Buffalo side of the saddle. You’ll find some exposure to your right.
Photo #19
#19: When you reach this rock band, pass it on the left (Class 2) or go right over the top (Easy Class 3).
Photo #20
#20: Bumble over dinner-plate rock to regain the ridge.
Photo #21
#21: Back on the ridge - continue towards West Buffalo.
Photo #22
#22: Approaching the summit.
Photo #23
#23: Looking back at the traverse.
Photo #24
#24: Summit of West Buffalo.
Photo #25
#25: Descending northwest off of West Buffalo.
Photo #26
#26: Near 12,700’, turn right (east) and hike back toward the basin, on the north side of the peaks.
Photo #27
#27: Taken on the ascent, this is a look at the terrain you can descend on West Buffalo’s north slopes.
Photo #28
#28: Descending east to the forest.
Photo #29
#29: The forest is fairly thick and has some blow-downs, but it also has some open areas.
Photo #30
#30: You may reach this clearing, near 11,650’ and north of East Buffalo.
Photo #31
#31: The clearing just southwest of where you began your ascend to the willows, earlier in the day.

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