Buffalo Peaks Wilderness - Snowshoeing

November 26, 2020 · Pike National Forest

The Buffalo Peaks Wilderness Loop inside the Pike National Forest was the first snowshoeing trek of the Winter leg of the 2020 hiking season. I did this trail on Thanksgiving Day and it had snowed the night before. Most of the drive in was good, then once the road turned over to a dirt road, the depth of the snow on the road gradually increased up to the trailhead. I am still getting used to what is considered safe or smart when in the Jeep Wrangler.

Though I did not get the Jeep stuck in the snow, it can easily see how it is done. It seems the sure-fire way to get the Jeep stuck is to think "It's a Jeep, it can't get stuck in that." While driving in the single-track snow to the trailhead, the snow was about two-and-a-half feet deep. Whenever the front tires caught an edge the Jeep would swerve, while in 4H, and it seems like and easy way to put the Jeep in a snowbank in a ditch. Thankfully, ending up in a ditch did not happen. However, once I got to the trailhead, I slowed down and got stuck right at the trailhead. A little maneuvering in 4L got me out of that situation quickly and ready to hit the trail.

It was a beautiful day at the trailhead on this Thanksgiving Day, however the weather forecast called for more snow later in the day. I was the only one at the trailhead and based on the snow on the trail at the trailhead, I would be the first one on the trial in some time, that meant snowshoe trailblazing was on the agenda for the day. The trail is an 11.7-mile loop with the trailhead in the North-East corner of the loop. I started on the loop going counterclockwise, which would mean I would be in the shade for most of the day.

Once on the trail, it was clear nobody had attempted this trail for at least a week, there were no depressions of human tracks in the snow of any kind. However, the trail was being used regularly by Elk, some of their tracks are under a fresh coat of snow and others where as fresh as earlier that morning.

The trail has a noticeable incline and is a healthy workout, factor in trailblazing in snowshoes and the amount of energy expended is significant. As such, I did stop often to shed layers and re-layer to find the right mix while in the shade. I soon came up on the first of what would be six documented river crossings. River crossings in the Winter can be dicey, the river is not frozen solid, the water usually forms a tunnel under the snow. The trick is to find a place where either the crossing is narrow, or you cannot hear the water under the snow bridge. If you cannot hear the water and you know you are at a snow bridge, that is usually a good indicator the snow bridge is thick, maybe not solid but at least thick.

Since I am not being paid by National Geographic to do these treks - well if I am, then they have the wrong routing number, I spent some time moving up and down the river looking for a reasonable snow bridge crossing. Unable to find a reasonable crossing and not willing to find out if the snow bridge would hold my weight and I would not punch through to the ice-cold river, I opted to turn around and restart the loop in a clockwise direction.

Once back down at the trailhead and continuing along the trail, this leg of the trail has a noticeable incline as well. Working out the layers of clothing was easier, there was more sun to work with. Again, this leg of the trail was all about trailblazing, not a trace of another human on the trail. However, the Elk tracks were more numerous here and based on the freshly thrown powder around some of the tracks, I suspect the Elk were in-front of me just out of sight. Though I never saw any Elk on this trek.

As the canopy of the conifers begins to thin out and more sunlight hits the snow-covered trail, the conifers give way to an Aspen grove. Snowshoeing in Aspen groves is one of the best experiences of snowshoeing, the views at ground-level and through the leafless treetops is spectacular. There was the slightest of breeze, combined with the complete and almost eerie silence, you expect to see a Deer or Elk peering through the trees at you, wondering why you are here. Standing still in the Aspen grove you could watch the clouds run by; the weather was beginning to move in as forecasted. However, the expected storm did not arrive until well after I stepped off the trail.

Even with the clouds trying to gather and move in, the weather and blue sky were perfect. I stopped for lunch on the edge of the Aspen grove, at the high point just before the trail dipped down for the next leg. This spot for lunch was great, it had a very nice view to the East and you could see back up the trail. I took what I felt was a long lunch here. I fully expected someone to come up the trail as I was having lunch, but I never saw a single person or animal while on the trail.

I opted to call this point far enough for the day and head back, though I would like to return to this trail in the Summer. The driver for heading back so soon was the snow-covered road on the way back. What I convinced myself of was, if I end up getting the Jeep stuck in a snowbank, I want to have daylight to dig myself out. Thankfully, that scenario did not play out.

The trail was a pleasant surprise, the snow and weather where fantastic on this short 3-mile trek, but a very pleasant way to spend Thanksgiving-Day outdoors.


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AREAS HIKED

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness9
Eagles Nest Wilderness10
Fossil Ridge Wilderness1
Fraser Experimental Forest1
Gunnison National Forest1
Holy Cross Wilderness12
Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness3
Indian Peaks Wilderness17
James Peak Wilderness1
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness2
Mount Evans Wilderness2
Mount Massive Wilderness2
Pike National Forest1
Raggeds Wilderness1
Rocky Mountain National Park41
San Isabel National Forest6
Sangre de Cristo Wilderness1
White River National Forest10
Zirkel Wilderness1

TRAILS BY MONTH

January3
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May5
June16
July26
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October5
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SEASONS ON THE TRAIL

2021

The 2021 Season has started. Though the pandemic created a challenging 2020 season, I am looking forward to building on the 2020 season to create an incredible 2021 season. The pandemic has taught me a few things about when and where to go hiking. As such planning for the 2021 se...

2020

The 2020 hiking season has been incredible, even in the face of adversity. The pandemic has made for a logistically challenging season. Somehow, I was still able to piece together an incredible 230+ miles on the trail this season and able to see some truly spectacular places. Enj...

2019

The 2019 hiking season was an interesting season, this was the first season that I started and ended the season snowshoeing and a full summer of hiking for a total of just under 225 miles on the trail. What this season has taught me is that it's winter in the mountains for a long...

2018

The 2018 Summer Hiking Season has come to an end. What a season, incredible views and just over 230 miles on the trail. Even with 230 miles, this season seems short to me, perhaps I'll add something to it during the winter season - snowshoeing perhaps. In the meantime, I hope you...

2017

The 2017 hiking season was interesting, I was able to explorer more of Colorado's National Forests and get in some camping, not as much camping as I would have liked, but hopefully next year I'll able to get in more multi-day hikes. This season came in just under 129 miles roundt...

2016

The 2016 hiking season was about spreading out and exploring more of Eagles Nest Wilderness, Indian Peaks Wilderness and touching on White River National Forest - and of course a few trips into Rocky Mountain National Park. These are amazing National treasures. This season came i...

2015

The 2015 hiking season was a big hiking season, I decided to do a fundraiser for The Red Cross (I learned a lot about fundraising - it was very interesting) with my pledge to hike over 200 miles for this season, I came in at 217 miles for the season; what a great time out on the ...

2014

The 2014 hiking season was almost all about exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, it really is a beautiful park. What I learned during the course of this hiking season is, although people may roll their eyes when you say you're going on a hike in RMNP, it really is spectacular ...

2013

2013 is the year this all started. The hike to Pitkin Lake started it all. Although it was a difficult trail, I was hooked immediately. However, I didn't have the right gear and the seasons were changing quickly. So, even though this season only brought two hikes, I new this was ...