Hiking events

Hike Bob: Buffalo Creek Loop; Pikes Peak at sunrise | Food & Culture

Buffalo Creek Recreation Area Jefferson County is rich in outdoor recreation opportunities, especially hiking and biking. I’ve written about a number of trails in this area over the past two years (go to the search bar at the top of this page and enter “Buffalo Creek”), and this week another.

This loop begins and ends in Jefferson County’s Pine Valley Ranch Park, a little gem near the charming hamlet of Pine Grove.

This hike begins by going around the north side of Pine Lake.

This loop starts by going around the north side of Pine Lake, then heads south on Buck Gulch Trail #772. It follows Buck Gulch, which starts off fairly easy until a bend back shortly after passing the west end of the Strawberry Jack Trail. The next 2.6 miles is a fairly steady uphill hike, although never really very steep. Much of the landscape on this section of the loop is barren, following the Buffalo Creek Fire that swept through the area in 1996. Despite the lack of tall trees in the burnt area, the slow recovery from the fire spawned grasses, wildflowers and budding aspens. The absence of trees also lends itself to great unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains.

Strawberry Jack View

View from Strawberry Jack Trail

The Buck Gulch Trail ends at the Buck Gulch Trailhead. From there, turn left onto Skipper Trail #790, the start of a long, mostly downhill hike to Pine Lake. Just under 1.5 miles later, turn left at the four-way intersection onto Strawberry Jack Trail #710, and about 1.25 miles later, turn right onto the hiker-only Park View Trail. If you are biking this loop, to return to the park you will need to take a left here to continue on the Strawberry Jack trail, then turn right when it ends at the Buck Gulch trail.

The Park View Trail enters Pine Valley Ranch Park a short distance later. The trail, which overlooks Pine Lake, has long stretches of wooden steps as it descends steeply to the lake. At the bottom of Park View Trail, turn left then right to skirt the east end of Pine Lake, then follow Pine Lake Trail to the trailhead.

Things you need to know: I created a route in COTREX for this hike, which you can see here. There is a washroom at the trailhead and also at the west end of Pine Lake, but no water. Much of this hike is exposed to the sun, so bring plenty of water and sunscreen. You can fish at Pine Lake with a valid Colorado fishing license. This hike is just under 8 miles, with over 1300 feet of ascent, most in the first 3.5 miles from Pine Lake to the Buck Gulch trailhead.

Buffalo Creek-Pine Valley

GPS track for this loop

To succeed: From the intersection of Highway 24 and Highway 67 in Woodland Park, take Highway 67 north approximately 23 miles to Deckers, then turn left onto Jefferson County Road 126. Take 126 approximately 19 miles to Crystal Lake Road, west side of Pine Grove – watch for sign for Pine Valley Ranch. Turn left and the park is at the end of the road, about 1.5 miles from the 126.

If you want to enjoy the sunrise over Pikes Peak, you have two opportunities to do so in the coming weeks. The Pikes Peak Highway and Summit House will be open from 4:45 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. on August 27 and September 11, to allow special early access to America’s Mountain. Early Access Days were discontinued in 2018 for the construction of the new Summit House, and this marks the return of the event. A timed entry permit and admission must be purchased in advance online at DrivePikesPeak.com. There will be no sales made at the gateway and no access to the North Slope Recreation Area offered during sunrise openings.

The Foothills Trail in the Garden of the Gods reopened after being closed, rerouted and rebuilt as part of the city’s 30th Street Corridor Project. The most significant improvement to the Foothills Trail is a tunnel under Gateway Road for cyclists and pedestrians, eliminating the need to avoid cars entering the park. Read more in the city’s press release.

Speaking of Garden of the Gods park, it will close at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday, August 13 for the Starlight Spectacular, the Trails and Open Spaces Coalition’s longtime fundraiser. The fun event returns this year after a COVID-induced hiatus.

Be wise. Do good things. Leave no traces.