Buchanan Pass (#910)

Photo of Buchanan Pass showing stormy skies and Sawtooth Mountain

Length: From the Middle Saint Vrain Trailhead (TH) to Buchanan Pass Wilderness Trailhead (TH) - 3.8 miles; Red Deer Lake - 6.9 miles; Buchanan Pass - 9.1 miles. DISTANCES ARE ONE-WAY.

Elevation: 8,600 feet at the TH; 10,372 feet at Red Deer Lake; 11,837 feet at Buchanan Pass.

Trail Description: From the Middle Saint Vrain Trailhead, the Buchanan Pass Trail runs west along the north side of Middle Saint Vrain Creek. It is a gradual climb for the next five miles to the Indian Peaks Wilderness boundary. Close to here, the Buchanan Pass Trail intersects the Saint Vrain Mountain Trail.

The Buchanan Pass Trail continues up-valley for just under one mile to intersect with Saint Vrain Glacier Trail. The Buchanan Pass Trail crosses the creek and hooks to the south. The half-mile spur trail to Red Deer Lake intersects after another 1.1 miles.

Another 0.8 miles beyond this spur, the Buchanan Pass trail meets Beaver Creek Trail. From this intersection, the Buchanan Pass Trail climbs steeply west to the Continental Divide at Buchanan Pass (elevation 11,837'). There have been years in which this pass is never clear of snow. From the pass, ten miles of trail continues west and connects with the Cascade Creek Trail.

View a trail map here.

At a Glance

Permit Info: Part of this trail lies within the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area:
  • Camping permits required for all overnight trips between June 1 and September 15. Overnight permits cost $5 per group, per trip from June 1 through September 15.
  • Organized groups are required to have a permit for both camping and day-hiking year round. Day-hiking permits are free.
Usage: Heavy
Best Season: Conditions are best June through October
Restrictions: Camping is prohibited along the first half-mile of trail west of Middle Saint Vrain Trailhead. On those portions of Buchanan Pass Trail within the Indian Peaks Wilderness, Indian Peak Wilderness restrictions apply:
  • Motorized equipment and mechanized transportation are prohibited.
  • Pets must be on a hand-held leash at all times.
  • Dogs are prohibited between December 1 and April 30.
  • Campfires are prohibited year round.
  • Campsites must be at least 100 feet away from water and trail.
  • Group size is limited to 12 (people and livestock combined).
  • Processed weed-free feed is required for stock.
  • Practice Leave No Trace principles.
Fishing and hunting: permitted in accordance with regulations established by the Colorado Parks & Wildlife.
Closest Towns: Allenspark, Colorado
Water: Middle Saint Vrain Creek; treat water for drinking
Restroom: Practice Leave No Trace principles
Operated By: U.S. Forest Service

General Information


Approximately 6.5 miles north of Ward, Colorado, on Colorado Highway 72, watch for signs for Peaceful Valley and Camp Dick Campgrounds. Turn west onto Middle Saint Vrain Road (County Road 92 and National Forest System Road 114) and proceed 1.25 miles to the west end of Camp Dick.


The Middle Saint Vrain Trailhead is accessible with motorized vehicles from mid-May through late October. Limited parking is available outside the gate at Peaceful Valley Campground for winter access.

Also, Buchanan Pass Trail (#910) can be accessed via Monarch Lake Trailhead.


Mountain Biking

The first five miles of Buchanan Pass Trail, from Peaceful Valley west to the Indian Peaks boundary are open to mountain biking. It is possible to ride a loop from Peaceful Valley or Camp Dick via Buchanan Pass Trail and Middle Saint Vrain Road or Coney Cutoff and Coney Creek Roads and Sourdough Trail.

Difficulty Level: Easy to Difficult

River and Stream Fishing

Day Hiking


Permit required?: Y

Horse Riding

XC Skiing/Snowshoeing

Recreation Areas

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