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    Buchanan Pass Trail

    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    25.3 km
    This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
    1,195 m
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    Directions to Trailhead

    The Buchanan Pass Trail is a demanding adventure through the Indian Peaks Wilderness. This hike is sure to get your blood pumping. If you are seeking a challenge, consider the Buchanan Pass Trail. You will maneuver roots, rocks, and downed trees all before your steep ascent to Buchanan Pass. The jaw dropping views from the pass are well worth the effort.

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    Route Description for Buchanan Pass Trail

    We could not recommend the Buchanan Pass Hike enough. This beautiful hike through the picturesque Colorado wilderness is challenging, but manageable. The elevation gain is extreme, but fairly gradual until the rearmost segment of the trail, which ridges the pass. Shared with mountain bikers, this trail is fairly popular, but signage is lacking. We recommend having the trail GPS handy as you hike. As always, as you gain elevation and summit the pass, expect bitter weather and wear layers to stay warm!

    Begin this hike from the Monarch Lake Trailhead. Head east on the Cascade Creek Trail that borders Monarch Lake. You will arrive at a fork in the road, bear left, continuing on the Cascade Creek Trail. This section of the trail will guide you through the woodlands, along Buchanan Creek and past waterfalls. Follow this trail until you encounter a junction, veer left onto Buchanan Pass Trail. This section of the trail will begin to climb steeper as you curve along the ridge of Thunderbolt Peak. Stay straight on Buchanan Pass Trail. At this point, the trail will become increasingly rocky and exposed as you navigate switchbacks to Buchanan Pass. Once on the Continental Divide you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the Indian Peaks. Revel in the scenery before heading back.

    If you still have some gas in the tank, consider summiting Sawtooth Mountain via the Sawtooth Mountain Trail in the south. It is a short but steep ascent to the peak. If you are ready to return, retrace your steps down the Buchanan Pass Trail and back onto the Cascade Creek Trail until you reach the parking lot.

    Getting to the Buchanan Pass Trail Trailhead

    The Buchanan Pass Trail is located in the Arapaho National Recreation Area off Country Road 6. Passes are required and can be purchased online or on-site. Note that the access road to the trail closes seasonally from mid-November to mid-June.

    Route Information

    • Backcountry Campground

      Yes, permits required.

    • When to do


    • Pets allowed

      Yes - On Leash

    • Family friendly


    • Route Signage


    • Crowd Levels


    • Route Type

      Out and back

    Buchanan Pass Trail Elevation Graph

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    Buchanan Pass Trail Reviews

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