The Buffalo Peaks Wilderness is named for the 13,000' Buffalo Peaks (a dark pair of highly eroded volcanos that were last active about 28 million years ago), located about 15 miles southwest of Fairplay. The 43,410 acres of wilderness was designated by Congress in 1993. Buffalo Peaks Wilderness is split between the San Isabel and Pike National Forests. The stands of Douglas fir, Engelmann spruce, limber and lodgepole pine, and aspen here are intermingled with grassy and wildflower-strewn meadows. Some of the south-facing slopes also sport large stands of bristlecone pine. This is a place where solitude and great natural beauty are easy to find. I hear the fishing is pretty good, too (lots of huge beaver ponds with elaborate dams). This is not rugged countryside marked by deep glacier-carved valleys or strewn with secluded high mountain lakes. Many elk, beaver and mule deer make their homes here, as well as one of Colorado's largest herds of Bighorn sheep.

A large part of the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness area has no defined trails, so great care must be taken to not damage the countryside by over-use or careless use. The peaks here are not hard to climb, but be very careful of the open tundra and try to keep your feet walking on rock surfaces or talus where possible. Once the tundra is damaged, it can take many years to recover.

Camping is allowed virtually everywhere, just be out of sight of a trail and at least 100' from any stream, lake or other source of water. Bury your human waste properly, but carry out all other trash (including toilet paper and feminine stuff - this is the first stuff the animals will dig up if you leave it behind). Campfires are allowed (unless banned by annual proclamation because of weather or dryness conditions), but think of the responsibility you are taking on when you light one.

Recommended Maps:

  • National Forest Map: San Isabel, Pike.
  • Trails Illustrated: Buena Vista Collegiate Peaks, Leadville Fairplay.
  • USGS Quads: Leadville South, Mt. Sherman, Granite, Harvard Lakes, South Peak, Jones Hill, Buena Vista.


    San Isabel National Forest:
  • Accessed from Highway 24: Hayden Gulch Road (FDR 396): End of road at Wilderness Boundary. Four wheel drive access only.
  • Low Pass Road (FDR 149): End of road. Four wheel drive access only.
  • Four Mile Trail (Chaffee County Road 375): Located at end of road. Four wheel drive necessary for last 1 mile of road. Pike National Forest:
  • Accessed from Hwy 285: Weston Pass Road: Rough and Tumble Creek, Rich Creek
  • Forest Development Road 431: Lynch Creek
  • Forest Development Road 435: Salt Creek.