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Rolling long loop around East and West Buffalo Peaks.


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Map Key

24.3

Miles

39.0

KM

Loop

11,408' 3,477 m

High

10,036' 3,059 m

Low

3,752' 1,144 m

Up

3,749' 1,143 m

Down

6%

Avg Grade (3°)

33%

Max Grade (18°)

Dogs Unknown

Features Fall Colors · Fishing · River/Creek · Wildflowers

Overview

Tour the namesake wilderness area! What this long loop lacks in the sweeping vistas of higher alpine hikes, it makes up for in solitude. Except for the Buffalo Meadows section, you'll likely see few people during this long backcountry route.

There is reliable water from the Lynch Creek TH through all of the Tumble Creek Trail #617. It is more seasonal along Salt Creek Trail #618 so plan accordingly to filter.

Need to Know

The dirt and gravel road is mostly accessible for even a two-wheel drive car. Some places to access the loop are easier with all-wheel drive but there are several options for where to park and you shouldn't need to run more than an extra few hundred feet. I recommend parking near the intersection of 431 and 433, where there is dispersed car camping close to the trail.

One could access at other trailheads as well: North Salt Creek, Lynch Creek, and Fourmile with an extension.

I recommend running counterclockwise so that you pass Buffalo Meadows and the loop's high point and back down into the forest. Overall there is low lightning exposure risk on this run as it stays around and below treeline.

Description

Start by following the Salt Creek Trail #618 North and then West. It crosses the road a few times but is generally well signed. Eventually you'll cross into the wilderness area as you descend briefly from the Lynch Creek Trailhead.

Turn left when you reach the Tumble Creek Trail #617 trail and begin ascending. There are some rocky and steep sections, before giving way to wide open Buffalo Meadows. Due to its popularity with fishing and the shorter trail loop to the north of this one, this tends to be the busiest section of the circuit.

Continue gently ascending along and above the creek. Eventually you'll junction with a marker and take a left to continue on Tumble Creek Trail #617 . The crossing here is a little tricky/muddy in some seasons.
This next section is beautiful as you continue to climb gradually towards the hike's high point on the shoulder of Buffalo Ridge.

When you finally cross the high saddle you'll have a clear view off into the distance and down into the valley of Buena Vista. The very ambitious might access the ridgeline from here to tag either West or East Buffalo Peak (13,340 ft and 13310 Respectively).

Fuel up and stretch out for the steeper descent back down into pine forest continuing along Tumble Creek Trail #617 . As the grade mellows out you'll have to take a left onto the Salt Creek Trail #618 (which you'll follow for the rest of the loop).

The Salt Creek trail overall is rolling although none of the grades are particularly difficult. Still, it has a decent amount of up and down to keep you pumping.

The trail travels miles first climbing up through a pine Forest before beginning rounds of rolling descent. At some point you'll reach a noticeable meadow for the first time which marks the shift in the scenery to some more open areas where Aspen and begin to grow again after fires. You'll pass the North Salt Creek TH around this point. There are some grassy sections as well as you weave in and out of meadows and aspens. The water in this section of the hike is more seasonal.

After several more miles you'll T with Rd 433 and take a left to head back northwest. The road is marked with the blue blazes and can be a welcome break from having to watch your footing throughout the hike. Keep an eye out for the left off of the road to continue on the trail loop. Exactly how far you have left depend on where you parked, but the end of a long hike is right around the corner!

The salt Creek trail continues climbing us descending a few more times before it dumps out onto Buffalo Road.

Flora & Fauna

All the typical forest critters. Buffalo Meadows offers Creekside/marsh habitat.

Shared By:

Jordan G

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 1 vote

#7

in Park County

#4523

Overall
  4.0 from 1 vote
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Recommended Route Rankings

#7

in Park County

#567

in Colorado

#4,523

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Photos

Waterfall right next to the campsite.
Oct 23, 2023 near Buena V…, CO
Panoramic view of the meadow.
Oct 23, 2023 near Buena V…, CO
Sunrise at the campsite.
Oct 23, 2023 near Buena V…, CO
Baby trout in streams along the path through the meadow.
Oct 23, 2023 near Buena V…, CO
Trail sign for the turnoff of #617 continuing through the meadow.
Oct 23, 2023 near Buena V…, CO
East Buffalo Peak from the Salt Creek Trail.
Aug 1, 2023 near Buena V…, CO

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