Pawnee Buttes Trail

Pawnee National Grassland, Colorado

Distance2.6mi
Elevation Gain10ft
Trailhead Elevation5,424ft
Top5,424ft
Elevation Min/Max5414/5424ft
Elevation Start/End5424/5424ft

Pawnee Buttes Trail

Pawnee Buttes Trail is a hiking, biking, and horse trail in Weld County, Colorado. It is within Pawnee National Grassland. It is 2.6 miles long and begins at 5,424 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 0.1 miles with a total elevation gain of 10 feet. The Pawnee Buttes Trailhead parking is near the trailhead. There are also a basin and a water well. Near the end of the trail is a viewpoint. This trail connects with the following: Lips Bluff Trail.

Pawnee Buttes Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"As the title of this ride implies, this route is not for the faint of heart, ill equipped, or under prepared. This is a true Roubaixstyle adventure across the rugged Colorado
Piedmont that’s almost entirely on windwhipped gravel roads. Some sections are rough, others loose and sandy."

"One of the most unusual destinations in Colorado for wildflower viewers, as well as history buffs, is a pair of vertical landmarks jutting into the prairie sky just south of the Wyoming-Nebraska border: the Pawnee Buttes. Accessible via the 1.5-mile trail, the buttes take the hiker down into a world of raw beauty and some unusual wildflowers.

The route drops hikers into an eroded land, through dry washes (which may gush powerfully in storms), and across a plateau to the base of West Butte. For millenniums, the reportedly 300-foot-high, free-standing sandstone remnants served as points of reference that guided the plains tribesmen who roamed this windswept land. The shortgrass prairie of the Pawnee National Grassland supports a fascinating variety of flora, some looking decidedly tundra-like with oversized buns and cushions. The sedimentary rock formations create a stark backdrop for grasses, such as buffalo and blue grama, and they are highlighted by intriguing spring wildflowers. A late May or early June trip to Pawnee Buttes is well worth the long drive to walk into an otherworldly, primal land and its remarkable flora."

"Rising a few hundred feet above the surrounding shortgrass prairie, the Pawnee Buttes are both the crowning jewel of the 193,060-acre Pawnee National Grassland and the destination of a short but rewarding hike. The trail passes some interesting plant communities and badlands formations, and offers the opportunity for hikers to enjoy a surprising variety of wildlife.

The hike begins by dropping easily from to explore. These areas are off-limits from March the trailhead into a broad drainage. A popular 1 to June 30, however, to protect nesting birds of route, this trail is well established and easy to prey, so be sure to stay on the trail. In addition to falcons, these grasslands are also home to golden actually remnants of a once-higher plain. The eagles and hawks. Songbirds are plentiful, and surrounding terrain was subsequently eroded
you might glimpse some deer or pronghorn away by runoff during the last glacial age."

"The Pawnee Buttes are two enormous, capped sandstone structures, remnants of an ancient sea that once covered this now arid area. Mini-badlands, smaller rock towers, and fascinating plains ecology surround them.When you hike there, you will see exciting wildflowers and birds as you wander through terrain so strange that parts of it can feel as if you are walking on the surface of the moon."

"The Pawnee Buttes protrude 200 to 250 feet above this trail like upside-down vases. The surrounding shortgrass prairie is home to many birds, including great horned owls, American kestrels, eagles, hawks, swallows, and mountain plover, to mention a few of the 296 species that have been spotted in Pawnee National Grassland.

Coyotes, foxes, deer, mountain lions, pronghorns, rattlesnakes, and an assortment of mice, voles, jackrabbits, and prairie dogs call this special place home. Spring fills the prairie with colorful wildflowers and is a great time for bird watching."

"Pawnee National Grasslands is the prairie gem of northeastern Colorado. The trail leading to the two wind-scoured buttes crosses fields and gullies with limitless views in all directions. For kids, this nationally known study area for birds of prey is a wildlife wonderland to explore. A night visit under the grasslands’ star canopy is long remembered."

Pawnee Buttes Trail Reviews

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4/21/2006
This a good trail (in good weather) for hikers with beginners skill and endurance, and birders -- especially those interested in raptors. Parts of the area are closed for much of the spring and summer for nesting, but the trail still presents some little-seen prarie vistas and lots of BIG blue sky. The day I was there was clear and breezy, with not too much stirring, but a few horned lizzards and birds. Dry weather had dampened (sic) the bloom of wildflowers, but there were a few hardy souls popping up. A good intro to prarie ecology.
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2/20/2006
Got to the trailhead around 11:00 – it was windy and pretty cold. Nice walk out to the buttes. Bear to the left at the fork about ½ mile out if you do not want to climb over the intervening buttes. I did go over these buttes, which were partially snow covered. A nice walk but exposed in parts. There were wonderful views of the buttes up there. Headed back on the alternate route which stays relatively low. Snow up to a foot in places but an easy walk. A beautiful day.
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Pawnee Buttes Trail Photos

Trail Information

Pawnee National Grassland
Nearby City
Pawnee National Grassland
Parks
Dog-friendly, Kid-friendly
Accessibility
Easy
Skill Level
For current conditions and more information, contact Pawnee National Grasslands, www.fs.fed.us/r2/arnf or (970) 346-5000
Local Contacts
Pawnee National Grasslands brochure
Local Maps