ElevationAscent: 6,632' 2,021 m
Descent: -6,615' -2,016 m
High: 12,528' 3,819 m
Low: 8,820' 2,688 m
GradeAvg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 42% (23°)
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“One of the top long loops in Colorado.”— Jason Doedderlein
Must have an Indian Peaks Wilderness Permit to overnight in this area. The permit is only $5.00, but it is necessary. Permits can be applied for by mail or in person, no over the phone or fax option.
From Mitchel Lake head up the Mount Audubon Trail. This will head up above treeline quickly and you'll go around Mount Audubon, so enjoy views of the mountain. At the junction where the trail heads up to Mount Audubon, continue on to the Beaver Creek Trail.
The Beaver Creek Trail will take you to Coney Flats after about 3.5 miles. At Coney Flats, which is where the trail hits the 4x4 rd, take a left to head up Buchanan Pass Trail. This trail is not wonderfully marked and I struggled a bit with feeling certain I was on the right trail. Head towards the high ground and you'll be on the right trail. It is 3.5 miles to the pass.
Enjoy the view as you climb and hit the pass.
After the pass, the trail is splendid as it drops quickly down into the trees. The trail continues through meadows and across creeks. The views and the solitude are amazing.
Continue on the Buchanan Pass Trail west until you hit the aptly named Cascade Trail. This will be the lowest point in your journey. The Cascades and falls along the next couple of miles are some of the best you'll find in Colorado as you follow Cascade creek higher.
Eventually, you'll separate from the creek as you climb into the basin. Enjoy the view as the jagged mountain walls encircle you and you wonder where the hell Pawnee Pass is. Around that time, you'll come across the Pawnee Pass Trail to rise above the basin and begin a slow and painful climb up to the pass.
When you are close to losing your mind, begging for this friggin' climb to end, you'll be about 500 ft from the top.
From the pass, there is a great singletrack that drops back to into the trees, past Lake Isabelle and to the Long Lake TH.
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Land Manager: USFS - Boulder Ranger District Office