Hiking Near Buena Vista

Whipple Trail

The Whipple Trail begins at the footbridge over the Arkansas River in the Buena Vista River Park on the eastern edge of town.  It is a moderate hike with scenic views of the Collegiate Peaks across the valley to the west.   It follows a portion of the old Midland Railroad grade above the Arkansas River.  Several kiosks along the trail provide historical information about the area.  The trail has about 600ft elevation gain and the main portion is a 1.3 mile loop.  There are several connectors to other trails as well.  The Whipple Trail is also a popular spot for mountain biking.


Hiking Near Mt Antero, Mt Princeton, & St Elmo

Poplar Gulch Trail

Poplar Gulch Trail (#1436) runs north out of the historic ghost town of St Elmo Colorado.  You can park in St Elmo (Elevation 10,000ft) or if you have a high clearance vehicle, drive .25 miles up the road towards Tincup Pass (Co Rd 267A) and park near the trailhead.  After hiking about 3 miles the trail crosses a ridge at approximately 12,300ft and descends into Green Timber Gulch.  The trail eventually crosses South Cottonwood Creek and connects to Chaffee County Rd 344 several miles past Cottonwood Lake.  The trail is open to hikers, mountain bikes, & dirt bikes.  The thru hike is approximately 5.3 - 5.8 miles.  (5.3 according to USFS/ 5.8 everyone else)

West end of Narrow Gauge Trail. Across from Cascade falls..

Narrow Gauge Trail

Narrow Gauge Trail (#1432) is located a short walk downhill from the Cascade Campground along County Road 162.  The approximately 2.2 mile (4.4 round trip) trail follows the grade of the old Denver, South Park, & Pacific Railroad and has less than 500 ft change in elevation.  The east trailhead is located at the end of County Road 290.

Narrow Gauge Trail was closed due to concerns of rock slides when we tried to hike it in May, July, & September of 2015.  It was open in January & April of 2016.

Agnes Vaille Falls - July 2012

Cascade Creek Trail                   (Agnes Vaille Falls)

Agnes Vaille Falls Trail (#1433) was closed by the US Forest Service in September 2013 after five members of a local family lost their lives in a tragic rock slide.  In the summer of 2016 the Cascade Creek Trail (#1433) was opened.  The 1-mile loop doesn't go all the way to the bottom of the falls but will give you a good view.

Located across Chaffee Co Rd 162 from the Chalk Lake Campground.

Wagon Loop Trail

Wagon Loop Trail (#1427) is a 3.5 mile loop near the base of Mount Antero.  The Wagon Loop Trail intersects with the Colorado Trail for a portion of the loop.   The trailhead is located along Chaffee County Road 272.

Browns Creek Trail

Browns Creek Trail (#1429) is also located off Chaffee County Road 272 and intersects the Colorado Trail.  The trip to Browns Creek Waterfall is 6.2 miles out and back.

Hiking in Browns Canyon National Monument

Click to Download Map

Click to Download Map

Ruby Mountain Trailhead

Directions:  From Nathrop head north on Hwy 285 to Chaffee County Road 301.  From Co Rd 301, turn onto Chaffee County Road 300 and follow it to the trailhead.

Turret Trail is the main trail from the Ruby Mountain Trailhead and has 2 spurs and a loop.

  • Turret Trail (#6045)
    2.7 miles roundtrip to Arkansas River at Little Cottonwood Creek

  • River Bench Trail (#6045A)
    5.5 miles roundtrip to Arkansas River

  • River Access Trail (#6045B)
    9 miles roundtrip to Arkansas River

  • Catkin Gulch Loop (#6046)
    11.5 miles

  • Turret Trail (#6045) to FR-184
    11 miles round trip

Hecla Junction Campground

Hike along the Arkansas River to Seidel's Suckhole where you can watch rafters pass thru one of the most dangerous portions of the river.  An easy hike that is under 2 miles roundtrip.

Colorado Trail & Continental Divide Trail

Sign for Raspberry gulch - Segment 14 Colorado Trail. (Near chaffee co rd 290)

The Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango is almost 500 miles in length with segments 12-15 passing thru Chaffee County. 
The 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail (CDT) follows portions of the Colorado Trail across the state.   Near the northern border of Chaffee County,  the CDT splits to the west in Segment 11.  The CDT reconnects with the Colorado Trail in Segment 15, near the southern border of Chaffee County.

The Continental Divide Trail - near Monarch Pass Traihead

Segment 12 - Clear Creek Road to Silver Creek Trailhead
Distance: 18.5 Miles - Elevation Gain: 4866 ft

Segment 13 - Silver Creek Trailhead to Chalk Creek Trailhead
Distance: 22.8 Miles - Elevation Gain: 4296 ft

Segment 14 - Chalk Creek Trailhead to US Highway 50
Distance: 20.4 Miles - Elevation Gain: 4007 ft

Segment 14 is accessible from the following roads
(Listed north to south)

Angel of Shavano Trailhead
  • Chaffee County Rd 162 (Chalk Creek)

  • Chaffee County Rd 290

  • Chaffee County Rd 273

  • Chaffee County Rd 252/254
    (Mt Shavano & Tabeguache Trailhead) (Blanks Cabin)

  • Chaffee County Rd 240
    (Angel of Shavano Trailhead & Campground)

  • Chaffee County Rd 218 (Lost Creek)

  • Chaffee County Rd 228

  • US Highway 50

Segment 15 - US Hwy 50 to Marshall Pass Trailhead
Distance: 14.3 Miles - Elevation Gain: 3576 ft

Hiking Near Cottonwood Pass

Ptarmigan Lake Trail

Hiking Ptarmigan Lake Trail #1444

Ptarmigan Lake Trail (#1444) is located about 13 miles west of Buena Vista along Chaffee Co Rd 306. 

The trail is just under 3 miles each way and ends near tree-line at Ptarmigan Lake.  Take your pole.  The trout fishing is amazing. 

Elevation Gain : 1470 ft

A couple helpful tips:

  • Be sure to take the main trail and not the trail behind the restrooms.

  • Don't stop when you reach the 2 smaller ponds. Keep going to Ptarmigan Lake


Ptarmigan Lake Trailhead
Ptarmigan Lake Trail 1444

Lost Lake

Lost Lake Trail is located near the top of Cottonwood Pass.  The 2.6 mile round trip is an easy hike at an elevation over 11,000 feet.  The trail starts at the last pull off before you reach the top of Cottonwood Pass.  (18.1 miles west of the stoplight in Buena Vista)

Hiking in Northern Chaffee County - Clear Creek Canyon

Missouri Gulch Trail

Missouri Gulch Trail

Located on the south side of Chaffee Co Rd 390 in Clear Creek Canyon and across the road from the ghost town of Vicksburg. 

The parking lot can fill up fast on summer weekends with hikers trying to climb three 14'ers that are accessible from this trail - Mt Belford, Mt Oxford, & Missouri Mountain.




Sheep Gulch Trail - Hope Pass - Willis Gulch Trail

Sheep Gulch - Hope Pass - Willis Gulch 1470

Sheep Gulch Trail (#1470) runs north from Chaffee County Road 390,  to the top of Hope Pass.  As it descends to the north from Hope Pass, it is known as Willis Gulch Trail (#1470) and continues to Twin Lakes.  

The Sheep Gulch Trailhead is located about 8.9 miles west of Hwy 24 on Chaffee 390.  It will be about 1.7 miles past the ghost town of Vicksburg.  There are remains of a cabin around 3 miles up Sheep Gulch Trail as you reach timberline.