Weekend Backpacker: Denver
Pike National Forest
Fairplay Ranger District
PO Box 219
Fairplay, CO 80440
Located about 80 miles from Denver, Fairplay provides access to about 40 hiking trails in the Pike National Forest. You can connect these trails to form longer hikes or take them one at a time for shorter day hikes.
Recommended hike: Rich Creek Trail. Located in the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness, this hike combines the Rich Creek Trail (#616, six miles) and the Rough and Tumble Trail (#617, nine miles) for a moderate 15-mile loop. This trail begins below 10,000 feet and climbs to about 11,500 feet, skirting creeks, beaver ponds, open meadow, and low scrub areas. Look for the expansive Buffalo Meadows where the Rich Creek Trail meets the Rough and Tumble Trail. From this vantage point, you will also have a clear view of both the East and West Buffalo Peaks. Timing is crucial for this hike, as the trails can get boggy if it is too wet. Check trail conditions at the ranger station before heading out.
Fishing opportunities abound in the mountain streams along the trail and the terrain is moderately rugged, making it easy to travel off the trails and to the tops of the peaks.
Water is available at the Weston Pass Campground but backcountry water must be treated. Recommended seasons are summer and fall.
Getting there: From Fairplay take Highway 285 south to County Road 5. Head west on County Road 22 (Weston Pass Road). Look for the trailhead just before the Weston Pass Campground. Park here and cross the stream, turn right, and follow the trail upstream.
Camping: Wilderness camping is permitted, but park regulations restrict groups to no more than 15 people. Camping closer than 100 feet to lakes, streams, or trails is prohibited.
Permits: None required.
Maps: USGS maps for South Peak and Jones Hill or the Trails Illustrated map for Leadville and Fairplay (#110).
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication