Trailhead: Pawnee ButtesTrailhead
Activities: Hiking, Camping
Closest City / Town: Keota, Colorado
- The Pawnee Buttes Trail is located north east of Greeley on CR 685. There are numerous signs to Pawnee Buttes, but we recommend you always carry a map with you.
- From Colorado State Highway 14, turn north on CR 390. Go 13.7 miles on CR 390 to CR 112.
- Take a right (head east) on CR 112. Go 6.4 miles on CR 112 to CR 107.
- Turn right on CR 107. Travel 1.9 miles on CR 107 to CR 685.
- Go left on CR 685 for 1.2 miles to the Pawnee Buttes Trailhead. (You can camp anywhere along CR 685. You will find more camping information below.)
Hiking Distance: Approximately 4 miles (roundtrip)
Description: The Pawnee Buttes are located in the northeast corner of Weld County, Colorado, approximately 13 miles south of the Wyoming border. A predominant geologic feature within the Pawnee National Grassland, the Buttes rise 300 feet above the prairie.
A 1.5 mile trail leads hikers to the first Butte. It is another .5 miles to the second butte. The second Butte is on private land but may be accessed unless otherwise posted. If there is a gate, leave it the same way you found it. As the rock is crumbling sandstone, climbing on the Buttes is not recommended.
Take a hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water, as temperatures may top one hundred degrees in July and August.
Please do not disturb any hawks and falcons nesting in the rocky cliffs. The Pawnee Buttes trail is open year round; however, there is a nearby closure from March 1 – June 30 to protect any nesting raptors. Please stay on the main trail during this time as adults may desert their eggs or young birds if disturbed.
Camping in the area – there are two solid camping options in the area that provide different experiences:
- Dispersed Camping – Dispersed camping is allowed on the Pawnee National Grassland, year-round. This provides an alternative to campground camping for those who want to experience the grassland the way people have for millennia. No fee required. A Motor Vehicle Use Map will help you determine if you are on private or public land. There are about 10 dispersed camping spots along CR 685, which is probably your safest bet. This area can get very windy, so be fully prepared.
- Forest Service Campground – Crow Valley Recreation Area and Campground is located 22 miles east of Ault, at Highway 14 and County Road 77, adjacent to Briggsdale, CO, and is open April to November, weather permitting. It offers a variety of campsites depending on group size. Some are first-come, first-served and for others reservations can be made through the National Recreation Reservation Service at 1-877-444-6777 or online at www.recreation.gov. All sites are wheelchair accessible. RV Camping is allowed, however, there are no water or electrical hookups. While there is electricity available at the Steward J. Adams Educational Site in the shelter, it is not for RV hookups. There is no dump station available at the campground. Campfires are generally allowed, unless fire restrictions are in effect.
About the grasslands – the Pawnee National Grassland is 35 miles east of Fort Collins and 25 miles northeast of Greeley in Weld County. Contained within the 30-by-60 mile area are 193,060 acres managed by the Pawnee National Grassland. The rest of the land is a checkerboard of private land, State of Colorado ownership and the Central Plains Experimental Range.
While developed facilities are limited on the grassland, recreation opportunities are not. The Pawnee is an internationally known birding area. It supports many bird species, especially during migration. The Colorado State Bird, the lark bunting, is very common on the grassland in spring and summer. The grassland also has many unique high plains bird species such as the mountain plover, burrowing owl and many birds of prey. Hiking, camping, picnicking, horseback riding and stargazing are also popular activities. Pronghorn, mule deer, coyote, swift fox, snakes and prairie dogs are just a few of the species that make the prairie their home.
The windswept plains have witnessed the pageant of the frontier, the tragedy of the “Dust Bowl” and the wonders of modern agriculture. The rich history of the area is represented by old cemeteries and nearby museums. A person can explore the old homesteads and gain an appreciation of the area’s history. The network of numbered forest service and county roads will take you within easy walking distance of almost all parts of the grassland. A visit to the grassland is unique. Take a moment to experience the abundant wildlife, spring wildflowers and peaceful serenity of the prairie and let your imagination run wild.
Contact the Pawnee Ranger District if you have any additional questions.
660 “O” Street, Greeley, CO 80631
Phone: 970-346-5000, Fax: 970-346-5014