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All Quiet In Colorado’s Indian Peaks

When summer ends, crowd-free hiking begins in Colorado's Indian Peaks.

EXPEDITION PLANNER:

DRIVE TIME: The Buchanon Pass trailhead is 32 miles (about 1 hour) northwest of Boulder.

THE WAY: For the scenic route from Boulder, take Boulder Canyon Road west to the town of Nederland. Then go north on CO 72 to Forest Service Road 114, the access road for Peaceful Valley Campground (to the west, 5.5 miles north of Ward). Turn left and proceed

1 mile to the trailhead.

TRAILS: The Buchanon Pass Trail runs 15 quad-burning miles from Peaceful Valley to its junction with the Cascade Creek Trail. Camp at Gourd Lake and retrace your steps, or connect with the Pawnee Pass Trail for a longer loop.

ELEVATION: The area ranges from 8,700 to 12,000 feet if you don’t bag any peaks (the wilderness area tops out at the 13,500-foot North Arapaho Peak).

CAN’T MISS: Twelve-thousand-year-old relics of the last Ice Age, seen via a 3-mile detour on the St. Vrain Glacier Trail.

CROWD CONTROL: The wilderness area’s quota system (and crowds) end on September 15, after which your chances of solitude steadily improve.

GUIDES: One good source is Map #102, Indian Peaks: Gold Hill (Trails Illustrated, 800-962-1643; www.trailsillustrated.com; $9.95). A free USDA Forest Service guide to the Indian Peaks Wilderness is available from the Boulder Ranger District (see Contact below). Also helpful is Colorado’s Indian Peaks: Classic Hikes and Climbs, by Gerry Roach (Fulcrum Publishing, 800-992-2908; www.fulcrum-books.com; $16.95).

WALK SOFTLY: In the spring, wait until the trails have melted out. Stick to lower elevations and avoid wandering off the footpaths.

CONTACT: Roosevelt National Forest, Boulder Ranger District; (303) 444-6600; www.fs.fed.us/r2/arnf.

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