Standing tall at 12,777 feet and centrally located in Summit County, Buffalo Mountain is often overlooked by thousands of travelers driving on Interstate 70. But Colorado Gore Range locals know it as a moderate hike with massive views of the county from the top.
The Buffalo Cabin Trailhead is located at the end of Wildernest Road and shares a trailhead with Lily Pad Lake. The trail to begin the ascent of Buffalo Peak is located on the northern side of the trailhead parking lot, whereas Lily Pad is to the south.
The trail starts by gently climbing through lodgepole pines, many of which have been killed in recent years by the mountain pine beetle.
Continue until there is a fork in the trail; left goes up Buffalo Mountain via the Buffalo Cabin Trail, and right heads toward South Willow Creek. Cross the tree line to reach a boulder field where cairns help mark the somewhat defined trail. The ridge can also be accessed by scrambling up if the trail is lost. The gradient on the ridge becomes easier as hikers reach the summit and enjoy a panoramic view of “Colorado’s Playground,” the apt slogan of Summit County.
While this is a popular hike for people who live in Summit County, you might be sharing the view with another unexpected local -- the mountain goat. There are an estimated 100,000 mountain goats living in alpine environments throughout the Rocky Mountains, the coastal mountain ranges of the northwestern U.S., and southern Alaska. Despite its name, the mountain goats are part of the antelope family and spend most of their time grazing on grasses, herbs, mosses, lichens, and the twigs and leaves from vegetation growing in their high-altitude habitat.
On a clear day you'll have views of Dillon, Silverthorne, and Frisco as well as Lake Dillon in the east and Keystone Resort in the distance. Once you've enjoyed the views and the company of the local wildlife, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.