The Rich Creek and Rough and Tumbling Hiking Loop is a beautiful tour through one of Colorado's less frequented but no-less-spendid mountain ranges. While the masses flock nearby to some of the tallest and most photographed mountains in the country, Buffalo Peaks Wilderness is a solitude seeker's paradise that flies under the radar and is every bit as spectacular because of it.
Sandwiched between Buena Vista toward the west and Fairplay to the east, the 43,413-acre southern portion of the Mosquito Mountain Range, including Buffalo Peaks, was designated a wilderness area by Congress in 1993. A great way to tour the wilderness is by hiking the 12-mile Rough and Tumbling Creek Loop that begins at the Rich Creek Trailhead at 10,000-feet and gradually gains a little over 2,000-feet as it leads through aspen and pine forests, open meadows, and creeks.
Within feet of beginning the hike at the Rich Creek Trailhead, cross the bridge over the creek and take the right fork in the trail to hike the loop counter clockwise. Follow Rich Creek up a mellow incline through aspens, which then shift to lodgepole pine further down the trail. Above 11,000-feet the smooth, mostly rock-free trail opens up into an expansive meadow in the middle of a valley. As it reaches its high point around 11,200-feet, hikers leave Rich Creek and begin a steady descent into another valley. Trekking just a little further presents a few flat places to camp near water sources.
After 8 miles of moderate hiking, the trail descends steeply into a canyon as it connects with Rough and Tumbling Creek. Continue for a couple of miles until you reach the bottom, where another valley opens up. Take the left fork in the trail to cross Rough and Tumbling Creek and leave it behind for a mile ascent through aspens, then back down a half mile to the trailhead, rounding out the loop.
Buffalo Peaks Wilderness is known for being unknown, so if you’re looking for a place where the tourists don’t roam, look no further than the Rich Creek and Rough and Tumbling Creek Loop.
Conservation Colorado has worked with communities around the state for over 50 years in pursuit of its mission - to protect Colorado’s environment and quality of life by mobilizing people and electing conservation-minded policymakers. It fights to protect the air, land, water, and people of Colorado. Their collaborative approach and focus on electing pro-conservation officials has yielded successes in addressing climate change, supporting clean energy development, conserving water resources, and protecting our public wildlands and rivers.