The Buffalo Mountain Loop is a challenging 13.2-mile hike, cross-country ski and snowshoe route with over 3,200 feet of elevation gain, but the views of the remote peaks in Colorado’s Gore Range and the traverse over Eccles Pass make it worthwhile. This day tour is easily accessed off of Interstate 70 from Silverthorne and Wildernest, and there is a convenient parking area at the trailhead.
Start at Lily Pad Trailhead just beyond the parking lot situated between Lily Pad and Buffalo Cabin trailheads. The trail sees moderate use from snowshoers and skiers, so it is usually easy to track the trail across the whole loop. Wind may smooth out the existing tracks in certain places, so it is recommended that you bring a GPS to stay on trail.
Follow Lily Pad Trail south past Lily Pad Lake until it reaches a junction with Meadow Creek Trail. Turn left to stay on Meadow Creek trail until it turns into the Gore Range Trail. From here you will follow the Gore Range Trail north through the crux of the hike, Eccles Pass. At the top of 11,918-foot Eccles Pass, make sure to take in the views of the Tenmile Range, the Gore Range, and Deming Peak.
After descending from Eccles Pass, keep north on the Gore Range Trail and follow it as it heads east until you reach a trail junction for Buffalo Cabin. Follow signs to Buffalo Cabin Trailhead to complete the loop and reach the parking lot. On the Buffalo Cabin Trail there are some narrow switchbacks as the trail gains some elevation and hugs an aqueduct before descending back to the parking lot.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.