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Buffalo Creek Loop - Pine Lake Trailhead

Consensus:    (details)
 4.4 from 20 votes
  Intermediate from 3 votes
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Rank: #2 in Denver
#8 in Colorado
#23 Overall
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“A nice tour of popular Buffalo Creek trails on the NW side of the area - from Pine Lake Park.”
Michael Ahnemann on May 25, 2013
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19.3 Miles 90% Singletrack 2,794’ Ascent -2,792’ Descent 6,861’ Low 8,056’ High
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Overview
3:30 average ride time for 19.3 miles. Details

There are many, many ways to ride Buffalo Creek. The area is bordered to the east, south, and west by the Colorado Trail, and there are many interconnected 2-5 mile trails making up the rest of the system.

The ride as described here starts from the beautiful Pine Valley Ranch Park, with parking, bathrooms, a picnic area, and popular fishing spots. It then follows several of the more popular trails on the north, working its way south, then eventually back up to the starting pint.

Most of the trails in Buffalo Creek have a similar feel. It's generally an intermediate area that beginners can ride much of. The long steady climbs add to the difficulty a bit, but trails are generally smooth and non-technical with a few exceptions. The surface is often sandy and loose, adding challenge to the descents if you're flying, but the flow is pretty good everywhere.
Need To Know
Trails are mostly well-marked here, so if you have a map with you, or the MTB Project mobile app, you can find your way around pretty well. There's no wrong way to ride Buffalo Creek, although some trails are better in one direction than the other, so check the individual trail descriptions and do a little planning for a better-flowing ride.

There's quite a lot of climbing and descending in this area - the trails aren't usually flat for long. Keep that in mind when you're out on the trails. If you're getting tired, you might not to descend that 2 mile trail in front of you, because that probably means 2 miles or more of steady climbing to get back.

There are plenty of bail-out points, and places to hit the road for an easy return, or trailheads and campgrounds where you can grab some water if you need it.
Description
To start, Access Buck Gulch from the beautiful Pine Valley Ranch Park, with parking, bathrooms, picnic area, and popular fishing spots. Cruise along the river on the Narrow Gauge trail until you take a left over the large bridge and see Buck Gulch in front of you.

In a short distance you'll reach the intersection with Strawberry Jack to the left. But continue uphill to the right, going over some very steep sections. It's uphill the whole way, but the angle gets much easier near the top.

Next, take a left on Skipper. It quickly descends through a burn zone, with the same sandy, loose trail surface as much of the area. The scenery is great during the first 1/3 of the trail, as you're descending through the remnants of a burned forest, with open views as a result. You'll descend to a very minor creek crossing (with a makeshift log bridge) in deep forest with a sharp climb out of the creek.

After this, there's more green forest with very little burn remnants, then a short, flat blast through the forest to a big intersection with Strawberry Jack heading in two directions, and Homestead Trail.

Take a right to follow Strawberry Jack south. It's a bit of a climb from here, but not particularly steep. This section goes through mostly unburned forest, climbing gently to the intersection with Miller Gulch. (If you see a Charlie's Cutoff branch off to the left before you reach Miller Gulch, skip it. You'll come back here later).

When you reach a two track (Miller Gulch), take a right. Miller Gulch is an uninteresting flat road, but you'll only be on it 100 yards or so until you see Gashouse on your left. Take a left on Gashouse (the first trail you come to on the left). You'll ride Gashouse in the generally preferred direction (mostly downhill!)

Gashouse starts out relatively flat through thick green forest, looping around a bit. Then it gets into a brief rocky section, switching from nice tacky singletrack to a rocky section that's rideable by intermediates, through an aspen grove and pretty quickly descends to the junction with Redskin Creek Trail and a nearby trailhead that you could drive to if you wanted to.

Then you'll descend from here back into the burn zone. The last section has big views and a fun twisty descent that flows well at speed, but is often sandy and washed out a bit making some of the tighter turns a sketchy if you come at them too quickly.

What goes down must go back up again. Next, you'll take a left to continue up Baldy. (There's also a bailout point along the road here if you need an easy escape). Going east to west, this is a solid, but totally rideable climb up a smooth trail with small amounts of pea gravel. A couple sections cross large flat expanses of granite - fun and easily rideable.

Reach a saddle and then cruise on much flatter, fun terrain until the trail meets back up with Gashouse at the intersection you started from earlier.

This time, retrace your steps a bit along Miller Gulch, and stay left at the first fork to retrace 100 yards of Strawberry Jack. Take a right on Charlie's Cutoff. This short trail is fun from top to bottom, and I only wish it were longer. There's definitely a preferred direction on this one, which is DOWNHILL from Strawberry Jack to Homestead Trail. There are several rock features along the way - everything is rideable, and expert riders will barely slow down.

You'll descend to a T with Homestead trail (more climbing!) This trail rolls up and down, but never too steeply or for very long. The descents are fast and flowing, and not very steep, so you can go quite fast.

Finally, make a right on Strawberry Jack and blast mostly downhill, with just one more short climb stuck in the middle. Descend all the way back down to the intersection with Buck Gulch, then descend Buck Gulch back to the bridge you crossed to start the ride.

Soak your tired legs in the creek - you're finished!
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COMMENTS
OTHER RIDES NEAR HERE
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PHOTOS of Buffalo Creek Loop - Pine Lake Trailhead
 4.3 from 3 votes
At the top! (Evergreen, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
The upside to the devastation of big forest fires - expansive views at t... (Morrison, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
Rock, sand and burned sticks. (Morrison, CO)
 3.0 from 3 votes
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 3.0 from 3 votes
Gashouse opens up more and more as you descend. (Castle Rock, CO)
 3.0 from 3 votes
Buffalo Creek (Evergreen, CO)
 3.0 from 3 votes
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 3.0 from 3 votes
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 3.0 from 3 votes
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 3.0 from 3 votes
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 3.0 from 2 votes
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 3.0 from 2 votes
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 3.0 from 2 votes
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 3.0 from 2 votes
Entering the Buffalo Creek fire area of 1996 (Castle Rock, CO)
 3.0 from 2 votes
Over the north fork of the South Platte River (Morrison, CO)
 3.0 from 2 votes
Going through the Hi Meadows fire of 2000. (Morrison, CO)
 3.0 from 2 votes
Cranking up Baldy (Castle Rock, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Small stream crossing on Skipper (Castle Rock, CO)
 2.3 from 3 votes
Taking in the view towards the top of Buck's Gulch. (Castle Rock, CO)
 2.3 from 3 votes
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 2.3 from 3 votes
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 2.3 from 3 votes
The descent on Gashouse is open, fast, and fun! (Castle Rock, CO)
 2.3 from 3 votes
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 2.3 from 3 votes
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 2.3 from 3 votes
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 2.3 from 3 votes
Climbing up Buck Gulch - a smooth and consistent grind. (Morrison, CO)
 2.0 from 3 votes
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