Colorado Trail Segment 2 - Hwy 126 to Chair Rocks
Pike National Forest
Date Hiked: June 13, 2014
- Distance: 10.2 mi (RT)
- Elevation Gain: 1,287ft
- Elevation Min: 7,488 to 7,879ft
- Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service
- Trailhead Lat/Long: 39º 21' 22" N; 105º 14' 52" W
- Fee: None
Directions: From Denver, head south on 285 to Pine Junction. Turn left and head south on 126 (Pine Valley Road) for about 12 miles. You will go through the historic towns of Pine and Buffalo Creek. After you pass through Buffalo Creek, keep you eyes out for the hiking crossing sign and the Colorado Trail sign posts (they are small). There is a large shoulder on the opposite side (west) of 126 next to the gated road for parking.
The hike to Chair Rocks is a wonderful hike year round. The hike is long at 10 miles roundtrip, but the Colorado Trail is a pleasure to hike along and you'll appreciate the attention and maintenance that it receives. You start at roughly the same altitude as you finish so the 1,000+ feet of elevation gain/loss is from ups and downs are over rolling hills. The first 3 miles traverse the remnants of the Buffalo Creek wildfire. In the early summer after a rainy spring and a wet winter (like this year) the area is abundant with green grasses and wildflowers, a change from the typical dry and dusty nature of this area. The views in the burn area are phenomenal. You get wonderful views of Long Scraggy Peak, Buffalo Peak, Pikes Peak, Mount Evans, Raleigh Peak, and the Cathedral Spires. The iconic landmarks are all around you.
After three miles you'll enter pine forest and are rewarded with some much needed shade (the burn area gets hot...). Amble through the pines for about 1.5 miles until you reach Raleigh Peak road, a dirt road. The CO trail continues on the other side of the road, but to reach Chair Rocks, turn left (west) and walk up the road for about 200 paces. Look to the right for a sign reading "Closed to Motor Vehicle." There will be a fence just past the sign with 2 entry ways, you want to the one to the right of the sign, the one with a blue ribbon on it. Follow the trail through the entry way and ascend through the forest for .5 mile until you see the Chair Rocks, you can't miss them. The rocks are impressive, towering monoliths that will make rock climbers very happy. At the base of the rocks, work your way to the viewpoints looking north. This view is a real treat, you will be up close and personal with the enormity of the Cathedral Spires and with Mount Evan's snowy peaks in the background, you get a Front Range view that few people ever see. After you've explored the rocks, head back the same way you came.
This hike really showcases the splendor and uniqueness of the southern Front Range. The Buffalo Creek Burn Area, (along with the Hayman Fire Burn Area further south) provides a truly special landscape and one that you will feel compelled to re-visit each year. Make sure you bring plenty of water, sunblock, and a good hat...