The Buchanan/Pawnee Pass loop is one great loop hike that is convenient to the Denver-Boulder Area. It ended up being a 28 mile loop covering 3 climbs in the Indian Peak Wilderness. According to my Garmin 910 (both setting map and watch) we climbed between 7,093 ft (map) and 9,334 ft (watch) and had close to the same descent. See: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/194970958. Note: at the end of this report is a video that shows some of the highlights from the hike.
We began our hike about 7:50 am after enjoying coffee in Nederland and breaking down our camp at the Kelly Dahl campground 20 miles away. Our goal was to finish close to 12 hours and treat the day as a fast hike with no running.
(Brainard Lake looking at Shoshoni Pk - We would return from the right side view)
At the end of the parking lot, the hike began on a shared trail that also take hikers to the 13,233ft Mt. Audobon. The next several pictures are of the first 1.67 miles to the trail cutoff and the top of the first and easiest climb.
( We are at 11,200 and above is the turn for Mt Audubon 2.4 miles. Below is pointing the the direction we were going next)
(The trail junction at Coney flats - in the distance is Sawtooth Mtn and Buchanan Pass)
(Above is a tube showing the annual hike of the Colorado Mule Rider's association and below a cave near the top of the climb)
Approaching the top
(These are the views from the top as we moved down. We would follow the canyon below.)
Once we hit the trees we constantly found ourselves crawling over or hiking around fallen trees. This was particularly bad between tree line Thunderbolt creek. Note: There will be a social trail at Thunderbolt creek that is partially blocked to the left. Go right and cross the creek.
(Above - looking west is Lake Granby)
Below is a view of the last few feet of our climb
(Below is looking back at Shoshoni Peak and the Isabelle Glacier)
(Below is Lake Isabelle)
After reaching the Long Lake trailhead we had to do the last mile of our hike on pavement to back to our starting point.
After 12:32 minutes, we finished our 27.52 mile loop hike. It was a great day with perfect weather and we only saw 22 people (including those off the trail) and got in a great workout. Enjoy the video below that is a compilation of several spots on the trail starting at one of the Cascade Falls.