On Friday, November 27th, 2020, I decided to head out to the Pawnee National Grassland from Denver, Colorado. I arrived around sunset at a dispersed camping site overlooking the Pawnee Buttes. There are no facilities when dispersed camping but there are vaulted toilets and covered picnic tables at the Pawnee Buttes Trailhead.
I woke up before sunrise on Saturday and began hiking around 9AM. The hike took about 3 hours to complete with stops to eat and take photos. The first butte is on public land while the second is on private land. The trail is mostly flat and easy except for the path around the second further butte, which is steep and narrow. It's best to do the trail as a loop, going up a steeper section returning. The buttes rise about 300 feet above the grasslands. I stayed both Friday and Saturday night and left after sunrise as the winds died down Sunday morning.
From March 1st to June 30th, much of the trail is off limits due to it being a bird nesting area. In the Summer there is a risk of rattlesnakes and the weather risk is high with tornadoes. There is no fee to hike or camp in the dispersed area. It gets very windy at times, I experienced 15-30MPH winds all night long for two nights with Saturday night being more windy. For this reason, I would suggest sleeping in a car or SUV to endure the winds. Around mid-day on Satruday, I saw about 8 cars of hikers who were doing the trail or simply having a picnic.
Much of the area in the Pawnee Grasslands has oil rigs and wind turbines. Many irresponsible gun owners shoot and leave their shells on the ground slightly off the road. The Pawnee Grassland is about the same elevation as Denver, slightly higher in some places. Having a 4WD vechicle is recommended because some parts of the dirt road are high clearance. It could be very difficult to drive in rain or snow, which I didn't experience.
Overall, this area is quite remote and can get very cold and windy at night in the Fall months. The sunrises are dramatic on the open landscape. To fully see and experience Colorado, as well as see where Wyoming and Nebraska connect, it is worth seeing.
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