The Pawnee Buttes are two of the most recognized buttes in northeastern Colorado, with the west butte situated in the Pawnee National Grassland and the east butte located on private land in Weld County. The duo can be found very close to the Wyoming state border, lying approximately 13 miles south of it.
The Pawnee Buttes are roughly 300 feet tall at their highest point, with the lower portions of the structures comprised of mostly soft sedimentary rock with lots of clay in the mixture. They rise to 5,320 feet in elevationl
Roughly five million years ago, the buttes stood at thousands of feet tall, however, natural erosion caused by wind and rain has whittled them down to what they are today.
The buttes’ status has shifted a lot over time, going from having several homestead properties to eventually being controlled by the National Forest Service in 1954. Today, it is designated as one of 20 national grasslands in the country and is operated by the NFS and United States Department of Agriculture.
Pawnee Buttes Trail
The Pawnee Buttes receive about 12 to 15 inches of annual rain, and the area is home to a variety of wildlife, including goats, bighorn sheep, elk, deer, coyotes, rabbits, and lizards. Additionally, 296 bird species have been documented in the area since 1962.
The Pawnee Buttes Trail is 1.5 miles long and takes hikers to the western butte, although it is not recommended to climb on it due to the rock being unsteady crumbling sandstone.
While the trail is open year-round, parts of the nearby area are closed from March 1 – June 30 to protect nesting raptors. If these birds are bothered, there’s a chance that they will desert their eggs or young birds.
Season: Year-Round | Parts closed from March 1 – June 30
Elevation: 5,230 feet (1,594 meters)