Peak(s):  Red Pk B  -  13,189 feet
Date Posted:  08/25/2020
Date Climbed:   08/22/2020
Author:  jordanthebuff
 Red Buffalo Pass -- East to West   

My cousin (Jeff) and I set out to hike from his house in Silverthorne to East Vail via Red Buffalo Pass and tag Red Peak along the way. It was tough to find exact mileage on the whole route, but we estimated it to be about 16 miles with Red Peak and 14 without.

We set off a few minutes after 5 AM. From his house (in the Eagle's Nest neighborhood) we took a mix of roads and social trails (usually labeled "Eagles Nest Trail") to get above the houses and onto the "Ditches" tail, which is an offshoot of the North Willow Creek trail. We eventually made our way to the Willowbrook trailhead. In total, it was about 1.5 - 2 miles from the house to the trailhead. From here, our plan was to hike the South Willow Trail to the Mesa Cortina Trail to the Gore Trail up to Red Buffalo Pass. All these trail junctions were very well marked and easy to follow. The whole section below willow creek falls was rather flat so we made it to the falls in about 2 hours. I think it was about 4.5 ish miles to this point.

We spent a few minutes poking around the falls and enjoying the early morning, then continued on our way. Above the falls was beautiful and secluded. The trail was still in great shape. We saw some awesome wildlife up there including multiple deer, a ram bouncing through the forest, and a mama bear with two cubs (from a safe distance). One of the cubs was about 200 yards away and climbing a tree. When it heard us, it ran back to it's mom who was about 1/4 mile away at least. First time seeing a bear in the wild!

Zoomed in on the bear. This was about 150 - 200 yards away. Mom was on the other side of the valley.

Just before 9 AM, we were nearly to the pass and encountered the first other humans on our hike, camping 100 feet below the pass! One final push and we made it to the pass. With our additional mileage, it was about 8 miles, so about 6-6.5 from the Willowbrook trailhead. Despite the smoke, the views were decent (not great, by any means). We were both feeling pretty good, but knew that we had the 7 miles of downhill on the other side, and staring up at the 1000+ vertical feet up to Red Peak just felt like a bit too much. Perhaps if we hadn't started from the house, we would have felt differently. We opted not to attempt Red Peak this day.

Jeff and I at Red Buffalo Pass, looking down towards Vail.

The first 500-800 feet of the descent is the steepest portion on the Vail side of the pass. After we made it through that the tail was mostly easy to follow. A couple miles of it felt rather bushwacky but overall it wasn't too bad. There was always a trail to follow. We encountered more people on this side (going both directions, a few runners passed us) and it was mostly uneventful on the way down. Jeff's slipped into the creek at the crossing near the grave site, so he borrowed my extra pair of socks. After about 7 miles and 4 more hours we made it down where our ride was waiting for us. Our feet were killing us at this point and the Vail side of the trail was extra rocky, which made our descent take a little extra time.

All in all, this is an awesome route! A total of about 15 miles from the house to the trailhead in East Vail, 13.5 from trailhead to trailhead. I think the shortest distance to the pass would be to start at the Buffalo Cabin trailhead. I plan on attempting Red Peak again at some point, but I will be doing it all from the Silverthorne side. The trail and scenery is much more enjoyable on that side and it's slightly less gain (500 feet?). A great day on the mountain with family, regardless of the smoke and lack of summit!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Nice report
08/25/2020 22:51
That is a wonderful area, and I really like the tree climbing cub.

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