The Pawnee Buttes are probably one of Colorado’s most classic icons. Standing about 300 feet high, these free standing hills are located in the Pawnee National Grasslands in northeastern Colorado. They are made of sedimentary rock and clay which gives them an almost chalk like texture and appearance
Getting the buttes means hiking several miles on trails in the grassland. It is about 5 miles from the trail to the buttes; the east butte is about 4 miles off the trail and the other butte is farther away. If you want to hike to the Pawnee Buttes, you should make sure that you know where you are going! Since the Buttes are in the middle of nowhere, it is best that you have a map and either a great sense of direction or a compass. You do not have to pay to view or hike the Pawnee Buttes. However, hiking the buttes is extremely challenging and should only be done by experienced climbers.
Be aware the from March 1st to June 30th, the Pawnee Buttes are closed to due nesting raptors. Although some visitors do illegally enter the area anyway, it should not be done. Visitors should be respectful and obey signs in the area that warn about trespassing.
You can also camp on the grasslands except at the trailhead and within 200 feet of streams or trails. There are fees to camp at Crow Valley, but otherwise, camping is free. Water is available at Crow Valley only during the warmer spring and summer months. Otherwise, you should bring water in if camping. Remember that streams in the area are used quite extensively by cattle. If you decide to drink from the streams, either filter the water, or drink at your own risk. Sometimes, there are fire bans in the area due to dry conditions. Since the plains are windy and dry normally, all fires should be carefully tended even if there is no fire ban.
The area surrounding the buttes is full of fossils and over 100 species have been found. The first man to look for fossils here was O. C. Marsh from Yale’s Peabody Museum. The first expedition he led visited the area in 1870. He also led several other expeditions to the area after that. Remember that any fossils that you may find are protected by law and must stay where they are.
Most people who do visit the buttes do so to bask in the glory of the quiet. If you do visit, leave your cell phones, computer games, and other electronic devices at home and enjoy the deafening sound of the quiet along with them.
For more information on visiting the Pawnee Buttes, go to http://www.fs.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsinternet/!ut/p/c5/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3gjAwhwtDDw9_AI8zPwhQoY6IeDdGCqCPOBqwDLG-AAjgb6fh75uan6BdnZaY6OiooA1tkqlQ!!/dl3/d3/L2dJQSEvUUt3QS9ZQnZ3LzZfMjAwMDAwMDBBODBPSEhWTjBNMDAwMDAwMDA!/?ss=110210&navtype=forestBean&navid=091000000000000&pnavid=null&cid=null&ttype=main&pname=Arapaho/recreation/trails/png/index.shtml.