West Pawnee Butte
One of the most unusual destinations in Colorado for wildflower viewers, as well as history buffs, is a pair of vertical landmarks jutting into the prairie sky just south of the Wyoming-Nebraska border: the Pawnee Buttes. Accessible via the 1.5-mile trail, the buttes take the hiker down into a world of raw beauty and some unusual wildflowers. The route drops hikers into an eroded land, through dry washes (which may gush powerfully in storms), and across a plateau to the base of West Butte. For millenniums, the reportedly 300-foot-high, free-standing sandstone remnants served as points of reference that guided the plains tribesmen who roamed this windswept land. The shortgrass prairie of the Pawnee National Grassland supports a fascinating variety of flora, some looking decidedly tundra-like with oversized buns and cushions. The sedimentary rock formations create a stark backdrop for grasses, such as buffalo and blue grama, and they are highlighted by intriguing spring wildflowers. A late May or early June trip to Pawnee Buttes is well worth the long drive to walk into an otherworldly, primal land and its remarkable flora. In addition, Pawnee National Grassland is a great birding area and is home to the lark bunting, Colorado’s state bird. You’ll also find fleet pronghorn here, along with the short-horned lizard often referred to as the horny toad. Wildflower alert: Interesting native wildflowers include prickly gilia, silky matted pea, and sand dock.
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Directions to: West Pawnee Butteprint directions
Trail Statistics & Information
|Season||Bloom is May to June|
|Top Elevation||5,420 ft|
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