Magazine article Sunset

Colorado Day Trip: Pawnee Buttes

Magazine article Sunset

Colorado Day Trip: Pawnee Buttes

Article excerpt

Why go now: Lace up your boots and bringyour binocs - the buttes and surrounding Pawnee National Grassland get first dibs on spring with a crazy quilt of wildflowers and migratory birds putting on their best avian air show. Big buttes, where? About 70 miles northeast of Fort Collins, just south of the Nebraska border. Home on the range: Surrounding the nearly 35O-foot-high East and West Pawnee Buttes are 302 square miles of public grassland to explore. The blooms: Evening primrose, sand lily, prairie snowball, and a rain bow of others pop this month. The birds: This superflyway sees more than 300 species, from eagles, falcons, and Swainson's hawks to mountain plovers and lark buntings (Colorado's state bird). Where the wild wings are: On the 2i-mile self-guided Pawnee National Grassland BirdingTour. Get a map at /s. osda.gov/arp. Gateway to Pawnee: AuIt, a quiet little time capsule of a town, lies 52 miles southwest of the buttes.

1. Your spring stomping ground

The moderate 3-mile round-trip Pawnee Buttes trail is you r best hiking debut of the season, ambling beneath compact stands of Western junipers before breaking out into the open prairie skirting the mighty sandstone buttes. But no need to stick to the trails here - this wide-open expanse is all yours to roam free. /s. usda.gov/arp;

2 Brake for bites in town

Filling up at Gray's Cafe (above; $; 200 St. …

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