Steamboat Springs Deer and elk hunters accustomed to setting up camp on the west side of Buffalo Pass just northeast of Steamboat Springs may need to rethink their plans this autumn.
Reconstruction of three miles of the unpaved Buffalo Pass Road (Routt County Road 38 and Forest Service Road 60) will begin Monday, and the road will be closed to all vehicles from the gate at Dry Lake Campground. The road construction on the west side of Buffalo Pass is expected to continue for six to eight weeks, meaning it will extend at least through the second rifle season, a combined deer and elk hunt.
Improvements include culvert replacement, reconstruction of turnouts and a new gravel base, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The Forest Service news release stated that “road projects such as this are a short-term inconvenience for long-term public safety.”
Hunters still will be able to access the summit of Buffalo Pass and upper reaches of the west side of the pass from Jackson County via the Walden area.
The commencement of construction is about a month later than what was anticipated by the Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District in early August.
Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife area wildlife manager Jim Haskins said he’s concerned that some hunters coming from the Front Range or distant states won’t learn about the closure until they arrive in the area.
“It’s an inconvenience. There’s no way around it,” Haskins said Tuesday. “That is a little bit of a problem for a lot of hunters. We know we’re going to hear about it in our office. But the bottom line is it’s not a huge impact.”
The inconvenienced hunters likely will include Steamboat residents intent on getting 90 minutes of hunting in after work.
Archery season for deer and elk is under way and continues through Sept. 26. Muzzleloading season for deer and elk ends Sunday.
The first limited elk season runs from Oct. 15 to 19, and the second season, which is also the first of the combined deer and elk seasons, runs from Oct. 22 to 30.
Those most affected by the road reconstruction will be hunters who drew permits for Game Management Unit 14, which runs north to Hahn’s Peak and Little Snake River beyond, Haskins said.
Destination hunters could adapt by accessing Buffalo Pass from its east side near the Grizzly Creek Campground in North Park. And Haskins said there’s no shortage of road access to the area along the west side of the Park Range from Mad Creek to the Red Dirt Trail to Clark, the Greenville Mine and Seedhouse Road.
However, camping is much more limited in those areas than on the west side of Buffalo Pass, Haskins said. There is no car camping at Mad Creek and Red Dirt, though the trails lead into the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area.
“Guys who leave Denver on a Friday night pulling a trailer could be surprised,” Haskins said.
Many hunters whose licenses allow them to hunt in Game Management Unit 14 also are able to hunt in neighboring Unit 214 to the west, which includes public lands in the area west of Sand Mountain and Steamboat Lake. But hunters who aren’t as familiar with those areas may be at a disadvantage, Haskins added.