The Beautiful Pawnee National Grasslands

Published on September 01, 2020

The Beautiful Pawnee National Grasslands

Story by Baker Geist, photos by Jennifer Finch

Located in northeastern Weld County, the Pawnee National Grassland is open 24-7 365 days a year, providing an opportunity for visitors of all types to discover the short-grass prairie, appreciate the beauty of open space and the freedom to see and discover new things not available in an urban setting. While the grassland is located in a remote area of the county, it doesn’t mean a visit must be spent hiking rugged land or roughing it in nature. There are many activities for not only hikers and sportsmen to enjoy but also sight seers who prefer leisurely car drives and easy walks.

The Pawnee National Grassland Birding Tour is a unique activity visitors to the grasslands can enjoy. The tour provides an opportunity to see a variety of birds in different habitats. As many as 300 different bird species visit the grasslands, including the Lark Bunting (Colorado’s state bird), Loggerhead Shrikes, Mountain Plovers and various raptors and hawks. The trail — open year around — includes 12 stops at different viewing locations (each with descriptive signage to help visitors spot birds) and can take between two to three hours to complete by car. 

Because the Pawnee is in a remote area and the bird-watching trail includes dirt roads, visitors are asked to have a full tank of gas and be aware of changing weather conditions that may make traveling on the trail roads difficult. In some cases, depending on the weather, it may be best to utilize a four-wheel drive vehicle. Out of respect for the birds, keep a safe distance from nesting areas and remember to not to leave any trash behind. 

In addition to the birding trail, many other birds can be seen at the Crow Valley Recreation Area, in the Crow Valley Campground. The area offers an additional walking trail where other birds can be seen. “It’s very popular with birdwatchers,” said Curtis Youngman, District Ranger for the Pawnee National Grassland. “Crow Valley has a lot of tree cover so it has birds visitors don’t see out on the grassland.” 

The short grass prairie of the Pawnee also lends itself to the growth of many different types of wildflowers throughout the summer months. Starting in April and blooming all the way through September, visitors can closely examine different types of wildflowers found on many roads throughout the grasslands or by venturing on foot. 

Additionally, those interested in a short walking trail, can go see the famous Pawnee Buttes on the Pawnee Butte’s trail. Youngman said it’s an easy trail for anyone to do, regardless of experience. The trail extends 2.1 miles, has a few hills but doesn’t change in elevation.

To learn more about the Pawnee Grasslands, the Pawnee Buttes and the self-guided bird tour, please click here.

Want to see more images from both the Pawnee National Grassland and the Pawnee Buttes? Please visit our Pinterest board full of beautiful images from this amazing place: click here.

Signage along the self-guided birding tour on the Pawnee National Grasslands