Arkansas River originates in the mountains of central Colorado and heads south along the eastern edge of the Sawatch Mountains. Near the town of Buena Vista, the river creates a plain that is roughly five miles wide (east-west) and sits at an elevation of 8000 ft. Giant fourteeners such as Mt. Princeton, Mt. Antero and Mt. Yale rise very abruptly to the west of the plain. To the east, in contrast, you will only find Juniper covered mountains that are generally lower than 10000 ft high.
Midland Hill refers to a 2 mile long ridgeline that sits to the east of the plain and looms over the town of Buena Vista. Arkansas River flows directly at the base of the ridgeline which gives rise to 4 summits. North to south, these summits are as follows:
1) Point 9300 ft
2) Point 9477 ft
3) Point 9500 ft
4) Point 9556 ft
A well-established trail starts in a park in Buena Vista, crosses the Arkansas River over a footbridge and then goes up through the Juniper forest to reach the 9556 ft summit. Interesting boulders and rock formations can be found along the length of the trail.
Although much lower than the famous peaks of the Sawatch Range across the valley, Midland Hill can still provide the hiker with 1600 ft of vertical gain and can certainly be used as an acclimatization hike. From its summit, the views of the Arkansas River, the town of Buena Vista and the high peaks of the Sawatch are fantastic.
Views from the Summit of Midland Hill:
The trail to the summit of Midland Hill can be accessed from two spots:
1) Town of Buena Vista (elevation 7950 ft)
2) County Road 304 (elevation 8250 ft)
Directions to the Trailhead in Buena Vista:
From the intersection of Route 24 and Cottonwood Pass Rd (the traffic light in Buena Vista), turn east onto East Main Street and follow it less than a mile until you see a park and an athletic field near the Arkansas River. You will see bathroom facilities and a map of the hiking trails. This is your trailhead.
Direction to the trailhead on County Rd 304:
From the intersection of Routes 24 and 285, 2 miles south of Buena Vista, follow Route 285 less than 3 miles east through Johnson Village and over Arkansas River until you see a sign for County Road 304 (“Scenic View Point”). Turn north onto County Road 304, ignore the sign for Scenic View Point on the left and continue 1.4 miles until you reach a Y. Turn left and follow the road 3.4 miles until you see a very small sign for “Trail 6032”. (County Rd 304 is a dirt road that is passable by most/any car).
RouteFrom Buena Vista, one way distance to the summit is roughly 1.75 miles per my GPS.
From the trailhead, cross the big pedestrian bridge over Arkansas River and follow the signs for “Trail 6032”. After 300 vertical feet, you will cross County Rd 304. Continue on the trail (Ignore the sign for “Trail 6032 A”). The trail goes by a large rock and then makes one switchback after another until it reaches a 9260 ft saddle. It then turns south and goes to the summit.
Red TapeNo fees or permits for day hiking.
For other regulations, see the site for San Isabel National Forest.