The Colorado Rockies are the quintessential CDT experience! With more than a thousand summits topping 10,000 feet, Colorado truly is a Rocky Mountain high. The CDT traverses 800 miles of these majestic and challenging peaks dotted with abandoned homesteads, ghost towns, and remnants of Native Americans and settlers who flocked here to mine gold and silver.
The CDT winds through some of Colorado’s most incredible landscapes: the spectacular alpine tundra of the South San Juan, Weminuche, and La Garita Wildernesses where the CDT remains at or above 11,000 feet for nearly 70 miles, remnants of the late 1800’s ghost town of Hancock that served the Alpine Tunnel, the awe-inspiring Collegiate Peaks near Leadville, the highest city in America, geologic oddities like The Window, Knife Edge, and Devil’s Thumb, the towering 14,270 foot Grays Peak – the highest point on the CDT, Rocky Mountain National Park with its rugged snowcapped skyline, the remote Never Summer Wilderness, and the braod valleys and numerous glacial lakes and cirques of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness.
National Park Service:
Rocky Mountain National Park
1000 Highway 36 , Estes Park, CO 80517-8397
Visitor Information: (970) 586-1206
Visitor Information (Recorded Message): (970) 586-1333
Backcountry: (970) 586-1242
Campground Reservations: (800) 365-2267
USDA Forest Service:
Rocky Mountain Region 2
740 Simms Street Golden, CO 80401 (303) 275-5350
Medicine Bow – Routt National Forests
2468 Jackson Street Laramie, WY 82070 (307) 745-2300
Brush Creek – Hayden Ranger District
South Hwy. 130/230 , PO Box 249 Saratoga, WY 82331 (307) 326-5258
Brush Creek – Hayden Ranger District
204 W. 9th Street, PO Box 187 Encampment, WY 82325 (307) 327-5481
Hahns Peak – Bears Ears Ranger District
925 Weiss Drive Steamboat Springs, CO 80487-9315 (970) 879-1870
Parks Ranger District
100 Main Street, PO Box 158 Walden, CO 80480 (970) 723-8204
Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee Naional Grassland
240 West Prospect Road Fort Collins, CO 80526 (970) 498-1100
Clear Creek Ranger District
101 Chicago Creek Road , PO Box 3307 Idaho Springs, CO 80452 (303) 567-3000
Sulphur Ranger District
9 Ten Mile Drive, PO Box 10 Grandby, CO 80446 (970) 887-4100
White River National Forest
900 Grand Avenue , PO Box 948 Glenwood Springs, CO 81602 (970) 945-2521
Dillon Ranger District
680 River Parkway Silverthorne, CO 80498 (970) 468-5400
Holy Cross Ranger District
24747 US Highway 24 Minturn, CO 81645 (970) 827-5715
Sopris Ranger District
620 Main Street Carbondale, CO 81623 (970) 963-2266
Pike/San Isabel National Forests
2840 Kachina Drive Pueblo, CO 81008 (719) 553-1400
Leadville Ranger District
2015North Poplar Leadville, CO 80461 (719) 486-0749
Salida Ranger District
325 West Rainbow Blvd. Salida, CO 81201 (719) 539-3591
South Park Ranger District
PO Box 219 320 Highway 285 Fairplay, CO 80440 (719) 836-2031
Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest
2250 Highway 50 Delta, CO 81416 (970) 874-6600
Gunnison Ranger District
216 N. Colorado Gunnison, CO 81230 (970) 641-0471
Gunnison Ranger District
PO Box 89 Lake City, CO 81235 (970) 641-0471
Rio Grande National Forest
1803 West Highway 160 Monte Vista, CO 81144 (719) 852-5941
Conejos Peak Ranger District
15571 County Road T.5 LaJara, CO 81140 (719) 274-8971
Divide Ranger District
13308 West Hwy 160 Del Norte, CO 81132 (719) 657-3321
Divide Ranger District – Creede
Third and Creede Avenue Creede, CO 81130 (719) 658-2556
Saguache Ranger District
46525 State Hwy 114 Saguache, CO 81149 (719) 655-2547
San Juan National Forest
15 Burnett Court Durango, CO 81301 (970) 247-4874
Columbine Ranger District
367 Pearl Street Bayfield, CO 81122 (970) 884-2512
Pagosa Ranger District
180 Pagosa Street Pagosa Springs, CO 81147 (970) 264-2268
Total CDT Miles: 155
Elevation Gain: 25951.00 feet
Access Points: Ute Creek Trail Head – From US Hwy 149 in Creede travel north 20 miles, turn West on Rio Grande Reservoir Road continue West 17 miles and turn left at sign marked Ute Creek Trailhead
Weminuche Creek T.H. & Squaw Pass – From US Hwy 149 in Creede travel north 20 miles, turn West on Rio Grande Reservoir Road continue West 10 miles and turn left at Thirtymile Campground.
South River Peak Ivy Creek T.H.- From US Hwy 149 in Creede travel north 6 miles, turn West on Middle Creek Road travel 4 miles to Forest Road 528, at 4 miles turn East on Forest Road 526, Ivy Creek Trailhead is 2 miles ahead.
Wolf Creek Pass – From US 160 in Pagosa Springs travel 23 miles East to summit. From South Fork, travel 20 miles West on US 160 to summit.
Elwood Pass – From US 160 in Pagosa Springs travel 11 miles East to East Fork Road, East Fork Road becomes 4WD accessible only travel 20 miles to summit of Elwood Pass. From US 160 in South Fork travel 7 miles West to Forest Route 380/Park Creek Road.
Cumbres Pass – From Antonito travel West on CO Hwy 17 30 miles to the summit of Cumbres Pass.
Significant Features: Grenadier Range Rio Grande Pyramid http://mtns.martianbachelor.com/RGP.html Piedra Pass – Anasazi Settlements http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/sanjuan/recreation/trails/pagosa-trails.htm Treasure Mountain – Historical area http://www.legendsofamerica.com/CP-ColoradoTreasures8.html South San Juan Wilderness- http://www.coloradowilderness.com/wildpages/sanjuan.html
Total CDT Miles: 126.10
Elevation Gain: 22309.00 feet
Access Points: North Pass – From US 50 in Gunnison travel East to CO Hwy 114, travel 114 27 miles to summit. From Saguache travel West on CO Hwy 114 22 miles to summit.
San Luis Pass – From CO Hwy 149 in Creede, travel North out of Creede where Main Street becomes Forest Rd 503, FR 503 becomes a 4WD road continue 8 miles to CDT.
Spring Creek Pass- From CO Hwy 149 in Lake City travel 7 miles South to summit of Spring Creek Pass. From Creede travel North 30 miles on CO Hwy 149 to summit of Spring Creek Pass.
Carson Saddle – From CO Hwy 149 in Lake City travel South 3 miles, turn Southwest toward Lake San Cristobal continue for 9 miles turn South on County Road 36 (4WD access only) travel for 5 miles to crest of Carson Saddle and intersection with the CDT.
Stony Pass – From CO Hwy 149 in Creede travel North 20 miles, turn West on Rio Grande Reservoir Road, turn west on Forest Road 520 (4WD Access only) continue for 20 miles to the summit of Stony Pass.
Cochetopa Hills– One of the first places humans crossed the divide
Total Miles: 126.90
Elevation Gain: 22888.00 feet
Access Point: Texas Creek Road – From Cottonwood Pass travel 1.5 miles to Taylor River Road, turn East on Texas Creek Road/Forest Road 755 travel 8 miles to intersection with the CDT Cottonwood Pass – From US Hwy 24 in Buena Vista turn West on County Road 306, travel 18 miles to summit of Cottonwood Pass
Mirror Lake – From US Hwy 135 in Gunnison travel 10 miles North to Almont, turn West on Forest Road 742 marked Taylor Reservoir. Continue on FR 742 23 miles to Tincup and Mirror Lake Campground.
Hancock – From Buena Vista travel 7 miles South on US 285, turn West on County Road 162 to St. Elmo, continue 15 miles, turn South on Forest Road 295 travel 5 miles to Hancock
Monarch Pass – Travel to summit of Monarch Pass on US 50, 45 miles East of Gunnison and 18 miles West of Poncha Springs
Marshall Pass – From US Hwy 285 in Poncha Springs travel 5 miles and turn West toward Marshall Pass, continue 13 miles to summit
Holy Cross Wilderness
Mount Massive Wilderness
Mount Elbert – Colorado’s Highest Peak http://www.peakbagger.com/peak.aspx?pid=5736
Collegiate Peaks Wilderness http://www.coloradowilderness.com/wildpages/collegiate.html
Tincup Ghost Town—http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/co/tincup.html
Alpine Tunnel-Historic Area—http://www.narrowgauge.org/alpine-tunnel/html/
St. Elmo Ghost Town—http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/co/saintelmo.html
Hancock Ghost Town- http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/co/hancock.html
Total Miles: 89.40
Elevation Gain: 21414.00
Argentine Pass T.H. – Travel Hwy 6 East towards Keystone Ski Area, Right on Montezuma Road, Left on FR260, continue to travel on FR260 until it dead ends.
Webster Pass – Travel Hwy 6 East towards Keystone Ski Area, Right on Montezuma Road continue to town of Montezuma, Left on Forest Road 215 5 miles to Webster Pass Trailhead Gold Hill T.H.- I-70 exit 203 to CO Hwy 9 travel South 6 miles to Gold Hill Trailhead parking area.
Copper Mountain – I-70 exit 195 on to CO Hwy 91 to Wheeler Flats parking lot.
Tennessee Pass – CO Hwy 91 through Leadville to US 24, travel 9 miles North to summit of Tennessee Pass.
Timberline Lake Trailhead – From Leadville travel US 24, turn West on Mountain View Drive towards Turquoise Lake park at May Queen Campground.
Mount Massive/Mount Elbert Trailhead – From Leadville travel south on US-24 to CO Hwy 300, turn South on road marked Halfmoon Campground, travel 7 miles to Mount Massive Trailhead.
Grays Peak – highest point on the CDT Montezuma Ghost Town
Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest
Total Miles: 101
Elevation Gain: 17808.00 feet
Monarch Lake T.H. US Hwy 34 to County Rd 6- 10 miles to TH Devils Thumb Park US Hwy 40 at Fraser travel County Rd 8 East to TH Rollins Pass – From US Hwy 40 at Winter Park travel NE 14 miles on Forest Road 149/Moffat RD to summit of Rollins Pass
Rainbow Road – I-70 exit 238 Fall River Road travel North 6 miles to first hairpin turn, turn left on dirt road/Rainbow Road. Much of Rainbow Road is only accessible by 4WD.
Berthoud Pass – From I-70 travel North on US Hwy 40 14 miles West towards Empire and Winter Park to summit of Berthoud Pass
Herman Gulch T.H.- I-70 Exit 218 Grays Peak TH – 1-70 to the Bakerville Exit
James Peak Wilderness
Vasquez Peak Wilderness
Never Summer Wilderness- http://www.coloradowilderness.com/wildpages/never.html
Indiana Peaks Wilderness- http://indianpeakswilderness.org/
Rocky Mountain National Park http://www.nps.gov/romo/
Total Miles CDT: 25
Elevation Gain: 8880 feet
Illinois Creek Trailhead from US Hwy 125 Grand Lake
North Supply TH – US Hwy 34, 4.9 miles from Grand Lake
Tonahutu Creek TH – From Grand Lake at West side entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, travel north on Trail Ridge Road 3 miles to Tonahutu Creek Trailhead
North Inlet Trail – From Grand Lake travel North through the end of town to Cascade Falls Trailhead
Monarch Lake TH – US Hwy 34 to County Rd 6- 10 miles to TH
Medicine Bow Routt National Forest
Total Miles CDT: 142
Elevation Gain: 17601.00
Wyoming T.H. from Steamboat Springs
Wyoming T.H. from Colorado Hwy.125
North Lake T.H.- Buffalo Pass Base Camp T.H. US-40 2.5 miles West of intersection with CO Hwy 14
Troublesome Pass- From CO Hwy 125 at Willow Creek Pass travel North 6 miles to Forest Road 106 to Troublesome Pass
Willow Creek Pass- On CO Hwy 125 22 miles North of US Hwy 40
Mount Zirkel Wilderness http://www.coloradowilderness.com/wildpages/mtzirkel.html
(Colorado CDT Mail Drop Addresses north to south)
Note—we are in the process of updating and verifying this information, so the accuracy of the list below cannot be guaranteed.
C/O General Delivery US Post Office 200 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs, CO 80477
C/O General Delivery US Post Office 500 Lake Dillon Drive , Dillon, CO 80435
C/O General Delivery US Post Office Leadville, CO 80461
C/O General Delivery US Post Office Twin Lakes General Store, Twin Lakes, CO 81251
C/O General Delivery US Post Office , Buena Vista, CO 81211
The Simple Lodge and Hostel 224 East First Street Salida, CO 81201 Phone: 719-650-7381 Email: email@example.com www.simplelodge.com
Monarch Mountain Lodge 22720 West US Hwy 50, Garfield, CO 81227
C/O General Delivery US Post Office 803 Gunnison Ave, Lake City, CO 81235
C/O General Delivery US Post Office 250 Hot Springs Road, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147
The San Juan Public Lands encompass some 2.5 million acres managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, stretching across five Colorado counties in the southwestern corner of the state. This terrain ranges from high-desert mesas to alpine peaks, with thousands of miles of back roads and hundreds of miles of trails to explore.
The San Juan Public Lands Center combines the former San Juan National Forest Supervisor’s Office and one-third of the former BLM Montrose District into one independent, integrated unit. As such, it is the only organization in the country with a single team providing leadership in all aspects of land management and public service for the two federal agencies.
Shared USFS/BLM offices are located in Pagosa Springs, Durango, and Dolores, Colorado, to oversee three combined USFS Ranger Districts and BLM Field Offices. The Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is also an attached BLM unit.
San Juan Public Lands abound with natural and cultural treasures. Five distinct life zones range from elevations near 5,000 feet to above 14,000 feet. Several of Colorado’s famous “14’ers” can be found in the Weminuche and Lizard Head Wilderness Areas. The San Juan also includes the South San Juan Wilderness Area.
Cultural resources run the gamut from historic mining ghost towns and mills to Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings and pit houses. Some heritage sites offer guided tours; others are unmarked treasures you may happen across in the backcountry.
The area has short, cool summers and long, severe winters in the mountains. The lower elevations experience a more temperate winter. There are several permanent snow fields, and snow patches remain in sheltered areas throughout the summer. You should be prepared for freezing weather at all times of the year.
The South San Juan Wilderness was designated by Congress in 1980 and consists of approximately 158,790 acres. Ages of volcanic activity followed by the infinitely patient carving of glaciers left the rough, imposing terrain of the South San Juan Wilderness, an area typified by steep slopes above U-shaped valleys cut sharply deeper by eroding streams. You’ll find high peaks and cliffs, as well as jagged pinnacles and ragged ridges, making travel difficult. Elevations rise as high as 13,300 feet. Thirty-two lakes, most of them formed by glacier activity, hold much of the area’s moisture and drain into turbulent creeks. The Conejos, San Juan, and Blanco River all have their headwaters here, and about 25 miles of the Conejos River has been recommended for Wild and Scenic designation. Erosion of rich volcanic rock in combination with heavy snowfall has produced ideal forestland. Forest ecosystems rise from the shadowy cover of magnificent lodgepole pine to aspen, then through Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir to alpine tundra. Much of the forestland has a peaceful, park like quality under the trees where sun-starved undergrowth grows thin and low. The Continental Divide crosses the heart of the Wilderness for 42 miles.
The 1,852,000-acre Rio Grande National Forest provides access to countless developed and natural attractions. The forest includes the rugged and jagged peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range and the forested tablelands and glacial canyons of the San Juan Mountains. Within these areas high lakes and alpine streams, create livable habitat for wildlife of all sizes. Also in these forested areas are trails, campgrounds, picnic grounds, four-wheel drive roads and scenic highways to interest visitors from all walks of life.
Mountainous terrain influences the climate visitors find in the Rio Grande National Forest. Elevations range from 7,500 feet to over 14,000 feet at the top of several mountain peaks. In general, the climate at low elevations is cool and arid while the high country is cold and humid. Average precipitation varies from under eight inches at the 8,000-foot level to over 50 inches in some alpine areas. Snowfall varies significantly in the Forest. Summer is short and frost may occur anytime in high elevations. Annual temperature extremes range from 90 degrees in summer to 30 degrees below zero in winter. Rapid weather changes, with temperature changes of 40 degrees in periods as short as four to six hours, occur frequently.
The Weminuche Wilderness was designated in 1975 by Congress and has approximately 488,210 acres making this Wilderness the largest designated in Colorado. Its average elevation is 10,000 feet. Eolus, Sunlight, and Windom Peaks rise above 14,000 feet in elevation, whle many others reach above 13,000 feet. Fifty miles of the Continental Divide, the geological backbone of North America, dissect the Weminuche, dividing it’s headwaters to either the Pacific or Atlantic oceans.
The Gunnison National Forest encompasses part of Colorado’s central Rockies and includes two peaks over 14,000 feet, as well as 20 peaks over 13,000 feet in elevation. The La Garita, Collegiate Peaks, Fossil Ridge, Maroon Bells-Snowmass, Raggeds and West Elk Wildernesses are partially located within the forest.
The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests are a combination of separate National Forests located on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies. These three combined Forests cover 3,161,912 acres of public land in the central and southern Rocky Mountains, an area that lies south of the Colorado River and west of the Continental Divide with some of the most spectacular scenery in the Rockies.
The Forests vary in elevation from 5,800 feet above sea level in Roubideau Creek Canyon to 14,309 feet on Uncompahgre Peak. The Forests include spectacular features like the 355 foot high Bridal Veil falls; the Grand Mesa with over 300 lakes, one of the world’s largest flat top mountains; and Alpine Tunnel, once the highest railroad tunnels in North America.
One hundred and thirty miles of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail corridor exists within this forest. Summer high temperatures in much of the forest areas reach into the 70s and low 80s. Evenings are cool, with temperatures that can often dip into the 30s in the high country. Afternoon summer thunderstorms are common. Snow is possible at any time of year in the highest elevations. The high elevation roads and trails are often not clear of snow until at least mid-July. The relative humidity is quite low throughout the year.
Congress designated the La Garita Wilderness in 1964 and it currently has approximately 129,626 acres. La Garita means “the lookout” in Spanish, and this Wilderness amply deserves the name. From the summit of this Wilderness’ single “fourteener” (14,014-foot San Luis Peak), you can gaze across the Rio Grande Valley and down the long stretch of the San Luis Valley. About 35 miles of the Continental Divide lie well above sprawling forestland. On the southern slopes in Watson and Silver parks, you will find a surprising ancient forest of towering spruce and fir. This is a land of rushing streams, broad and gentle alpine meadows, fascinating beaver ponds, long talus slopes and tremendous mountain beauty.
The Wheeler Geologic Area hides in the southeast corner of the Wilderness. It once claimed to be Colorado’s most visited site and is probably the state’s most unusual Geological formation: fine, light-gray volcanic ash compressed into the rock and wildly eroded into a striking series of domes, spires, caves, ledges, pinnacles, ravines, and balanced rocks.
The highlights of the Pike – San Isabel National Forests include, but are not limited to; gold-medal fishing, secluded reservoirs, 14,000’ mountains, huge white water, scenic drives and historic ghost towns. The Pike – San Isabel National Forests encompass a vast variety of terrain on the Front Range and in the Central Rockies.
Controlled mainly by the Rocky Mountains, weather in the Pike – San Isabel National Forests varies extremely on a yearly, daily and hourly basis. Colorado’s high elevations means the air contains less oxygen, making it more difficult to breathe for indviduals from lower elevations. High elevations also means increased exposure to ultraviolet rays, making it easier to get a sunburn. Temperatures are affected by elevation, cooling four degrees for every 1,000 feet gained.
When hiking during the summer, particularly on high mountain peaks, it is best to hike in the early morning and early afternoon to avoid afternoon lightning and thunderstorms. The average yearly precipitation is 16 inches, the majority of which comes in spring and summer. Summer temperatures average 72 degrees during the day. Nighttime freezing temperatures are not uncommon during the summer. The mean winter temperature is 26 degrees. The low humidity on the eastern slopes makes both warm and cold temperatures seem more comfortable.
Congress designated Mount Massive Wilderness in 1980 and it now has approximately 30,540 acres. At 14,421 feet, Mount Massive is Colorado’s second highest peak. Mountains of the Sawatch Range have two distinct characteristics: great height, and a huge, sloping bulk that makes them relatively easy to climb. Nowhere along the Continental Divide does the ground rise higher than the Sawatch Range, the crest of this continent. Just south of the Wilderness stands Mount Elbert at 14,443 feet, Colorado’s highest summit. The Divide marks the western boundary of this area, with the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness immediately to the other side. Dry lodgepole pine forests, typical of the eastern slopes of the Divide, cover much of the lower elevations while spruce and fir lie just below the alpine tundra. Despite the fact that this region was an uplift little touched by glacier activity, a dozen or more lovely glacier lakes lie hidden here.
Congress designated the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness in 1980 and it is now approximately 167,414 acres. With eight “fourteeners”, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness possesses the highest average elevation of any Wilderness in the lower 48 states. As you travel through this area, you might notice unusual and deep indentations in the boundary line. These are a legacy of man’s hunt for gold and other valuable metals that are still sought just outside the wilderness boundary.
At approximately 2.3 million acres, the White River is one of the biggest sections of the National Forest System. With 10 peaks over 14,000 feet, and eight Wilderness areas encompassing more than 750,000 acres, the Forest is world-renowned for its scenery and recreational opportunities. The scenic beauty of the area, along with ample developed and undeveloped recreation opportunities on the Forest, accounts for the fact that the White River consistently ranks as one of the top five Forests nationwide for total recreation use. The elevation of the White River National Forest ranges from 5,000 to 14,000 feet. Most of the campgrounds are between 5,400 and 10,000 feet.
Warm days and cool to freezing nights can be expected in the mountains during the summer. July and August are usually the warmest months. During these summer months afternoon thunderstorms are common. Be prepared for both warm and chilly weather, as well as for rain showers. Fall in the White River National Forest is brief but spectacular, as changing aspens cloak the mountains in gold. Peak color time, while variable, is normally the last part of September. Crisp, sunny days mingle with early snowstorms in what many consider the premier season of the year.
Congress designated the Holy Cross Wilderness in 1980 and has approximately 122,884 acres. Cascading streams, dozens of emerald green lakes, and wide valleys moistened by melting snow make Holy Cross a watery alpine wilderness of glistening beauty. Dominated by 14,005 foot Mount of the Holy Cross, this Wilderness also has 25+ peaks that rise above 13,000 feet. Wildlife including deer, elk, black bears, bobcats, and lynx find abundant homes in Holy Cross, and it streams run full of trout.
The Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland encompass roughly 1.5 million acres of public land in the Rocky Mountains, foothills and short grass prairie of north central Colorado. Boundaries extend north to the Wyoming border and south past Interstate 70 to Mount Evans. Topography on the forests varies from rolling hills to snow covered mountain peaks over 14,000 feet in elevation.
Congress designated the Never Summer Wilderness in 1980 and it now has approximately 21,100 acres. As the name suggests, Never Summer Wilderness gets hit with large amounts of rain and snow that collect on the storm-wracked peaks, which offer relatively gentle terrain and bear names that hint at their cloud level heights such as Cirrus, Cumulus, Stratus and Nimbus. Seventeen peaks rise above 12,000 feet, with Howard Mountain being the tallest at 12,810 feet. The Wilderness area supplies water to three main rivers, the Colorado, the North Platte, and the Cache la Poudre. In damp gulches above 10,000 feet trees absorb the abundant moisture and grow old and exceptionally large. In the northern section, a series of ponds and bogs provide rare habitats for species. Moose have also been reintroduced to the area and are faring well.
Congress designated the Indian Peaks Wilderness in 1978 and it now has approximately 76,700 acres. Many of the peaks within the area were named after American Indian tribes of the west. The area is located primarily in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests with a portion of the northern most boundary within Rocky Mountain National Park. Elevations range from 8,400 to just over 13,500 feet. There are a total of seven peaks over 13,000 feet and approximately 35% of the land area is above timberline. The icy remains of the last glacial period sculpted out the rugged terrain of the Indian Peaks. Chill winds off perpetual snowfields have created an environment near timberline of stunted trees and alpine plants unusual for this part of the state.
The Indian Peaks Wilderness is one of the most popular and heavily used Wilderness Areas in the country due to its close proximity to the Denver/Boulder metro area. Camping permits are required during the peak season, June 1 to September 15, and campfires are prohibited on the east side of the Continental Divide and around most lakes on the west side. Rocky Mountain National Park to the north, also requires backcountry camping permits which can be obtained free of charge.
James Peak Wilderness was designated in 2002 by Congress with approximately 14,000 acres on the east side of the Continental Divide in Boulder, Gilpin, and Clear Creek Counties of Colorado. The area is named after its most prominent peak, 13294-foot James Peak in honor of Dr. Edwin James, an early explorer, historian, and botanist who was a member of the famous Stephen H. Long expedition to Colorado in 1820. The area’s elevation ranges from 9,200 to 13,294 feet, which includes upper montane, sub-alpine, and alpine ecosystems of the Rocky Mountains adjacent to the Continental Divide.
In 1993, Congress designated Vasquez Peak Wilderness with approximately 12,300 acres. Along the southern boundary of the relatively small Vasquez Peak Wilderness and over Vasquez Peak itself you will find seven miles of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. The Wilderness area provides extravagant views over a dramatic area, two-thirds of which lie above timberline. Below timberline sits a region of twisted wood, the result of icy temperatures and fierce winds that keep the spruce and fir dwarfed and confined into low-laying mats. Healthy spruce, fir, and pine cover the lower mountainsides. With much of the area above timberline, sudden thunderstorms can make exposure to lightning in the Vasquez Mountains a dangerous risk. You should plan on hiking early and dropping into the trees before afternoon storms begin. In winter, avalanches are common.
Established on January 26, 1915, Rocky Mountain National Park is a living showcase of the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains. With elevations ranging from 8,000 feet in the wet, grassy valleys to 14,259 feet at the weather-ravaged top of Longs Peak, a visitor to the park has opportunities for countless breathtaking experiences and adventures.
Elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep, black bears, coyotes, cougars, eagles, hawks and scores of smaller animals delight wildlife-watchers of all ages. Wildflower-lovers are never disappointed in June and July when the meadows and hillsides are splashed with botanical color. Autumn visitors can relax among the golden aspens or enjoy the rowdier antics of the elk rut (mating season).
359 miles of trail offer endless opportunities to hikers, backpackers and horseback riders. Fly fishers, bird-watchers and photographers discover the splendor that they traveled so far to find. During the winter, snowshoers and cross-country skiers revel in the white-blanketed tranquility of meadows and forests.
60 peaks rising above 12,000 feet challenge intrepid hikers and climbers. Anyone visiting between Memorial Day and late autumn can see many of these peaks eye-to-eye by driving over Trail Ridge Road. Topping out at 12,183 feet, this is the highest, continuous, paved road in the United States.
Front-country and backcountry campers have hundreds of campsites to choose from. Civilization and its amenities are available in the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake which flank the park on the east and west sides respectively. Ranger-led activities are an entertaining way to learn more about your surroundings. Plan some time to acclimate to the high altitude and come find your adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests extend from north central Colorado to central Wyoming. The Forests encompass portions of many mountain ranges including the Gore Range, Flat Tops, Parks Range, Medicine Bow Mountains, Sierra Madre, and Laramie Range. The topography varies greatly within the Forests due to the large geographic area encompassed. Elevations range from 5,500 feet to 12,940 feet.
The climate of the Forests ranges from semi-arid at low elevations to cold and humid in the high country. Frost may occur at any time, and visitors to the higher elevations should be prepared for harsh weather, including snow and high winds, even during the summer months.
The Mount Zirkel Wilderness lies within the Routt National Forest in northwestern Colorado. It was one of the original areas protected under the 1964 Wilderness Act and has since been expanded twice to its present size of 160,648 acres. The wilderness straddles the Continental Divide in the Park Range and the Sierra Madre and offers a diversity of ecosystems from sagebrush meadows in the lower areas, through pine and spruce/fir forests and up to alpine tundra. It contains the rugged peaks of Sawtooth Range and the headwaters of the Elk, Encampment and North Platte rivers. There are over 70 lakes within the wilderness as well as 15 peaks over 12,000 feet, the highest being 12,180 foot Mount Zirkel. Glaciations have left its distinctive mark of high valleys ending in precipitous cirques. Over 150 miles of trail (including the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail) provide access into the wilderness.
Ample opportunity exists to view nature’s dynamic cycle of disturbance and rebirth. The Routt Divide Blowdown in 1997 toppled millions of trees over a 150 square mile area, most of it within the wilderness, with the beetle epidemic and wildfires following its wake. These natural forces have temporarily altered the landscape without permanently eroding its wilderness character.