CMC's Denver Fly Fishing Section
 
Colorado Wilderness Areas

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B C D E F G H I J L M N P R S U V W

Click here for the Colorado Wilderness Map.


Below is a list of Colorado wilderness areas. General locations and descriptive summaries* are included. Locations correspond to a 3x3 "tic-tac-toe" partition of the state. Colorado has over 3.2 million acres of designated wilderness with another 170,000+ under similar protection.

Name
Region
Summary
Flat Tops
Northwest
The Flat Tops is a major hiking and fishing destination. Approximately 110 lakes and ponds, plus 100 miles of streams crisscross the area.

T
he Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado's second largest, is noted for cliffs and large expanses of rolling meadow and tundra. No other area in the state offers such an abundance of loop hikes. The open, park-like setting is the main feature. Another feature of the Flat Tops are the standing remnants of trees killed by a budworm epidemic in the 1940s.

Size: 235,035 acres
Elevation: 7,600 to 12,994 feet
Trails:
160 miles
National Forests: Routt, White River
Nearest Towns: Buford, Meeker, Yampa
Estimated Drive Time from Denver: 3.5 to 5.5 hrs
Estimated Driving Distance from Denver: 165 to 280 miles
Fly Fishing: Deep Lakes, Skinny Fish Lake, Trapper's Lake
Fossil Ridge West
Fossil Ridge, a small wilderness area, contains two long drainages. South Lottis Creek's valley is wide and deep while rugged Crystal Creek flows between high and narrow cliffs. The area has a half-dozen lakes.

Size: 31,534 acres
Elevation: 9,000 to 13,254 feet
Trails:
22 miles
National Forests: Gunnison
Nearest Towns: Gunnison
Estimated Drive Time from Denver:
4 to 5 hrs
Estimated Driving Distance from Denver: 185 to 210 miles
Fly Fishing: Crystal Creek, Lamphier Lake, Lottis Creek
Great Sand Dunes National Park
South
The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Act in 2000 included the lakes and tundra of the adjacent Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. These alpine lakes and tundra form the watershed that fosters the dunes.

Reaching heights of over 750 feet, they are the tallest sand dunes in North America. This is the only wilderness designated as a saltbush-greasewood ecosystem, with such species as blowout grass, scurfpea, and prairie sunflower. The main dunes, at 33,450 acres, have been designated wilderness inside the national park boundaries.

Size:
84,670 acres
Elevation: 7,700 to 9235 feet
Trails: 6 miles
National Forests: San Isabel
Nearest Towns: Alamosa, Crestone, Hooper, Mosca
Estimated Drive Time from Denver: 4.5 hrs
Estimated Driving Distance from Denver: 250 to 270 miles
Fly Fishing: Little Medano Creek, Medano Creek, Sand Creek
Greenhorn Mountain
South
Greenhorn Mountain offers some of the most remote and lightly used wilderness in Colorado. The southern half contains no trails. The area is small, steep and dry.

Enough water collects on the Wet Mountains, however, to form several streams in the area's northern half. The threatened Greenback Cutthroat lives in South Apache Creek.

Size:
22,040 acres
Elevation: 7,600 to 12,349 feet
Trails:
11 miles
National Forests: San Isabel
Nearest Towns: Beulah, Colorado City, Garner, Rye
Estimated Drive Time from Denver:
2.5 hrs
Estimated Driving Distance from Denver: 150 miles
Fly Fishing: Graneros Creek, Greenhorn Creek, South Apache Creek
Gunnison Gorge
West
The Gunnison Gorge Wilderness is located near Montrose in a high alpine desert environment. A double canyon of granite and sandstones, the wilderness is located within the BLM's Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area.

Gunnison Gorge lies just downstream from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Its fourteen miles of river are designated Gold Medal waters. The giant salmonfly hatch is popular with fly fishermen beginning early June.

Size: 17,700 acres
Elevation: 5095 to 7227 feet
Trails:
9 miles
National Forests: Gunnison
Nearest Towns: Delta, Olathe, Montrose
Estimated Drive Time from Denver: 5 to 5.5 hrs
Estimated Driving Distance from Denver: 300 to 310 miles
Fly Fishing: Gunnison River
Holy Cross
West
The lush, wet Holy Cross Wilderness lies west of the Continental Divide near the towns of Minturn and Eagle. The wilderness takes its name from 14,003-foot Mount of the Holy Cross.

This wilderness contains more than twenty-five peaks over 13,000 feet high. Once heavily glaciated, the many U-shaped valleys are filled with numerous lakes.

Size:
122,797 acres
Elevation: 8,000 to 14,003 feet
Trails:
164 miles
National Forests: San Isabel, White River
Nearest Towns: Avon, Eagle, Minturn
Estimated Drive Time from Denver: 2 to 3.5 hrs
Estimated Driving Distance from Denver: 110 to 150 miles
Fly Fishing: Lake Constantine, Hunky Dorky Lake, Missouri Lakes
Hunter - Fryingpan
West
Rugged and lightly visited, the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness lies north of Independence Pass near Hwy 82. Dominated by the rugged peaks of the Williams Mountains, it is the headwaters of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork Rivers. Aspen forests fill the lower valleys while spruce and fir flourish higher up.

Size: 81,866 acres
Elevation: 9,000 to 13,000 feet
Trails:
50 miles
National Forests: White River
Nearest Towns: Aspen, Twin Lakes
Estimated Drive Time from Denver:
3 to 4.5 hrs
Estimated Driving Distance from Denver: 140 to 220 miles
Fly Fishing: Blue Lake, Fryingpan River, Lost Man Lake
Indian Peaks
Central
The Indian Peaks contain glaciers considered by some to be the southernmost in America. Below most glaciers are lakes. Nearly fifty lakes dot the area.

The wilderness run south from Longs to James Peak. The jagged features of the Continental Divide splits it in two. Rocky Mountain National Park, to the north, contains 2,922 acres of the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Because of its popularity and fragile landscape, the Indian Peaks has more restrictions than other Colorado areas. Backcountry permits are required for overnight camping during hiking season. Quotas are in place during peak season.

Size:
76,486 acres
Elevation: 8,400 to 13,502 feet
Trails: 110 miles
National Forests: Arapaho, Roosevelt
Nearest Towns: Caribou, Granby, Nederland
Estimated Drive Time from Denver: 1.5 to 2 hrs
Estimated Driving Distance from Denver: 60 to 100 miles
Fly Fishing: Crater Lake, Green Lakes, Lake Isabelle
James Peak
Central
The James Peak tract became Colorado newest Wilderness Area in 2002. It is situated on the Continental Divide's eastern slope between Rollins and Berthoud Passes. The area is a popular destination for visitors looking to avoid the crowds of nearby areas.

Twelve alpine lakes lie in the James Peak Wilderness. The lakes drain into South Boulder Creek. Permits are not required for camping.

Size:
14,000 acres
Elevation: 9,300 to 13,391 feet
Trails: 20 miles
National Forests: Arapaho, Roosevelt
Nearest Towns: Eldora, Rollinsville, Winter Park
Estimated Drive Time from Denver: 1.5 to 2 hrs
Estimated Driving Distance from Denver: 50 to 65 miles
Fly Fishing: Arapaho Lakes, Crater Lakes, Rogers Pass Lake
Name
Region
Summary

* Many descriptions are derived from The Complete Guide to Colorado's Wilderness Areas
by John Fielder & Mark Pearson.

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