CMC's Denver Fly Fishing Section
Colorado Wilderness Areas

Page Four (N - R)


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.

Situated between Cameron Pass and Rocky Mountain National Park, Neota is part of a larger 40,000 acre roadless wilderness complex.

Neota Wilderness, also known as Neota Flattop, was one of the few areas in Colorado covered by an ice sheet. Neota has flattened ridges that contrast with the cirques of the Never Summer Range. Zimmerman Lake, just outside the area, is a popular hike.

9,924 acres
Elevation: 10,000 to 11,890 feet
no maintained trails
National Forests: Roosevelt, Routt
Nearest Towns: Gould, Idylwilde, Kinikinik
Estimated Drive Time from Denver: 3 to 3.5 hrs
Estimated Driving Distance from Denver: 130 to 140 miles
Fly Fishing: Neota Creek, Trap Creek, Zimmerman Lake
Never Summer
The Never Summer Wilderness lies in the northwest corner of Rocky Mountain National Park. and was protected in the 1980 Colorado Wilderness Act.

The forests of Bowen Gulch in the south are some 600 years old. At 10,500 feet in elevation, such old-growth forest is rare in Colorado. Proposed logging of the area sparked a successful "eco-war" in 1990.

Atop the Continental Divide, Never Summer crosses two mountain passes. A series of ponds and bogs in the north shelter rare wood frogs, bog bean and pygmy shrews.

20,747 acres
Elevation: 8,900 to 12,940 feet
20 miles
National Forests: Arapaho, Routt
Nearest Towns: Granby, Grand Lake
Estimated Drive Time from Denver: 2.5 to 3 hrs
Estimated Driving Distance from Denver: 115 to 140 miles
Fly Fishing: Blue Lake, Bowen Lake, Parika Lake
Platte River
Congress designated the Platte River as wilderness in 1984. Only 743 acres of the wilderness area resides in Colorado.

About 36 square miles of forested land is included in the Wyoming portion. The North Platte River enters Routt National Forest about four miles south of the Wyoming state line and flows north through North Gate Canyon, a popular white-water rafting area.

23,492 aces
Elevation: 7720 to 8200 feet
National Forests: Routt
Nearest Towns: Cowdrey, Northgate
Estimated Drive Time from Denver:
3 to 3.5 hrs
Estimated Driving Distance from Denver: 165 to 190 miles
Fly Fishing: North Platte River, Douglas Creek
On the northern fringe of the San Juan Mountains, the Cannibal and Calf Creek plateaus create an immense tundra plain. The 13,000 foot plateau affords panoramic views of the San Juan, Elk and Sawatch ranges.

Though located on the northern flank of the wet San Juan Mountains, sagebrush meadows dominate the lower elevations. Ponderosa pines and aspens mix with the sagebrush.

Cannibal Plateau was named for Colorado's famous man-eater, Alfred Packer, who ate 5 fellow travelers during the winter of 1874.

The southern fourth of Powderhorn is managed by Gunnison National Forest; the northern three-fourths by the Bureau of Land Management. About 45 miles of trails access this lightly visited area.

61,510 acres
Elevation: 8,600 to 12,600 feet
45 miles
National Forests: Gunnison
Nearest Towns: Lake City
Estimated Drive Time from Denver:
5 to 5.5 hrs
Estimated Driving Distance from Denver: 250 to 270 miles
Fly Fishing: Devils Lake, Powderhorn Lakes, Trout Creek
Ptarmigan Peak
Forests of the Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness consist of lodgepole pine that give way to Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir. The high ridgeline extends into alpine tundra above the town of Silverthorne.

The Ute Pass Trail follows the ridgeline boundary from Ptarmigan Pass north to Ute Peak and Ute Pass. The Ptarmigan Peak Trail outside Silverthorne crosses Ptarmigan Pass and continues NE.

The south half of the Williams Fork Mountains ridge contains lush meadows on the South Fork of the Williams Fork River. There are no notable lakes, but many streams and beaver dams.

Size: 12,594 acres
Elevation: 8,800 to 12,800 feet
Trails: 41 miles
National Forests: Routt, White River
Nearest Towns: Dillon, Silverthorne
Estimated Drive Time from Denver:
1.5 to 2 hrs
Estimated Driving Distance from Denver: 70 to 85 miles
Fly Fishing: South & Middle Forks of the Williams Fork River and its many beaver dams
The rock flanks of the Raggeds are aptly named and visible from Hwy 133 below McClure Pass. The aspen forests north of Kebler Pass are especially notable. The scenic Oh-Be-Joyful Valley arises from the range toward Crested Butte.

The Dark Canyon of Anthracite Creek carves a deep gorge through aspen and spruce forests. Hikes are often strenuous, and large portions off the trail are seldom explored.

64,992 acres
Elevation: 7,000 to 13,462 feet
49 miles
National Forests: Gunnison, White River
Nearest Towns: Marble, Paonia, Somerset
Estimated Drive Time from Denver:
4 to 5 hrs
Estimated Driving Distance from Denver: 200 to 235 miles
Fly Fishing: Anthracite Creek, Deep Creek, North Anthracite Creek
Rawah was designated in the landmark 1964 Wilderness Act. The wilderness is composed of glacial valleys and lakes. Twenty-six lakes lie within the area. Island Lake and Crater Lake are sheltered by walls that tower 1,000 feet above.

The mountains marks the northern end of Colorado's Front Range. The Rawah's southern end includes areas of old growth timber. Spruce-fir gives way to lodgepole pine at lower elevations.

73,068 acres
Elevation: 8,400 to 12,951 feet
Trails: 76 miles
National Forests: Roosevelt, Routt
Nearest Towns: Gould, Idylwilde, Kinikinik

Estimated Drive Time from Denver:
2.5 to 3.5 hrs
Estimated Driving Distance from Denver: 130 to 150 miles
Fly Fishing: Island Lake, Rawah Lakes, Twin Crater Lakes
Rocky Mountain National Park
Most of Rocky Mountain National Park is managed as if it were wilderness. Two proposed wilderness areas encompass the park. Two additional small units lie within RMNP.

Trail Ridge Road crosses the Continental Divide through the heart of the park. South of the road and contiguous with the Indian Peaks Wilderness is 140,000 acres of the proposed Enos Mills Wilderness. Another wilderness segment (82,000 acres) lies north of Fall River Road and is contiguous with the Comanche Peak Wilderness.

The majority of alpine lakes within the park do not hold fish. Consult the Park Service for details. Dogs are banned from all trails.

265,193 acres
Elevation: 7,800 to 14,255 feet
355 miles
National Forests: Roosevelt
Nearest Towns: Estes Park, Grand Lake
Estimated Drive Time from Denver:
1.5 to 3 hrs
Estimated Driving Distance from Denver: 70 to 135 miles
Fly Fishing: Colorado River, Fall River, Fern Lake, Spruce Lake

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

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