Top Wilderness Areas near Colorado Springs
What is a Wilderness Area?
The United States Department of Agriculture includes the United States Forest Service. Within the United States, Forest Service lie several designations. One of these designations is the Wilderness Area and it is a pretty special thing. Wilderness area as defined by the Forest Service is "an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain" and "an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected"
What are the closest Wilderness Areas near Colorado Springs?
Driving Distance from Colorado Springs: 1 hour 15 minutes
Lost Creek Wilderness is a 120,000-acre wilderness area located in Jefferson and Park counties near South Park, Jefferson, Bailey and Lake George Colorado. Lost Creek Wilderness is an incredible place for both day hikes and overnight trips alike. The area is adorned with large granite arches and rock dramatic formations that are very unique-looking and have deep geological roots. Lost Creek was named after a creek of the same name, Lost Creek, that disappears down into the ground creating a creek that is “Lost.” The creek flows rich with Brook Trout and eventually becomes Goose Creek.
Lost Creek Wilderness has 130 miles of trails ranging from eight thousand feet to twelve thousand four hundred feet above sea level. Subsequently, the area includes an array of vegetation ranging from the foothills montane life zones which include ponderosa, lodgepole and bristlecone pine, fir, spruce, aspen and even areas of alpine tundra.
LOCAL TIP: Ute Creek Trailhead is a good trailhead for day hikers coming from Colorado Springs.
Driving Distance from Colorado Springs: 3 hours
Sangre de Cristo Wilderness is a 220,000-acre wilderness area in southern Colorado. This incredible and massive mountain range is sure to impress. Whether you are climbing, hiking, hunting, fishing or camping in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness area you will have the privilege to be amongst some of the most impressive wild country around. To the south Sangre de Cristo Wilderness is bordered by Great Sand Dunes National Park. There are many mountains passes up and down the range, however, some of the more popular passes include Medano Pass and Hayden Pass.
Sangre de Cristo Wilderness area has four Fourteeners all arranged next to each other in the middle of the range. These four mountains include Crestone Needle, Challenger Point, Kit Carson Peak, Crestone Peak, and Humboldt Peak. There are plenty of high mountain lakes and creeks to fish for Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout on the Westside and Greenback Cutthroat trout on the west side.
LOCAL TIP: Willow Lake is a popular base camp for climbers who want to climb all four Fourteeners in that area.
Driving Distance From Colorado Springs: 3 ½ hours
Great Sand Dunes Wilderness is a 32,000-acre wilderness area near Alamosa, Salida, and Monte Vista in southern Colorado. The wilderness borders Great Sand Dunes National Park and Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. The area includes both dunes and forested area and is an incredible place to take photos of the sunsets and sunrises over the mountains and sand dunes.
Popular outdoor recreational activities at the dunes include sand-boarding, sand-skiing, sand-sledding, hiking, camping and wildlife watching. The dunes are an impressive feat of nature making the area an endless opportunity to connect with nature enjoy the outdoors in a unique setting. Sometimes when you are walking through the dunes, it feels like you are in another country, like an African desert or something you would see in the movies. The Dunes are an absolute treasure for nature photographers and adventure lovers.
LOCAL TIP: Campsite reservations fill up quickly so book far in advance.
Driving Distance from Colorado Springs: 2 Hours
Buffalo Peaks Wilderness is a 41,000-acre wilderness area near Fairplay, Breckenridge and Buena Vista, Colorado. The area holds incredible opportunities for hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, camping and horseback riding. Buffalo Peaks Wilderness gets its name from the two thirteen thousand foot peaks that look like a Buffalo. The dark summits of these two mountains are two highly eroded volcanic mountains that were active 28 million years ago.
Buffalo Peaks Wilderness area is a bit different from surrounding wilderness areas as it has a higher potential for solitude when compared to easier accessed wilderness areas. Buffalo Peaks Wilderness is a superb place to hike, fish, camp, wildlife watch and even trail-run. The area has an incredible ecosystem rich with wildlife and fish for your enjoyment. The seemingly short 2-hour drive from Colorado Springs makes Buffalo Peaks Wilderness a great destination for day hikers and backpackers alike.
LOCAL TIP: Great wildlife watching opportunities exist along Weston Pass Rd.
Driving Distance from Colorado Springs: 2 ½ hours
Mount Evans Wilderness area is a 74,000-acre wilderness area near Idaho Springs and Denver in Clear Creek County. The short 2 ½ hour drive from Colorado Springs and the paved highway to the top of Mount Evans makes Mount Evans super accessible for people living in the Colorado Springs Area. The unique thing about Mount Evans is that you can drive right to the top. There is a fee to enter the gates during normal business hours however you can access the wilderness area at any time.
Top activities in Mount Evans Wilderness include wildlife watching and hunting for elk. There is a healthy population of both Elk and Mule deer in the area. There is also good fishing for Brook trout in the lower reaches of the creeks in the area and some high mountain lake fishing for native Greenback Cutthroat trout.
LOCAL TIP: There are fewer crowds and traffic in the fall, especially on the weekdays.
Driving Distance from Colorado Springs: 2 ½ hours
Collegiate Peaks Wilderness is a 168,000-acre area located in central Colorado about a two-hour drive from Colorado Springs. The Wilderness area is adorned with incredible mountains that rise above fourteen thousand feet. Below the alpine zone is the wildlife-rich montane life zone that holds incredible opportunities for camping, hiking, fishing and even hunting. The Collegiate Peaks Wilderness is near Buena Vista, Fairplay, Leadville, and Salida Colorado.
Collegiate Peaks Wilderness is unique due to its vast amount of continuous high mountain peaks. From North to South you have dramatic-looking peaks such as La Plata Peak, Mount Massive, Mount Elbert and down towards Mount Columbia and Mount Harvard where the actual Collegiate Peaks are arranged. These incredible 14ers are favorite destinations for Coloradans.
LOCAL TIP: Fourteener hikes are long, it is advisable to start very early in the morning to avoid afternoon thunderstorms that are likely in the high country in the summer.
Driving Distance from Colorado Springs: 3 ½ hours
Holy Cross Wilderness is a 123,000-acre wilderness area near Aspen, Vail and Leadville Colorado about 3 hours from Colorado Springs. Holy Cross Wilderness is an amazing resource. With rugged ridgelines that surround a glacier-carved landscape that is sure to impress the lightest heart. With elevations ranging from 8,500 feet to 14,005 feet, this area is an incredible place to hike, fish, camp, paddle, ski and even hunt.
The prominent mountain name Mount of the Holy Cross is the namesake of Holy Cross Wilderness. The mountain became famous when William Henry Jackson first snapped a photo of the northeast face of this incredible mountain. The northeast face of Mount of the Holy Cross is famous for the cross that is often created by snow. Some of the more popular places within this special area include Missouri Lakes, Fancy Lake, Beaver Lake, and Timberline Lake.
LOCAL TIP: Certain areas of Holy Cross Wilderness can become very very crowded. It is advisable to call the local Holy Cross ranger station prior to your trip: 970-827-5715
Distance from Colorado Springs: 4 hours
The Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness is an 82,000-acre wilderness area located in White River National Forest near Aspen and Glenwood Springs. This spectacular wilderness area is often overshadowed by neighboring areas such as Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, Mount Massive, and Collegiate Peaks. The area contains many incredible streams that hold a large number of trout.
This area is unique due to its access to the Continental Divide which runs through the southeast portion of the wilderness area. This area holds ample opportunities for wildlife watching with herds of Rocky Mountain Elk, Mountain Goat, Bighorn Sheep and migratory songbirds, waterfowl and raptors.
LOCAL TIP: Fly fishing in the Frying Pan river below Ruedi Reservoir is some of the best fly fishing in the entire West!
Driving distance from Colorado Springs: 2 hours
Eagles Nest Wilderness is one of the best kept local secrets. The 133,000-acre wilderness area has super dramatic peaks that rise above high mountain valley shaped by ancient glaciers. The Gore Range is one of the most spectacular ranges in Colorado. With high peaks surrounding vast coniferous forests this area in an amazing place to recreate in the outdoors.
The wilderness area itself has a lot of great trails. One of the best is the Gore Range Trail. This trail traverses the mountain range and allows access to just about any drainage along the picturesque mountains. Additionally, there are many great campgrounds, lakes, and stream to recreate around outside of the wilderness area. One of our favorites is Green Mountain Reservoir. The area is great for boating or camping by the lake.
LOCAL TIP: Right now Colorado Parks and Wildlife is paying anyone who catches and kills a Northern Pike $20!
Distance from Colorado Springs: 4 hours
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is a 181,000-acre wilderness area near Aspen, Basalt, and Carbondale Colorado. The area is most well known for its iconic Maroon Peak. The picture of this peak is one of the most photographed locations in Colorado. The Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is unique because it spans within White River National Forest, Gunnison National Forest and is within the Elk mountains.
If you are looking to get the shot that everyone takes of the Maroon Peak reflection you will need to go to the Maroon Bells Scenic Area. Popular areas that fall within the wilderness area include the Conundrum Hot Springs, Copper Lake, Crater Lake, and Snowmass Mountain.
LOCAL TIP: There is a permit required to stay overnight at Conundrum Hot Springs. You can acquire a permit at recreation.gov
Does living near all these amazing places interest you? If so, be sure to contact Joe Clement to help you find the best Colorado Springs properties!Posted by Joe Clement on