Top Wild Spaces in Colorado
What is a wilderness area?
A wilderness area is a very special designation for a piece of land in the United States. Congress may designate an area as wilderness under the provisions of the Wilderness Act of 1964. They get submissions from the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Forest Service for new areas of land that would qualify for the wilderness area designation. Congress has been able to designate areas as a wilderness area since the Wilderness Act of 1964. There have to be certain measures met for land to be designated as a wilderness area.
(1) the land is under federal ownership and management
(2) the area consists of at least five thousand acres of land
(3) human influence is "substantially unnoticeable"
(4) there are opportunities for solitude and recreation
(5) the area possesses "ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value."
Once all 5 of those criteria are met, land can be considered wilderness area.
Wilderness Areas in Colorado
There are 41 wilderness areas in Colorado right now. They total over 4 million acres in space. Colorado Springs is centrally located in the state, and it is very close to many of the state's wilderness areas. A full list of Colorado Wilderness Areas shows that most of the wilderness areas are to the west of Colorado Springs in the mountains. Our favorite wilderness areas in Colorado provide hiking, fishing, and great views of the state. It is important to remember that these wilderness areas are not to be inhabited by man, so wherever you go, please pick up after yourself and minimize your impact in the area. It is important to keep Colorado's Wilderness Areas wild.
Top Wilderness Areas in Colorado
Collegiate Peaks Wilderness is less than 3 hours away from Colorado Springs. The wilderness area is home to 8 fourteeners, or mountains with the elevation of over 14,000 feet above sea level. Much of the wilderness consists of high peaks, most above twelve thousand feet in elevation, separated by forested valleys, marshy meadows, and mountain streams lined by willow brush that is typical of this climate zone. The Wilderness is very popular due to 8 of the 54 Colorado 14ers being located in close proximity to each other. La Plata Peak, Mt. Harvard, Mt. Yale, Mt. Columbia, Mt Oxford, Mt. Belford, Huron Peak, and Mt. Missouri can be summited and people can summit multiple mountains in a day, making Collegiate Peaks Wilderness a great place to visit if you love mountain climbing.
Eagles Nest Wilderness is also located less than 3 hours away from Colorado Springs. The Wilderness area has over 133,000 acres of space and ranges from north of the skiing of Copper Mountain and south of the town of Kremmling. There are no mountains over 14,000 feet in this wilderness area, but the landscape is jagged. The jagged landscape makes hiking in these mountains very strenuous, but rewarding if you can successfully hike it. Below the peaks, pristine but dense montane forests are watered by the many streams and creeks that tumble from the peaks above. The clear streams of Piney River, and Gore Creek water ribbons of meadows that line narrow valleys before emptying into the Colorado River. The wilderness area is accessible from Vail from the west and Silverthorne from the east. There are only 2 trails that pass the entire gorge range, and they are very tough to hike. Eagles Nest Wilderness is one of the prettiest wilderness areas in the state.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve are home to the tallest sand dunes in North America. Amazingly, these dunes formed on the eastern edge of a broad valley located in the middle of the great Rocky Mountains. Immediately to the east of the dunes are the jagged sawtooth peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. According to science, it is these mountains that block westerly winds carrying the grains of sand. The Park is located at the end of Highway 150, near the town of Alamosa. It is best to go during the spring or fall months of the year, as you don't want to be in the dunes in unbearable heat. Medano Creek flows in the dunes, but the flow varies from year to year depending on the runoff from the snow. A beautiful place to visit with the family, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is one of Colorado's most popular parks. This is another park within 3 hours of Colorado Springs, meaning it is doable for a day trip.
Indian Peaks Wilderness is a wilderness area near Denver and Boulder and is at the southern tip of Rocky Mountain National Park. Once again, this area is within 3 hours of Colorado Springs. Due to the close proximity to the city of Denver, Indian Peaks Wilderness area is one of the most visited wilderness areas in the country. There are no peaks over 14,000 feet, but several 13,000 feet peaks line the range as it provides the backdrop for Denver. These snow-capped peaks are pristine and beautiful. Hiking and backpacking are permitted year-round in the area, but there are some restrictions. Since Indian Peaks is one of the most visited wilderness areas, you have to have permits to access some areas and stay overnight. There are rules for campfires, the number of guests, and pets as well. Indian Peaks Wilderness area also has a glacier in the boundaries which can create great hikes and views.
Mt. Evans Wilderness Area is home to Colorado's tallest mountain and another 14,000 mountain. The wilderness area has over 74,000 acres of space. Because of the ease of access to the area due to a paved road and proximity to Denver, the wilderness area is commonly visited. The Mt. Evans Scenic Byway is not in the wilderness area, but it does bring people to the area and into the wilderness area. There are popular hikes in the area, including Chicago Lakes. Chicago Lakes Trail is a 4-mile one-way trail that takes you down the side of Mt. Spalding and then you hike back up the other side to a couple of high-altitude lakes. These lakes are completely clear and are fishable for cutthroat and brook trout. The wilderness contains rare high altitude arctic tundra, spruce-lodgepole pine forests, and bristlecone pines in high altitude locations. Granite cirques, several small lakes, and scenic views characterize the wilderness.
Rocky Mountain National Park is not all a wilderness space, but the area with unpaved roads is a managed wilderness space. Rocky Mountain National Park contains diverse climate zones due to the large elevation differences that exist in the park. With peaks towering above fourteen thousand feet in elevation, Rocky Mountain National Park has the highest average elevation of the parks in the National Park system. Glacial valleys from the last ice age, one of the highest roads in the country, and the headwaters for the Colorado River are all in the park. Due to the park being one of the most visited places by tourists, it is important to understand the implications of a high-altitude park. In the summer, thunderstorms form very quickly and can get people stuck in some nasty places. Always bring a rain jacket and have a plan when planning your trip. Rocky Mountain National Park is home to some great trails, fishing, views, and wildlife. The beautiful area is less than 3 hours from Colorado Springs, and it is well worth the trip.
This park is about 120,000 acres in space and provides incredible views. Only 1 hour and 15 minutes away from Colorado Springs, this wilderness area is one of the closest to the city. Lost Creek was named after a creek of the same name that repeatedly disappears underground only to reappear again further downstream where it ultimately becomes Goose Creek. Lost Creek is accessed by a 136-mile trail network, 105 miles of which are within the Wilderness boundary. The trail system traverses tree-lined mountain parks, fascinating rounded granite domes, and rare granite arches. Black bears, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, and bobcats share the region. Vegetation includes ponderosa, bristlecone, and lodgepole pine, aspen, spruce, fir, and alpine tundra. The wilderness area is one of the best in the state, and it is very close to Colorado Springs, making it a must-visit.
Keep Colorado Wild
Colorado is home to plenty of wild space. The state is home to some of the best views in the country as well as some of the most exotic wildlife. To fully appreciate what is in the state, we have to preserve it. The term "wilderness" is defined as "an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain". It is important to remember this whenever visiting a wilderness area and to respect the nature that is there in front of us. Colorado is one of the prettiest areas in the world, and it is important to keep it that way. Whenever you are out enjoying the beautiful state, make sure to pick up after yourself, and remember to stay wild.
Does living near these wild spaces interest you? If so, be sure to contact Joe Clement to help you find the best property options for you near wilderness areas!