There are 42 national wilderness areas in Colorado, set aside to preserve and showcase nature. You can find them located throughout the Rocky Mountains, offering tremendous hiking, camping and other recreational opportunities. Read our federal lands blog. View all federal lands.
National Wilderness Areas in Colorado
There are over forty wilderness areas, set aside to preserve and showcase nature. They are spread throughout the Colorado Rockies, offering outdoor recreation year round. Some are remote and difficult to access, others are quiet popular with visitors.
Guide to National Wilderness Areas in Colorado
National wilderness areas are parcels of land that are set aside in order to preserve their natural state. These areas are completely untamed and preserve the natural beauty of the area. Colorado is home to at least forty federal wilderness areas that are scattered throughout the state and cover 3.5 million acres of land.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison Wilderness was recognized as a national park in 1999. It’s located near Montrose and is home to incredible canyon views. There is camping here at the park, but it is very popular. Campsite reservations are highly encouraged as first come first serve sites are limited.
Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness is found near Fruita, Colorado. The natural rock arches draw visitors to this site.
Buffalo Peaks Wilderness is located between Fairplay and Leadville. This is a smaller wilderness area, but offers excellent views of the twin Buffalo Peaks. Visitors can backpack in this area and can use many different trails to explore the wilderness or climb the peaks.
Byers Peak Wilderness is nestled near Winter Park. This wilderness area is home to forests, twelve thousand foot peaks and some alpine lakes.
Cache La Poudre Wilderness is located on the Cache la Poudre River west of Fort Collins and offers great fishing and hiking.
Collegiate Peaks Wilderness encompasses eight fourteen thousand foot peaks which dominate the view. Visitors can attempt to scale these peaks, and can also camp in the areas that surround them.
Comanche Peak Wilderness is located north of Rocky Mountain National Park and west of Fort Collins. This wilderness area is dominated by ponderosa pine and aspen forests. The Mummy range is found in this wilderness area.
Dominquez Canyon Wilderness is located south-east of Grand Junction. This wilderness area is made up of rock canyons. Petroglyphs and archaeological artifacts can be found in this area as well.
Eagles Nest Wilderness Area is home to the southern end of the Gore Mountain Range and is located near Vail and Silverthorn. Visitors can expect to find Alpine lakes and many thirteen thousand foot peaks here.
Flat Tops Wilderness can be found north of Glenwood Springs. Visitors can find lakes and forests here as well as a large mesa. This is a great area for hiking and camping.
Fossil Ridge Wilderness is located near Gunnison and covers 32,179 acres of land. Prehistoric sea creatures can be found in the limestone ridge that rises above the long glacial valleys that can be found int he area. Hiking and horseback riding are popular here.
Great Sand Dunes Wilderness is found west of Alamosa, Colorado. The massive sand dunes that can be found in this area offer visitors an eerie and desolate view. This site is a dark sky site that is extremely popular with astronomers. Medano creek runs along the base of the sand dunes and offers a fun place for visitors to cool off in the spring.
Greenhorn Mountains Wilderness was established in 1993 near Walsenburg. It contains 23,087 acres. The centerpiece is Green Mountain, which rises to 12,347 feet from its start at 7,600 on the plains.
Gunnison Gorge Wilderness is located in Gunnison and encompasses thirteen miles of the Gunnison River. This is a popular place for fishing and hiking.
Holy Cross Wilderness is located fairly close to Vail. Mount of the Holy Cross is a popular destination for hikers and backpackers.
Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness is found west of Aspen. This wilderness area is not popular and is the perfect place for people who are seeking more uncharted territory.
Indian Peaks Wilderness is located close to Boulder. This wilderness area offers many opportunities for hiking and backpacking. Visitors can expected to encounter alpine lakes and glaciers. This area does get crowded due to its proximity from Denver.
James Peak Wilderness encompasses six twelve thousand foot peaks and is found south of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area near Nederland.
La Garita Wilderness is located in the La Garita range and encompasses several twelve thousand foot peaks, one fourteen thousand foot peaks and several very deep gorges.
Lizard Head Wilderness is located near Telluride. Rolling meadows and high peaks can be found in this wilderness area.
Lost Creek Wilderness is located near Bailey. This wilderness area is popular with back packers and day hikers. Lost Creek wilderness encompasses a section of the Colorado Trail and offers shady walks through ponderosa pine and aspen forests.
Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness is located near Aspen. This area is extremely popular because the iconic Maroon Bells can be found here. This area is extremely popular. Visitors should be well prepared if they attempt to climb the Maroon Bells as they are known to be quite dangerous.
Mesa Verde Wilderness – Located within the Mesa Verde National Park near Cortez, this wilderness area was designated in 1976, now containing 8,500 acres.
Mt. Evans Wilderness is easily accessed from Idaho Springs or Evergreen and is very popular. Visitors can access two fourteen thousand foot peaks here or can explore the area surrounding them.
Mt. Massive Wilderness – Contains Colorado’s second highest peak, the 14,421′ Mount Massive. The wilderness area is located near Leadville and has 30,540 acres.
Mt. Sneffels Wilderness encompasses a whopping 16,587 acres of mountain forest within the Uncompahgre National Forest near between Ouray and Telluride. It also contains the Blue Lakes and is popular with hikers and back packers looking for beautiful vistas. This area is located near Ridgeway.
Mt. Zirkel Wilderness is located north east of Steamboat Springs. This area gets a lot of snow and is popular with snowshoers and cross country skiers.
Neota Wilderness – 9,924-acre wilderness are west of Fort Collins, bordering RMNP. There’s only a mile and half of primitive trail, so this area is quite rugged.
Never Summer Wilderness is made up of a series of twelve thousand foot peaks. This wilderness area is located just west of Rocky Mountain National Park. The snow that accumulates on the peaks stays there well into the summer months.
Platte River Wilderness – This northern wilderness are sits primarily within the Wyoming, but a small portion does extend into the Route National Forest close to Walden.
Powderhorn Peak Wilderness is located near Lake City. This area is made up of plateaus.
Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness is located near Silverthorne. Hiking is popular here. Visitors can also camp and attempt to climb the over twelve thousand foot Ptarmigan Peak.
Raggeds Wilderness is located near Crested Butte. Raggeds is comprised of jagged peaks that turn gold and orange in the fall due to the abundance of aspen tress that cover the Ruby Range.
Rawah Wilderness is made up of glacier carved valleys and is located in the northern part of the state. Camping and hiking are popular here.
Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness is an extremely popular destination in Colorado. Gorgeous views and waterfalls can be found here. This park is located just outside of Estes Park.
Sangre de Cristo Wilderness is located in south central Colorado. The Sangre de Cristo range dominates the horizon with jagged peaks and breath taking views.
Sargis Creek Wilderness – This northwest Colorado lcoation was declared a wilderness area in 1993 and contains 44,556 acres of densely-wooded landscapes.
South San Juan Wilderness is located near the New Mexico border, south of Pagosa Springs. This area does not get crowded and offers visitors a rugged and untouched escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Spanish Peaks Wilderness is found near Pueblo. This area is dominated by two volcanic peaks. These peaks are now dormant, but the evidence of their violent past can be found in the volcanic rocks and rock formations that can be found in this area.
Uncompahgre Wilderness encompasses two fourteen thousand foot peaks. This area is popular with people seeking alpine tundra.
Vasquez Peak Wilderness is found near Berthoud Pass and houses subalpine forests and various twelve thousand foot peaks. It is popular with back country skiers and hikers.
Weminuche Wilderness is located near Silverton, Creede and Durango. This wilderness area is extremely popular. Many people come to hike here in order to view the Needle Mountains.
West Elk Wilderness is located near Gunnison and includes the Elk Mountains. Visitors to the area can expect to see volcanic rock formations and spires.
That’s a list of the designated U.S. wilderness areas within Colorado. Experience the wild side of the Rocky Mountains, as nature intended, with a visit to one of these wilderness areas.