Wilderness areas

Currently the GMUG has a total of 498,152 acres of wilderness acres, making up nineteen percent of the three-million acre forest (map). These areas include:

  • Uncompahgre Wilderness

Uncompahgre Wilderness spans more than 99,000 acres on the Uncompahgre National Forest and 3,400 acres on lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Elevations range from 8,400 to 14,000-plus feet. This Wilderness contains 150 miles of foot and horse trails. Trails lead into the wilderness from trailheads located in the West, Middle, and East Forks of the Big Cimarron River. The Big Blue Trail, beginning south of the campground by the same name, also is a major route into the Wilderness. Additional trails enter the wilderness from the vicinities of the towns of Ouray and Lake City.

While the lowest elevations of the Uncompahgre Wilderness may be snow free starting in June, the normal snow-free conditions are from mid-July to early September, but conditions vary from year to year. Points of interest include: Uncompahgre Peak (14,309 ft); Wetterhorn Peak (14,015 ft); Matterhorn Peak, Coxcomb Peak, Silver Peak, Slide Lake, and Big Blue Creek.

Trails to the 14,000-foot peaks in this wilderness and most other wildernesses are heavily used. You may not find solitude on them. High use of these trails creates a heavy impact on fragile landscapes. Please stay on established trails. A true wilderness experience would more likely be found in less popular areas of the wilderness. Recreation Opportunity Guide (map) of Uncompahgre Wilderness.

  • Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness covers 166,938 acres, of which 48,986 acres are on the Gunnison National Forest. This Wilderness has eight peaks over 14,000 feet in elevation. They are: Huron Peak (14,005 ft), Missouri Mountain (14,067 ft), Mt Columbia (14,073 ft), Mt. Oxford (14,153 ft ), Mt Yale (14,196 ft), Mt Belford (14,197 ft), La Plata (14,340 ft), and Mt Harvard (14,420 ft). Timberline lakes and high mountain streams offer excellent fishing and scenery. Browns Pass, Red Mountain Creek, Texas Creek and Magdalena trails are in this Wilderness.

  • Fossil Ridge Wilderness

Fossil Ridge Wilderness is a small wilderness of about 32,000 acres and is located approximately 16 miles northeast of the town of Gunnison. The area contains several high mountain lakes. The 26 miles of trail within the wilderness are open to foot and horse travel. The wilderness is surrounded by the Fossil Ridge Recreation Management area which is approximately 44,000 acres in size. Roads and trails within the Recreation Management Area are open to mechanized and motorized uses. The Fossil Ridge Trail is a very popular motorcycle trail within the RMA.

  • La Garita Wilderness

La Garita Wilderness is a beautiful, pristine 128,859 acre area located in the Gunnison and Rio Grande National Forests. La Garita is a Spanish name meaning the "the overlook." The Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail pass through this Wilderness. Skyline, Cebolla and Rough Creek trails also are in this area. San Luis Peak (14,104 ft), Stewart Peak, Organ Mountain, Machin Lake and Mineral Creek are a few of the many attractions in the La Garita Wilderness. This Wilderness receives less use than most others because it's more remote. Those seeking less-traveled trails may want to explore this area.

  • Raggeds Wilderness

Raggeds Wilderness is a 64,992 acre area on the Gunnison and White River National Forests. Elevations range from 7,000 to about 13,000 feet. There are more than 90 miles of constructed trails in this Wilderness. Some points of interest in the Raggeds Wilderness are: Dark Canyon, Chair Mountain, Marcellina Mountain, Mount Justice, Treasury Mountain, and Oh-Be-Joyful Pass. Brochure 

  • Mt. Sneffels Wilderness

Mt. Sneffels Wilderness is more than 16,500 acres on the Uncompahgre National Forest near the communities of Telluride and Ouray. Only 14 miles of constructed trail enter this rugged area. Elevations range from 9,600 to 14,150 feet at the top of Mount Sneffels.

Trails within the Area include the Blue Lakes, Alder, Dallas Whipple Mountain and Deep Creek. The Sneffels Highline Trail starts near Telluride and extends into the wilderness. Blue Lakes and Mount Sneffels receive high visitor use and should be avoided on weekends and holidays. Camp sites in the Blue Lakes are limited in number. Campfires are prohibited in the Blue Lakes area.

  • West Elk Wilderness

West Elk Wilderness on the Gunnison National Forest is about 176,000 acres ranging from 7,000 to more than 13,000 feet in elevation. More than 200 miles of constructed trails are available for both foot and horse travel through sometimes rugged terrain. Mill Castle Trail is one of the most rugged and scenic trails in this Wilderness. Points of interest include: the Castles, West Elk Peak, Sheep Lake, North/Middle and South Baldy mountains, and East and West Beckwith mountains. Brochure

  • Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness

Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness takes in more than 181,000 acres on the Gunnison and White River National Forests. The great majority of the area (almost 162,000 acres) is located on the White River National Forest. Elevations range from 9,000 to 14,000. There are more than 100 miles of trails for foot and horse travel through extremely rugged terrain. Conundrum Trail provides excellent scenery, but wanders along hillsides where there are loose rocks. There is very little water along the way. Twin Lakes and Copper Creek trails also have excellent views.

  • Lizard Head Wilderness

Lizard Head Wilderness lies astride the spectacular San Miguel Mountains, (10 miles southwest of Telluride and 40 miles northeast of Cortez) on the Uncompahgre and San Juan National Forests. Wilson Peak (14,017 ft), Mt Wilson (14,246 ft), and El Diente (14,159 ft) are located within the wilderness. The wilderness is evenly split between the two national forests and is 41,193 acres in size.

Most of the Bilk Creek Trail is located in this Wilderness. It starts at the junction of Wilson Sunshine Road #623 and Wilson Mesa Trail. The steep, scenic Bilk Creek trail passes waterfalls and ruins of the Morning Star mine. It connects with Lizard Head Trail. From the north, the Wilderness can be entered on the Silver Pick and Lone Cone trails. From the south, Groundhog Stock Driveway and Navajo Lake Trail enter the Lizard Head Wilderness. The area within Navajo Basin is closed to campfires.

  • Powderhorn Wilderness

Powderhorn Wilderness is located 10 mile northeast of the town of Lake City and occupies 60,100 acres. The wilderness is approximately 23% National Forest and 77% Bureau of Land Management. Elevations range from 8699 feet in the north to 12,600 feet in the south.

Trails include the Powderhorn Lakes, East Fork, Powderhorn Park, North Calf Creek, Canyon Inferno and Devil's Creek trails. Points of interest include the Powderhorn Lakes , Canibal Plateau, and Calf Creek Plateau. The Cannibal and Calf Creek Plateaus contain one of the largest, least disturbed, and relatively flat alpine tundra areas in the contiguous United States.