Special Places

This page offers a sampling of scenic and unique places found in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands, some with special designations or other cultural or historical significance. The Forest is filled with countless special places. Go. Discover special places of your own – it's all yours.  

  Wilderness Areas

Creek in the grass within Lost Creek Wilderness

With the Wilderness Act of 1964, Congress created a system to preserve the nation’s most wild, natural and undisturbed landscapes. Designated Wilderness areas help protect critical wildlife habitat and natural resources for future generations. Wilderness areas may also provide opportunities to experience challenge and adventure or solitude. Regulations are in place to maintain the primitive character of these special places. Know before you go.

The Pike and San Isabel National Forests manage nine Wilderness areas.


Scenic Drives

Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway with a farm house and mountains

The Top of the Rockies National Scenic Byway offers breathtaking views from the historic towns of Leadville and Twin Lakes to Independence Pass at 12,095 feet.

The Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway traverses through the lush Wet Mountains, providing views of the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range.

Picket Wire Guided Auto Tour provides the only motorized access into Picket Wire Canyonlands, home to the largest dinosaur tracksite in North America.

Collegiate Peaks Byway parallels the Continental Divide at the foot of the Sawatch Range with the highest concentration of peaks over 14,000 feet in the country.

Pikes Peak Highway paves the way to the summit of “America’s Mountain” at 14,115 feet. 

Carrizo Auto Tour points of interest include the Granada-Fort Union military road, Carrizo and Picture canyons, and the Santa Fe Historic Trail.

Scenic Trails

Woodern sign with Colorado Trail mountain logo

The Continental Divide Trail travels 3,100 miles along the Continental Divide from Mexico to the Canadian border where it terminates in Glacier National Park. 

The Colorado Trail streteches nearly 500 miles from Denver to Durango.

The Santa Fe National Historic Trail was the major trade and travel route in the 1800's between Old Franklin, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico. 



Missouri Mountain with stream

Local mountain climbers affectionately refer to peaks more than 14,000 feet as “fourteeners.” The Pike and San Isabel National Forests contain 23 of Colorado’s 54 fourteeners. The hikes are extremely challenging, but the views rewarding. Know before you go.


Browns Canyon National Monument

Browns Canyon National Monument sign near dirt road with snow capped mountains in distance

Browns Canyon National Monument, designated in 2015, remains relatively undeveloped. The majority of the monument’s visitors raft through Browns Canyon on the Arkansas River. Depending on water levels, it may be a peaceful float or a thrill ride through class V rapids. The 21,586-acre monument includes a 6,614-acre wilderness study area, where no motorized vehicles or bicycles are permitted. Diverse species of wildlife, from Big Horn Sheep to Golden Eagles, along with unique rock formations and stunning mountain views can be discovered here.

Picket Wire Canyonlands

Dinosaur prints and people walking in them

Picket Wire Canyonlands, home to the largest dinosaur tracksite in North America, encompasses approximately 16 miles of tributaries and side canyons along the Purgatoire River. The track site contains more than 1,900 prints in 130 separate trackways. The prints were left by a variety of dinosaurs in the muddy sediments along an ancient lake some 150 million years ago. The round trip hike to the dinosaur tracks is more than 11 miles from the Withers Canyon Trailhead. Visitors need to plan to start early in the day and carry ample water.

Historic Davenport Campground

1920s photo of campers at Davenport Campground

Arthur Carhart, the first landscape architect of the Forest Service, designed Davenport Campground. It is one of the earliest Forest Service campgrounds. Prior to Carhart being hired in 1919, the agency focused primarily on timber uses of the forest. At that time, working people were looking for an escape from the steel mills and coal camps, and automobiles were becoming affordable. Carhart envisioned what we now know as sustainable recreation. His recreation plan for the San Isabel National Forest was the first for the agency. He went on to work with conservationist Aldo Leopold in creating the wilderness concept. The picnic shelters and fire hearths at Davenport Campground were reconstructed in 2006 using Carhart's original designs. 


Visit the recreation page, use the interactive visitor map, or contact the nearest Forest Service office for more information.

Areas & Activities