Special Places

 The San Juan National Forest abounds with natural and cultural treasures. Five distinct life zones range from elevations near 5,000 feet to above 14,000 feet.


Chicago BasinSeveral of Colorado’s famous “14’ers” can be found in the Weminuche and Lizard Head Wilderness areas. The San Juan also includes the South San Juan Wilderness and the newly designated Hermosa Wilderness.

Scenic Byways

Photo of lake and mountains.Beautiful scenic byways provide opportunities to view the area.

Historic Sites

Chimney Rock ViewCultural resources run the gamut from historic mining ghost towns and mills to Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings and pit houses. Some heritage sites offer guided tours; others are unmarked treasures you may happen across in the backcountry.

Highlighted Areas

Alpine Loop

The 65-mile Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway winds through the alpine terrain of the San Juan Mountains, connecting the towns of Lake City, Ouray, and Silverton. Recommended for four-wheel drive vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, and mountain bikes.

For more information on the Alpine Loop check out the BLM Alpine Loop VIDEO.

Hermosa Wilderness

The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection legislation, passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in December, 2014, created both the Hermosa Creek Special Management Area and the adjacent 37,236-acre Hermosa Creek Wilderness.

The new Hermosa Creek Wilderness is very remote and rugged.  It includes two system trails: Salt Creek and Clear Creek – which total approximately 14 miles. These trails are open only to travel by foot or horseback.  No motorized or mechanized (bicycle) traffic is allowed within the Wilderness per the 1964 Wilderness Act.   

Mountain bike travel on the Colorado Trail is not affected by the new Hermosa Wilderness designation; however, mountain bikes will not be allowed on the trails that lead into Wilderness from the Colorado Trail, Hermosa Creek Trail, or other trails outside the Wilderness.

Within the Hermosa Wilderness boundary, Wilderness regulations are currently in effect and violators risk federal fines.

Chimney Rock National Monument

Chimney Rock National Monument
for details click here

Jersey Jim Lookout

The Jersey Jim Lookout Tower [PDF, 6 pages, 830 KB] can be rented for one- or two-night stays from late May to mid October, weather permitting. The current rental rate is $40 per night. Rental fees are used to maintain the facility. Additional contributions are welcomed. Reservations can be made by calling (970) 533-7060 between 1 – 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, starting the first business day of each March (callers are advised to be aggressive in their dialing - the entire season is often booked in a couple of days that week).

Wilderness areas

One of our nation's greatest treasures is the National Wilderness Preservation System established by the Wilderness Act of 1964. Wildernesses are lands designated by Congress to be protected and preserved in their natural condition, without permanent improvements or habitation.

Please follow regulations associated with Wilderness areas and always use Leave No Trace techniques to help keep these areas wild, clean, and pristine.

Maps are available for these areas.

San Juan National Forest Wildernesses:


San Juan National Forest Special Management Areas:


Wilderness Ranger Intern/Volunteer Program
Program Flier
Program Details

Weminuche Wilderness: San Juan

At three quarters the size of Rhode Island, the Weminuche Wilderness is the largest Wilderness area in Colorado at 499,771 acres. It is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, established by the Wilderness Act of 1964 to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness." The Weminuche was designated by Congress in 1975, and expanded by the Colorado Wilderness Acts of 1980 and 1993.

The Weminuche spans the Continental Divide, North America's geological backbone, with its headwaters diverted to both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Eolus, Sunlight, and Windom peaks rise above 14,000 feet, while many others reach above 13,000 feet. With an average elevation of 10,000 feet above sea level, the Weminuche is rugged country, but its ecosystems are fragile.

As you visit, you will join thousands of others who travel in the Weminuche each year. You can help protect the Wilderness through your knowledge and skills, and by complying with regulations. Many people are not aware of the impacts they cause -- please practice low-impact camping and use common sense

Please follow the special regulations associated with this Wilderness and always use Leave No Trace techniques to help keep these areas wild, clean, and pristine.

Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Rail Road

Needleton/Chicago Basin DSNGRR Train Drop-offs are Now Limited
details can be found here

Trip Planning Information: