Indian Peaks Wilderness


Photo of the Indian Peaks Wilderness sign located in a meadow of wildflowers with snow-capped peaks

The Indian Peaks Wilderness is located along the Continental Divide between Boulder County to the east and Grand County to the west. Bordered by the James Peak Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park, Indian Peaks Wilderness is a popular destination for day hiking, backpacking, fishing, and viewing wildlife.

Permits Are Required: Please read all relevant information below prior to obtaining a permit. NOTE: Permit applications can now be found exclusively on recreation.gov (Read the press release for more information). Please note that permits can be purchased on recreation.gov on a tablet/mobile device by navigating to the website, but are NOT available on the recreation.gov mobile app. 

For current Fire Restrictions and other important information, visit our Know Before You Go page.

Seasonal Information:

  • June 1 - September 15: Permits are required for all overnight trips.
  • September 16 - May 31: A permit is not required to camp in the Indian Peaks Wilderness for groups with 1-7 people. For large groups (8-12 people), permits are required year round.
  • It is critical to reference our Backcountry Zone Map to help plan your trip and ensure you are within the correct zone. 

Safety Information:

  • Check trail conditions before your visit. Snow from the winter and spring season can linger through early July. 
  • Colorado is black bear country. Properly hang food or use a bear canister. Review bear safety tips before your trip.
  • Wilderness is wild. Your safety is your responsibility. Review outdoor safety tips.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Snow levels can impact trails at high elevation up until mid-July. Significant levels of snow, ice, and steep cornices often make Buchanan Pass and and Devil's Thumb Pass impassable into mid July.
Fees: There is a $5 fee for each camping permit from June 1 to September 15. Permits are Recreation.gov charges a $6 vendor reservation fee per reservation. Some trailheads require additional use fees (see Brainard Lake Recreation Area and Arapaho National Recreation Area). Permits are available for purchase at recreation.gov.
Permit Info: Permits are required for overnight stays in the Indian Peaks Wilderness from June 1 to September 15 and are available for purchase at recreation.gov. Additional permit requirements exist for large and organized groups.
Usage: Heavy
Busiest Season: July & August
Restrictions: Leave No Trace: Group Size:
  • Group size is limited to no more than 12 people or 12 people and livestock combined, year round.
  • Large group permits (8-12 people) are limited to one day group and one overnight group per zone, per day.
Camping:
  • A permit is required for anyone planning to stay overnight from June 1 through September 15.
  • Campsites must be located at least 100 feet away from all lakes, streams and trails.
  • The following backcountry zones allow camping only in designated sites year-round:
  • Camping is prohibited in the Four Lakes Backcountry Zone from May 1 through November 30.
Campfires:
  • Campfires are prohibited on the east side of the Continental Divide.
  • Campfires are also prohibited in the following areas west of the Continental Divide:
    • Crater Lake
    • Caribou Lake
    • Columbine Lake
    • Gourd Lake
    • Pawnee Lake
    • Upper Cascade Creek (east of Cascade Falls)
  • Campfires are prohibited everywhere in Indian Peaks Wilderness during any stage of  Fire Restrictions.
Organized Groups and Commercial Outfitters:
  • A permit is required year-round for all organized groups or commercial outfitters entering the wilderness for day hiking or camping.
  • Organized group permits are limited to one day group and one overnight group per zone, per day.
Motorized/Mechanized Equipment:
  • Motorized equipment (including drones) and mechanized transportation (including bicycles) are prohibited within the Indian Peaks Wilderness. 
  • Wheeled devices (motorized or non-motorized) that are essential for the mobility of people with disabilities are allowed.
Pets:
  • Pets must be on a hand-held leash at all times.
Recreation Livestock:
  • Hobbling, tethering, or picketing of livestock, such as horses, llamas, or other livestock is prohibited within 100 feet of lakes, streams, or trails. 
  • Processed weed-free feed is required for livestock and must include original and current documentation. 
  • Pack stock are prohibited within these backcountry zones and on these trails: Crater Lake, Four Lakes, Diamond Lake, Upper Cascade Creek (above Cascade Falls), Diamond Lake Trail
Closest Towns: Boulder; Nederland; Ward; Winter Park; Grand Lake; Tabernash; Fraser
Water: Lakes and streams; treat water before drinking.
Restroom: Practice Leave No Trace principles.
Operated By: US Forest Service

General Information

General Notes:

Overview: The Indian Peaks Wilderness was designated as a protected wilderness area in 1978 by an act of Congress. It encompasses 73,391 acres with over 50 lakes, 28 trails covering 133 miles, and six passes across the Continental Divide. Elevations in these wilderness areas vary from 8,400 to over 13,500 feet, from montane to sub-alpine and alpine zones. It is bordered by the James Peak Wilderness to the south and Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) to the north.

Trails in the Indian Peaks Wilderness:


Activities

Day Hiking

Backpacking

Horse Riding

Know Before You Go

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities

Related Links

Campgrounds At-A-Glance

Featured Events

Location

 
  Latitude : 
39.950051

  Longitude : 
-105.670394

  Elevation : 
8300' - 13500'