La Garita Wilderness: Rio Grande

Machin Lake in La Garita Wilderness.

Congress designated the La Garita Wilderness in 1964 and it now has a total of 129,626 acres. La Garita means "the lookout" in Spanish, and this Wilderness amply deserves the name. From the summit of this Wilderness's single fourteener (14,014-foot San Luis Peak), climbers can gaze across the upper Rio Grande Valley and down the long stretch of the San Luis Valley.

About 35 miles of the Continental Divide lie well above a sprawling forestland that provides ideal habitats for huge numbers of elk and mule deer. Wason Park, Silver Park and Wheeler Geologic Area were added in 1993. This is a land of rushing streams, broad and gentle subalpine meadows, fascinating beaver ponds, long talus slopes, and tremendous mountain beauty.

The Wheeler Geologic Area hides in the southeast corner of the Wilderness. This unusual geological formation is composed of fine, light-gray volcanic ash compressed into rock and wildly eroded into a striking series of domes, spires, caves, ledges, pinnacles, ravines, and balanced rocks. A bumpy four-wheel drive road was left out of wilderness designation, allowing motorized access to within ½ mile of the area.

Many trailheads open onto approximately 175 miles of pathways, almost all especially well-suited for horse packing. About 27 miles of the Colorado Trail and Continental Divide National Scenic Trail follow the divide through La Garita Wilderness.

Please always use Leave No Trace techniques to help keep these areas wild, clean, and pristine.

At a Glance

Restrictions: Wilderness restrictions apply.
Closest Towns: Creede, Lake City and Saguache, Colorado
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center:

General Information

General Notes:

Topo maps

Forest Service Topography Maps: These maps overlay Forest Service assets, such as roads, trails, and campgrounds, on USGS's topographic maps. They are available for download by quadrangle.

Buy maps online

National Forest Store: Offers a full, nationwide selection of National Forest, Ranger District, Wilderness, and Specialty Maps for purchase online or by phone, fax, and mail.

Colorado’s Fourteeners

Find more information about climbing Colorado’s peaks at the Rocky Mountain Region 14ers page.

Go to for additional maps and information about Wilderness.


Day Hiking


Horse Riding

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities

Current Conditions