South San Juan Wilderness: San Juan

SSan Juan Green

The South San Juan Wilderness encompasses the southeastern extent of the San Juan Mountain Range, including a segment of the Continental Divide. Originally designated as wilderness by Congress in 1980, it is a component of the National Wilderness Preservation System and now maintains 158,790 acres.

Ages of volcanic activity followed by the carving of glaciers left the rough, imposing terrain of the remote South San Juan Wilderness, an area characterized by steep slopes above wide U-shaped valleys cut deeper by eroding streams. You'll find high peaks and cliffs, as well as jagged pinnacles and ragged ridges, making travel difficult. Elevations rise as high as 13,300 feet.

Thirty-two lakes, most of them formed by glacial activity, hold much of the area's moisture and drain into turbulent creeks. The Conejos, San Juan, and Blanco Rivers have their headwaters here. You'll find about 180 miles of trails, and some of the most exemplary backpacking in the state. The Continental Divide crosses the heart of the Wilderness for 42 miles. 

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

At a Glance

Usage: Light-Medium
Restrictions: Wilderness restrictions apply.
  • Specific restrictions: Camping, campfires, and restraining or grazing of recreational livestock are NOT permitted within 200 feet of Bear Lake, Blue Lake, Green Lake, and Red Lake
Closest Towns: La Jara, Colorado; Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Water: Treat all non-potable water before consuming.
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center:

General Information

General Notes:

Topo maps

Recommended maps for the South San Juan Wilderness are the National Geographic South San Juan/Del Norte #142.

Buy maps online

San Juan Mountains Association Map and Book Store has 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.


South San Juan Wilderness is east of Pagosa Springs, CO. 

See also: 

Rio Grande National Forest, South San Juan Wilderness information.


Day Hiking


Horse Riding

Related Information

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  Elevation : 
8000' - 13000'+