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Mt Evans in Colorado.

Peaks to Prairies - Tracks to Trails

Pike and San Isabel National Forests & Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands (forest locator map) cover nearly 3 million acres, between the prairies of western Kansas and some of Colorado's highest mountain peaks along the Continental Divide. These sprawling forests and grasslands are an eight hour drive from boundary to boundary. This landscape offers a variety of ecosystems rich in history, geology, scenery, wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities.

The rolling prairies to the east are home to prairie chickens, wildflowers, paleontological resources and historical areas. The snow-capped Rockies to the west are a scenic backdrop to millions of residents and a draw to forest visitors. The forests are home to over half of Colorado's fourteeners with numerous alpine lakes, reservoirs and key rivers. Over 385,000 acres of Wilderness, the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, Colorado Trail, and Santa Fe National Historic Trail are special areas worth exploring.

People who live near these areas maintain a strong relationship to the lands. The commitment and volunteerism that these community members have for these public lands is the foundation for our ability to maintain a quality, sustainable recreation program in the face of intense, and growing, urban demand.

Critical Information about the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or “drones” are increasing in popularity and can provide wonderful opportunities to explore the forest. Please be aware that these drones are regulated and must follow certain laws to be safe and legal.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

Recreation Conditions Report

 Area Name Status Area Conditions
Coaldale Campground Closed to Visitor Closed due to flood damage from Hayden Pass fire
Collegiate Peaks Campground Closed to Visitor Closed for 2018 Cottonwood Pass construction
Cottonwood Pass Summit Closed to Visitor Closed for 2018 Cottonwood Pass construction
Waldo Canyon Loop Trail #640 Closed to Visitor Closed due to Waldo Canyon Fire; no re-opening date has been established yet.


Ski Cooper Alpine Ski Area

Skiing Cooper

Ski Cooper, located atop Tennessee Pass 10 miles north of Leadville on U.S. 24, is a unique and affordable alpine ski area for the whole family. Five lifts serve 26 runs on 400 acres with slightly more intermediate than beginner or expert terrain. The longest run is 1.4 miles. The base sits at an elevation of 10,500 feet, with the summit at 11,700 feet. Ski Cooper averages 250 inches of natural snowfall a year and hosts a variety of fun-filled events throughout the winter season.

Ski Cooper also includes a terrain park with seven different features, short lift lines and a variety of runs. The base facilities include the Ski and Snowboard School which offers alpine, telemark and snowboard instruction; a day lodge with guest services, ticket offices, first-aid room, restaurant and bar; a ski rental shop; the Children's Center, featuring a children's ski school, rental equipment and day care for children ages 2-8; the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center with rental equipment for cross-country skiing, telemarking, and snowshoeing, and the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse.

Ski Cooper Stats:

  • Vertical drop: 1,200 feet;
  • Acres: 400;
  • 2,400 acres of snowcat skiing on Chicago Ridge;
  • Lifts: 5- 1 double, 1 triple, 3 surface lifts;
  • 26 runs: 30% beginner, 40% intermediate, 30% advanced; 
  • Annual Snowfall: 250 inches.

Picket Wire Canyon

Ancient dinosaur tracks in the rock.

Picket Wire Canyon

For a unique and unforgettable family experience, tour Picket Wire Canyon. Located on the Comanche National Grassland south of La Junta, Colorado, these primitive canyons are home to the largest dinosaur tracksite in North America. The dinosaur tracksite is located in Picket Wire Canyon on the banks of the Purgatoire River in southeast Colorado. The tracksite is the largest documented assemblage of trackways in North America. Over 1500 prints in 100 separate trackways extend across a quarter mile expanse of bedrock.

Picket Wire Canyon Auto Tours: Guided auto tours are the easiest way to experience Picket Wire Canyonlands and learn about its rich, colorful past. During the tour, knowledgeable guides will show you difficult to find dinosaur tracks, and the interesting prehistoric, historic, and natural features of the canyons. The auto tour is the only motorized access into Picket Wire Canyon. Reservations are required via www.recreation.gov or call 1 (877) 444 6777. All day tours (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) are offered on Saturdays in May, June, September, and October. Sign up early because the tours fill up fast! Due to rough roads, visitors will need their own four-wheel drive vehicle. 

Hiking, biking or horseback riding: Other ways to visit include hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding. Because of the rugged terrain and long distances to various sites, these visitors need to plan carefully for hot weather conditions by carrying ample water and leaving very early.

The round trip hike to the Dinosaur Tracks is 11.3 miles, starting at the Withers Canyon Trailhead. From here, you will descend 250 feet into the canyon. The Picket Wire Trail passes several points of interest in route to the tracksite. 

Read about the geology of the Comanche National Grasslands. (.pdf, 1.3 MB]

Frontier Pathways

A scenic drive through the Wet Mountains of the San Isabel National Forest.  For more information visit www.frontierpathways.org .