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Lagarita Wilderness

La Garita Wilderness Area

Government information and links are at the bottom of this page.

Located in Gunnison and Rio Grande National Forests

Neighboring towns: Lake City, Creede, Wagon Wheel Gap, South Fork, La Garita, Saguache, Powderhorn, Gunnison

One of colorado's lesser known wilderness areas, the La Garita Wilderness is, in fact, one of the state's original five. Lagarita 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.

La Garita's gentle alpine terrain offers refuge to thriving herds of elk, mule deer and bighorn sheep. Hikers are likely to encounter elk in the open alpine bowls along the divide. Many trailheads open onto approximately 175 miles of pathways, almost all especially well suited for horsepacking. Large expanses of untracked forests blanket La Garita's lower elevations, providing habitat for pine marten and other wilderness dependent species. The primeval spruce and fir forests of Wason Park and Silver Park on the south slopes of the La Garita Mountains comprise a singularly important undisturbed habitat.

Like much of the San Juans, the La Garita Mountains consist of multiple layers of volcanic rocks. The most recent were laid down approximately 25 million years ago in deep layers of highly fluid basalt lava flows. As these cooled and shrunk, they formed vertical columns resembling the logs of a stockade. The lower, western slopes of Stewart and San Luis peaks show prime examples of these stacked hexagonal towers of basalt. The La Garita Mountains around the Wheeler Geologic Area contain volcanic deposits of a different sort. Here, the action of water, wind, and snow has eroded soft, rosy-hued volcanic tuff into ghostly pinnacles, spires and other fluted shapes. How unexpected it is to scramble through the forest to treeline only to encounter delicate formations more commonly associated with the arid deserts of the Colorado Plateau!

Size: 128,858 acres

Elevation: 9,000 to 14,014 feet

Miles of trails: 175

Year designated: 1964, 1980, 1993

Hunting areas: 66, 67, 681, 76

For more information contact:

Gunnison & Uncompahgre National Forests, 2250 Highway 50, Delta, CO 81416  (970)874-6600 Forest Headquarters
This e-mail will be distributed to the correct Ranger District.
Grand Valley Ranger District, PO Box 330, 218 High Street, Collbran, CO 81624  (970)487-3534
Gunnison Ranger District, 216 N. Colorado, Gunnison, CO 81230  (970)641-0471
Ouray Ranger District, 2505 S. Townsend, Montrose, CO 81401  (970)240-5400
Paonia Ranger District, PO box 1030, North Rio Grande Ave., Paonia, CO 81428  (970)527-4131
Gunnison Ranger District, PO Box 89, Lake City, CO 81235  (970)641-0471 or (970)944-2500
Grand Valley Ranger District, 2777 Crossroads Blvd., Grand Junction, CO 81506  (970)242-8211
Norwood Ranger District, PO Box 388, 1760 Grand Ave., Norwood, CO 81423  (970)327-42261

For more information contact:

San Juan National Forest, 15 Burnett Court, Durango, CO 81301  (970)247-4874  Supervisor Office - Cal Joyner
Rio Grande National Forest, 1803 W. US Hwy 160, Monte Vista, CO 81144  (719)852-5941  Supervisor Office - Deann Zwight
Columbine West Ranger District, 110 W. 11th, Durango, CO 81301  (970)884-2512  District Ranger - Mike Johnson
Columbine East Ranger District, 367 South Pearl St., PO Box 439, Bayfield, CO 81122  (970)884-2512  District Ranger - Mike Johnson
Conejos Peak Ranger District, 15571 County Rd. T-5, PO Box 420, La Jara, CO 81140  (719)274-6301  District Ranger - Carlos Pinto
divide Ranger District, 13308 W. US Hwy 160, PO Box 40, Del Norte, CO 81132  (719)657-3321  District Ranger - Gilbert Becenti
Mancos-Dolores Ranger District, 100 North Sixth, PO Box 210, Dolores, CO 81323  (970)882-7296  District Ranger - Michael Znerold
Pagosa Ranger District, 180 Second St., PO Box 310, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147  (970)264-2268  District Ranger - Jo Bridges
Saguache Ranger District, 46525 Colorado Hwy 114, PO Box 67, Saguache, CO 81149  (719)655-2547  District Ranger - Tom Goodwin

Wilderness sunset

NOTE: coloradowilderness.com gratefully appreciates the eloquent descriptions of our wilderness areas provided by Mark Pearson, author of "The Complete Guide to Colorado's Wilderness Areas", Westcliffe Publishers, Englewood, CO. The book also contains many beautiful pictures by renowned photographer and Colorado resident John Fielder.


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