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Vasquez Peak Wilderness Area

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

Located in Arapaho National Forest

Neighboring towns: Winter Park, Georgetown, Dillon

One of Colorado's most recently designated wilderness areas, Vasquez Peak is the fourth piece of the puzzle in a 100,000 acre roadless complex that includes the Byers Peak Wilderness, the Fraser Experimental Forest, and the Williams Fork - Ptarmigan Peak roadless area. Vasquez Peak's most distinguishing feature may be the seven miles of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail that runs through it. And scenic it is! Almost two-thirds of the entire wilderness resides above timberline. The proximity of Vasquez Peak to Indian Peaks and Eagles Nest wilderness areas in the Gore Range offers splendid views of both mountain ranges, but with far fewer people than in either of those two areas.

The wilderness consists of that portion of the Vasquez Mountains west of Berthoud Pass and south of Winter Park Ski Area. Dropping in elevation, the tundra gives way to first krummholz and then forests of Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, and finally lodgepole pine. Krummholz, a German word meaning "twisted wood", aptly describes the forest survivors at timberline. Because of the severe environment and bone-chilling winds above treeline, Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir are unable to grow upright. Instead, they grow as clumps of prostrate, shrubby trees spreading downwind in gnarled and twisted shapes, with their upwind branches killed off by the desiccating winds. It should be obvious to never use such scrappy survivors for firewood!!

With much of the 17-mile long trail system above timberline, sudden summer thunderstorms can make exposure to lightning in the Vasquez Mountains a dangerous risk. You should plan on hiking early and dropping into the trees before afternoon storms break. In winter, avalanches are common.

Size: 12,986 acres

Elevation: 8,600 to 12,700 feet

Miles of trails: 17

Year designated: 1993

Hunting areas: 28

For more information contact:

Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests, 240 W. Prospect Rd., Ft. Collins, CO 80526-2098  (970)498-2770 Supervisor's Office
Boulder Ranger District, 2140 Yarmouth St., Boulder, CO 80303  (303)444-6600 Boulder District
Canyon Lakes Ranger District, 240 West Prospect, Ft. Collins, CO 80526  (970)498-2770 Canyon Lakes District
Clear Creek Ranger District, PO Box 3307, Idaho Springs, CO 80452  (303)567-2901 Clear Creek District
Sulphur Ranger District, PO Box 10, Granby, CO 80446  (970)887-4100 Sulphur District

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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