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Mount Zirkel Wilderness

Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area

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

Located in Routt National Forest

Neighboring towns: Steamboat Springs, Walden, Hahns Peak

One of the five original Colorado wilderness areas designated by the 1964 Wilderness Act, Mount Zirkel was greatly enhanced by additions in 1980 and 1993. The 1980 enlargement added the Mad Creek watershed, among others, and the 1993 addition included 12 miles of the Encampment River near Davis Peak. In each case, Congress augmented the ecological integrity of the wilderness by combining vital low-elevation forests and rivers with the rocky alpine spine of the Park Range.

Major rivers flow from countless glacial lakes along this northernmost stretch of Colorado's Continental Divide. Mount Zirkel and its lakes owe their current shape to Pleistocene glaciation 15,000 years ago.

State fish and game managers stock various strains of trout in these lakes, a process which must be repeated on an annual basis. Forest Service managers hope to phase out the stocking of non-native brook and rainbow trout in favor of indigenous cutthroats. According to biologists, it is possible that the hundreds of glacial lakes in Mount Zirkel never supported reproducing fisheries. However, since well over half of all visitors here fish, aerial stocking of these high mountain lakes will likely continue. Because of the great attraction of the lakes, camping is prohibited within a quarter mile of many of them.

One significant attribute of Mount Zirkel lies in its miles of river valleys. The two major rivers in the wilderness, the Elk and the Encampment, have both been proposed for official designation as wild and scenic rivers by the Forest Service, and offer many miles of lovely valley hiking.

Size: 159,935 acres

Elevation: 7,000 to 12,180 feet

Miles of trails: 155

Year designated: 1964, 1980, 1993

Hunting areas: 14, 161, 16, 5

For more information contact:

Routt National Forest, Supervisor's Office, 2468 Jackson St., Laramie, WY 82070-6535  (307)745-2300  Fax:(307)745-2398
Hahns Peak - Bears Ears Ranger District, 925 Weiss Drive, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487-9315  (970)870-2299  Fax:(970)870-2284
Parks Ranger District, PO Box 158, 100 Main St., Walden, CO 80480  (970)723-8204  Fax:(970)723-4610
Parks Ranger District, PO Box 1210, 210 S. 6th St., Kremmling, CO 80459  (970)724-9004  Fax:(970)724-3662
Craig Interagency Dispatch Center, 455 Emerson St., Craig, CO 81625  (970)826-5037  Fax:(970)824-6084
Yampa Ranger District, 300 Roselawn Ave., PO Box 7, Yampa, CO 80483  (970)638-4516  Fax:(970)638-4635

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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