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Mount Zirkel Wilderness

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Area Management

The Mount Zirkel Wilderness is part of the 110 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System. This System of lands provides clean air, water, and habitat critical for rare and endangered plants and animals. In wilderness, you can enjoy challenging recreational activities like hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, stargazing, and extraordinary opportunities for solitude. You play an important role in helping to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness" as called for by the Congress of the United States through the Wilderness Act of 1964. Please follow the requirements outlined below and use Leave No Trace techniques when visiting the Mount Zirkel Wilderness to ensure protection of this unique area.

General Wilderness Prohibitions

Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited on all federal lands designated as wilderness. This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters, unless provided for in specific legislation.

In a few areas some exceptions allowing the use of motorized equipment or mechanical transport are described in the special regulations in effect for a specific area. Contact the Forest Service office or visit the websites listed for more specific information.

These general prohibitions have been implemented for all national forest wildernesses in order to implement the provisions of the Wilderness Act of 1964. The Wilderness Act requires management of human-caused impacts and protection of the area's wilderness character to insure that it is "unimpaired for the future use and enjoyment as wilderness." Use of the equipment listed as prohibited in wilderness is inconsistent with the provision in the Wilderness Act which mandates opportunities for solitude or primitive recreation and that wilderness is a place that is in contrast with areas where people and their works are dominant.

Wilderness-Specific Regulations

Wilderness managers often need to take action to limit the impacts caused by visitor activities in order to protect the natural conditions of wilderness as required by the Wilderness Act of 1964. Managers typically implement 'indirect' types of actions such as information and education measures before selecting more restrictive measures. When regulations are necessary, they are implemented with the specific intent of balancing the need to preserve the character of the wilderness while providing for the use and enjoyment of wilderness.

The following wilderness regulations are in effect for this area. Not all regulations are in effect for every wilderness. Contact the Forest Service office or visit the websites listed for more specific information about the regulations listed.


-- Group size is limited to no more than 15 people per group.

-- Campfires are prohibited within 1/4 mile of Gilpin Lake, Gold Creek Lake, and Three Island Lake, and within 100 feet of any other lake, stream, or trail.

-- Storing equipment, personal property, or supplies (caching) for longer than 14 days within a 30-day period is prohibited.

-- Do not cut switchbacks.

-- Dogs must be leashed at all times.

-- As with all designated Wilderness areas, mechanical transportation (including wagons, game carts, wheelbarrows, bicycles, and other vehicles) is prohibited.


-- Overnight visitors cannot occupy a single location longer than 14 days in a 30-day period.

-- Camping is prohibited at the following locations:

1. within 100 feet of any other lake, stream, or trail

2. within 1/4 mile of Gilpin Lake, Gold Creek Lake, and Three Island Lake

3. within 200 feet of a post sign reserving a site for a commercial outfitter


-- Group size is limited to no more than a combination of 25 people and pack or saddle stock, with the maximum number of people being 15.

-- Possessing or transporting unprocessed plant material such as hay, straw, or other unprocessed pack or saddle stock feed for bedding, feeding, or other uses is prohibited.

-- Possessing, hobbling, picketing, loose herding, or grazing pack or saddle stock within 100 feet of any lake, stream, or trail is prohibited.

Learn more about why regulations may be necessary in wilderness.

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