Arthur Carhart's 1919 visit to Trappers Lake in the verdant embrace of the Flat Tops prompted him to be the first U.S. Forest Service official to initiate a plea for Wilderness preservation. No wonder he found the area so entrancing: behind Trappers Lake loom majestic volcanic cliffs, and beyond them a vast subalpine terrain reluctantly yields to alpine tundra (part of the White River Plateau with an average elevation of about 10,000 feet). Approximately 110 lakes and ponds, often unnamed, dot the country above and below numerous flat-topped cliffs. Roughly 100 miles of fishable streams are in the Flat Tops Wilderness. The valleys and relatively gentle land above the cliffs offers over 160 miles of trails. This is ideal country for stock-users and traveling cross-country. The hiking is inviting and limitless. Elk, deer and moose find the area quite pleasant in the summer. A skeletal forest of dead spruce and fir stretches across the higher slopes below the tundra, the eerie legacy of a 1940s bark beetle epidemic. In 2002 more than 17,000 acres burned around Trappers Lake and over 5,500 in the vicinity of Lost Lakes in the East Fork of the Williams Fork drainage amounting to almost 10% of the area of the Flat Tops Wilderness. The Flat Tops is Colorado's second largest Wilderness, a precious expanse of breathtakingly beautiful open land.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Flat Tops Wilderness.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.