The Indian Peaks Wilderness is located primarily within the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest. Many of the peaks within the area were named for American Indian tribes of the west. Managed primarily by the Forest Service, a small sliver along the northernmost boundary lies within Rocky Mountain National Park. All of this sliver is above treeline where no camping is allowed, and contains only one trail, a Forest Service trail that loops into the park for about a mile due to the terrain. Overall, the wilderness stretches approximately 18 miles north/south and 15 miles east/west at its widest point. Elevations range from 8,300 to just over 13,500 feet. There are a total of seven peaks over 13,000 feet, and approximately 35% of the land area is above treeline. There are 28 maintained trails covering about 133 miles, and over 50 lakes. The icy remains of the last glacial period sculpted out the rugged terrain of the Indian Peaks. Chill winds off perpetual snowfields have created an environment near treeline of stunted trees and alpine plants unusual for this part of the state.
The Indian Peaks is one of the most popular and heavily used wilderness areas in the country due to its close proximity to the Denver/Boulder metro area. Camping permits for the Forest Service portion of the wilderness are required for all individuals during the peak seasons, June 1 - Sept. 15. In addition, permits are required for all organized groups (scouts, hiking clubs etc.) for day use or camping any time of year. Campfires are prohibited on the east side of the Continental Divide and around most lakes on the west side. Rocky Mountain National Park to the north, also requires backcountry camping permits. There is a $20 administrative fee for park permits during peak season periods (non-refundable and non-exchangeable).
Practicing Leave No Trace Camping and Hiking Ethics will help protect this beautiful wilderness area for future generations.
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 Indian Peaks 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.
(No official title, designates Indian Peaks Wilderness) - Public law 95-450 (10/11/1978) To create the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area and the Arapaho National Recreation Area, to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to study the feasibility of revising the boundaries of the Rocky Mountain National Park, and to add certain lands to the Oregon Islands Wilderness
Colorado Wilderness Act - Public Law 96-560 (12/22/1980) To designate certain National Forest System lands in the States of Colorado, South Dakota, Missouri, South Carolina, and Louisiana for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System
James Peak Wilderness and Protection Area Act - Public law 107-216 (8/21/2002) To designate the James Peak Wilderness and Protection Area in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests in the State of Colorado, and for other purposes
Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 - Public law 111-11 (3/30/2009) An act to designate certain land as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System, to authorize certain programs and activities in the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, and for other purposes.