Private land virtually surrounds the state's smallest Wilderness area, a heavily forested spot within the Saint Francois Mountains. Its name comes from a mountain in the area that sets the stage for an ancient circular pile of granite erected by some long-forgotten inhabitant. Elevations range from about 1,300 feet to 520 feet. The Wilderness is primarily a broken ridge with steep rocky sides. One sheltered gorge boasts a tiny virgin forest of basswood, butternut, Kentucky coffee tree, walnut, sugar maple, and white and red oak. Limestone bluffs and caves line the Saint Francis River, which touches the southwestern border. Other than the river, no year-round water sources exist, except in five ponds built before Wilderness designation to trap intermittent springwater and provide watering holes for wildlife. Speaking of which, the most common creatures here are white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, rabbits, hawks, owls, turkey vultures, and pileated woodpeckers. Lizards, turtles, and snakes, including timber rattlers and copperheads, likewise reside in these parts. Two miles of maintained trail enter from the north at Little Grass Mountain. Then the trail divides several times to follow abandoned and unmaintained roads that access the rest of the area. The old tracks are unmarked, challenging the adventuresome to explore unknown territory if they are prepared to find their own way. Backcountry exploration and camping are unrestricted. Heavy rains yield a bonus: temporary streams may go on a rampage, tumbling through narrow gorges.
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 Rockpile Mountain 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.
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