Friday, August 7, 2015

1987 and 1990 Backpacking Colorado's Mount Zirkel Wilderness

The Mt. Zirkel Wilderness, located in the northwestern Colorado in the Steamboat Springs area, was one of the original wilderness areas created by the 1964 Wilderness Act. It consists of 159,935 acres in the 1.2 million acre Routt National Forest. It straddles the Park Range of the Continental Divide and has 14 peaks, all exceeding or approaching 12,000 feet in elevation. Elevation ranges from 8500 feet to the 12,180 foot tall Mount Zirkel, named for Ferdinand Zirkel, a geologist who traveled through these Park Range mountains with the King Survey in 1871.

President Theodore Roosevelt hunted in this area both before and during his presidency. 70 lakes are in the wilderness, of which three are in the photo below, as well as several streams which feed the North Platte and Yampa Rivers. Seven trailheads provide access to the wilderness area, and 48 miles of the Continental Divide Trail traverse its crest.

Routt National Forest was established in 1905 and named for Colorado's first governor. Over 700 miles of trails are in the national forest, which also includes the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.

Lake Elbert

Our first time here was in 1987 on an 18 mile day hike along the Continental Divide Trail and down Fish Creek Falls Trail back to Steamboat Springs. We noticed all the outstanding views and small mountain lakes , and this whet our appetite for more, so we returned in 1990 to backpack.

Even though it is late summer, snow fields were still in evidence, and this one, still hard as rock and not protected from the sun by any trees, demonstrates the depth of snow that must fall each winter. Check out Steve -- his pack is nearly as large as mine! What a trouper!

Luna Lake -- a scenic area, but the night we were here at least, this was the most mosquito-infested area I've ever spent a night in. Even the 95% DEET did not work effectively, and we spent the night inside the tents.

Places to camp were abundant, and since this is a national forest, at-large camping was allowed everywhere except close to water sources.


Exploring Colorado's Wild Areas by Scott Warren; The Mountaineers, Seattle, WA; 221 pages.

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