Indian Peaks Wilderness

Last updated
Indian Peaks Wilderness
Lake Isabelle below Navajo, Apache and Shoshoni Peaks
Usa edcp relief location map.png
Red pog.svg
Location Grand / Boulder counties, Colorado, USA
Nearest city Boulder, CO
Coordinates 40°04′40″N105°34′30″W / 40.07778°N 105.57500°W / 40.07778; -105.57500 [1] Coordinates: 40°04′40″N105°34′30″W / 40.07778°N 105.57500°W / 40.07778; -105.57500 [2]
Area76,711 acres (310.44 km2)
Governing body U.S. Forest Service / National Park Service
Navajo Peak, as seen from the top of Pawnee Peak View of Navajo Peak.jpg
Navajo Peak, as seen from the top of Pawnee Peak

The Indian Peaks Wilderness is a wilderness area in north central Colorado managed jointly by the United States Forest Service and the National Park Service within the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and small parts of the southern section of Rocky Mountain National Park. It borders the James Peak Wilderness to the south, and straddles the Continental Divide. The area receives high visitation due to its proximity to the Denver metropolitan area. [3]



The area encompasses a stretch of the Front Range. It includes 7 peaks over 13,000 feet (4,000 m) in elevation. The highest point is North Arapaho Peak at 13,502 feet (4,115 m). The peaks are all within 100 feet (30 m) of elevation of each other. A portion of the area, encompassing the headwaters of North Boulder Creek, is closed to the public as it is the City of Boulder watershed.

Peak names

Many of the peaks inside the wilderness area are named after western Native American tribes. The naming scheme was the idea of botany teacher Ellsworth Bethel. By 1914, few of the peaks between Longs Peak and the Arapaho Peaks had names. In the spring of that year Bethel, inspired by the established name of the Arapaho Peaks, settled on 11 tribal names for various summits along the Divide. The United States Board on Geographic Names kept 6 of his names: Apache Peak, Arikaree Peak, Kiowa Peak, Navajo Peak, Ogalalla Peak and Pawnee Peak. He later added Paiute Peak, as his use of the Ute band was denied due to too many other Colorado features sharing that name. Other names, including Shoshoni Peak, Hiamovi Mountain, Satanta Peak and Watanga Mountain were added later.

Achonee Mountain in the Indian Peaks Wilderness was named after Cheyenne Peace Chief Ochinee, who negotiated for peace for his tribe and was killed in the Sand Creek massacre. [4]


The Indian Peaks were visited by Native Americans for several thousand years. The Arapaho tribe lived and hunted in the area during the summer months, though little evidence remains of their activities.

Mining took place in the 1870s near the Arapaho Peaks. Later, a road was built to Arapaho Pass but never completed. (It is now the hiking trail that leads west from the Fourth of July trailhead.) The mining turned up little more than low-grade ore, and the mines were eventually abandoned. Remnants of mining activity is still found along the Arapaho Pass trail. Arapaho Glacier (now owned by the city of Boulder) is one of a few glaciers still left within the Indian Peaks Wilderness, but, being a part of Boulder's watershed, is off limits to hiking/camping. Several glaciers however, are still hikable and there are a number of routes to take. One set of glaciers, the Isabelle and Fair glaciers have a connecting trail that will send you over the Continental Divide.

Isabelle & Fair glaciers were discovered by Mr. Fair in 1904 and were given their names by Prof. Junius Henderson, formerly of the University, who made a study of the glaciers in 1910 at Mr. Fair's request. Mr. Fair believed that water sometime would be run through a tunnel from the Western Slope into Four Mile canyon, that Boulder and the mountain region would continue to grow in popularity, that some day Boulder will have to build a storage dam lower down that those in the Arapahoe glacier region and that a road to the Arapahoe or some other glacier will be constructed and become the most popular drive in the state.

The Denver and Interurban Company, which operated an electric line between Boulder and Denver for many years adopted the name "Glacier Route" at Mr. Fair's suggestion.

The figure 8 trails in the Arapahoe and Buchanan pass areas were made largely on the suggestion of Mr. Fair.

In January 1948, a plane carrying three airmen of the Civil Aeronautics Administration crashed about 500 feet below the summit of Navajo Peak due to severe turbulence. [5] After four months and a five day expedition, a team of Denver and Boulder mountaineers recovered their bodies, reporting devastation to the mountainside. [6] The wreckage of the plane is still present and visible in summer. [7]

The area of the Indian Peaks was included in Enos Mills' original proposed boundaries for Rocky Mountain National Park. They were removed from the proposal after compromising with local and mining interests. Park superintendents tried to annex the Indian Peaks over the years, but the area would not receive protected status until 1978 when Congress designated the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.


Most visitors hike along the many trails, visiting high passes, lakes and waterfalls en route. The area also contains many notable mountaineering routes. The busiest area is Brainard Lake, which hosts several trailheads and a campground. Fishing is also found in many of the lakes and streams within the wilderness. In the winter, snowshoeing and cross country skiing are popular.

Mechanized recreation, such as mountain biking and the use of motorized vehicles, is prohibited in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

View SE from the saddle between Hiamovi Mtn. and Mt. Irving Hale. Indianpeakspanorama.jpg
View SE from the saddle between Hiamovi Mtn. and Mt. Irving Hale.

Related Research Articles

Jefferson County, Colorado County in Colorado, United States

Jefferson County, is a county located in the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 534,543, making it the fourth-most populous county in Colorado. The county seat is Golden, and the most populous city is Lakewood.

Eldora, Colorado Census Designated Place in Colorado, United States

Eldora, previously known as "Eldorado" then "El-Dora", then Eldora or Camp Eldorado, and still called Happy Valley, is an unincorporated community and a census-designated place (CDP) located in and governed by Boulder County, Colorado, United States. The CDP is a part of the Boulder, CO Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population of the Eldora CDP was 142 at the United States Census 2010. The Nederland post office serves the area.

Longs Peak Mountain in Colorado, United States

Longs Peak is a high and prominent mountain in the northern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. The 14,259-foot (4346 m) fourteener is located in the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness, 9.6 miles (15.5 km) southwest by south of the Town of Estes Park, Colorado, United States. Longs Peak is the northernmost fourteener in the Rocky Mountains and the highest point in Boulder County and Rocky Mountain National Park. The mountain was named in honor of explorer Stephen Harriman Long and is featured on the Colorado state quarter.

Continental Divide Trail Long-distance scenic trail in the western United States

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail is a United States National Scenic Trail with a length measured by the Continental Divide Trail Coalition of 3,028 miles (4,873 km) between the U.S. border with Chihuahua, Mexico and the border with Alberta, Canada. Frequent route changes and a large number of alternate routes result in the actual hiking distance to be between 2,700 miles (4,300 km) and 3,150 miles (5,070 km). The CDT follows the Continental Divide of the Americas along the Rocky Mountains and traverses five U.S. states — Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. In Montana near the Canadian border the trail crosses Triple Divide Pass (near Triple Divide Peak, from which waters may flow to either the Arctic Ocean, Atlantic Ocean or Pacific Ocean.

Rocky Mountain National Park National park in Colorado, United States

Rocky Mountain National Park is an American national park located approximately 76 mi (122 km) northwest of Denver International Airport in north-central Colorado, within the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The park is situated between the towns of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west. The eastern and western slopes of the Continental Divide run directly through the center of the park with the headwaters of the Colorado River located in the park's northwestern region. The main features of the park include mountains, alpine lakes and a wide variety of wildlife within various climates and environments, from wooded forests to mountain tundra.

Wind River Range

The Wind River Range, is a mountain range of the Rocky Mountains in western Wyoming in the United States. The range runs roughly NW–SE for approximately 100 mi (160 km). The Continental Divide follows the crest of the range and includes Gannett Peak, which at 13,802 ft (4,207 m), is the highest peak in Wyoming; and also Fremont Peak at 13,750 ft (4,191 m), the third highest peak in Wyoming. There are more than 40 other named peaks in excess of 12,999 ft (3,962 m). With the exception of the Grand Teton in the Teton Range, the next 19 highest peaks in Wyoming after Gannett are also in the Winds.

Trail Ridge Road Highway in Colorado within Rocky Mountain National Park

Trail Ridge Road is the name for a stretch of U.S. Highway 34 that traverses Rocky Mountain National Park from Estes Park, Colorado in the east to Grand Lake, Colorado in the west. The road is also known as Trail Ridge Road/Beaver Meadow National Scenic Byway.

Grays Peak

Grays Peak is the tenth-highest summit of the Rocky Mountains of North America and the U.S. state of Colorado. The prominent 14,278-foot (4352 m) fourteener is the highest summit of the Front Range and the highest point on the Continental Divide and the Continental Divide Trail in North America. Grays Peak is located in Arapahoe National Forest, 3.9 miles (6.2 km) southeast by east of Loveland Pass on the Continental Divide between Clear Creek and Summit counties. The peak is the highest point in both counties.

Never Summer Mountains Mountain range in Colorado, US

The Never Summer Mountains are a mountain range in the Rocky Mountains in north central Colorado in the United States consisting of seventeen named peaks. The range is located along the northwest border of Rocky Mountain National Park, forming the continental divide between the headwaters of the Colorado River in Rocky Mountain National Park to the local-east and the upper basin of the North Platte River to the local-west; the continental divide makes a loop in these mountains. The range is small and tall, covering only 25 sq mi (65 km2) with a north-south length of 10 mi (16 km) while rising to over 12,000 ft (3,700 m) at over ten distinct peaks. The range straddles the Jackson-Grand county line for most of its length, and stretches into Jackson and Larimer county at its northern end. A panoramic view of the range is available from sections of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. One of the northernmost peaks, Nokhu Crags, is prominently visible from the west side of Cameron Pass.

Rollins Pass

Rollins Pass, elevation 11,676 ft (3,559 m), is a mountain pass and active archaeological site in the Southern Rocky Mountains of north-central Colorado in the United States. The pass is located on and traverses the Continental Divide of the Americas at the crest of the Front Range southwest of Boulder and is located approximately five miles east and opposite the resort in Winter Park—in the general area between Winter Park and Rollinsville. Rollins Pass is at the boundaries of Boulder, Gilpin, and Grand counties. Over the past 10,000 years, the pass provided a route over the Continental Divide between the Atlantic Ocean watershed of South Boulder Creek with the Pacific Ocean watershed of the Fraser River, a tributary of the Colorado River.

Arapaho National Forest

Arapaho National Forest is a National Forest located in north-central Colorado, United States. The facility is managed jointly with the Roosevelt National Forest and the Pawnee National Grassland from the United States Forest Service office in Fort Collins, Colorado. It has a wildlife refuge which manages a protection for all birds and mammals. The combined facility of 1,730,603 acres (7,004 km2) is denoted as ARP by the Forest Service. Separately, Arapaho National Forest consists of 723,744 acres (2,929 km2).

Roosevelt National Forest

The Roosevelt National Forest is a National Forest located in north central Colorado. It is contiguous with the Colorado State Forest as well as the Arapaho National Forest and the Routt National Forest. The forest is administered jointly with the Arapaho National Forest and the Pawnee National Grassland from offices in Fort Collins, and is denoted by the United States Forest Service as ARP.

Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park

Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park is a regional park in King County, Washington, near the towns of Bellevue and Issaquah. The park was established in June 1983 to protect the central core of Cougar Mountain, the park covers 3,115 acres (12.61 km2) with 38 miles (61 km) of hiking trails and 12 miles (19 km) of equestrian trails.

Weminuche Wilderness Protected area in southwestern Colorado, US

The Weminuche Wilderness is a wilderness area in southwest Colorado managed by the United States Forest Service as part of the San Juan National Forest on the west side of the Continental Divide and the Rio Grande National Forest on the east side of the divide. The Weminuche Wilderness was designated by Congress in 1975, and expanded by the Colorado Wilderness Acts of 1980 and 1993. It is located 4 miles (6.4 km) southeast of the town of Silverton, 17 miles (27 km) northeast of Durango, and 8 miles (13 km) west of South Fork. At 499,771 acres (2,022.50 km2), it is the largest wilderness area in the state of Colorado. Elevation in the wilderness ranges from 7,700 feet (2,300 m) along the Animas River to 14,093 feet (4,296 m) at the summit of Windom Peak.

Index of Colorado-related articles Wikipedia list article

The following is an alphabetical list of articles related to the U.S. state of Colorado.

Pikes Peak Mountain in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, United States of America.

Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, in North America. The ultra-prominent 14,115-foot (4,302.31 m) fourteener is located in Pike National Forest, 12 miles (19 km) west of downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado. The mountain is named in honor of American explorer Zebulon Pike. The summit is higher than any point in the United States east of its longitude.

Mount Sniktau

Mount Sniktau is a high mountain summit in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. The 13,240-foot (4,036 m) thirteener is located in Arapaho National Forest, 1.6 miles (2.5 km) northeast of Loveland Pass in Clear Creek County, Colorado, United States.

Grizzly Peak (Summit County, Colorado) Mountain in Colorado, USA

Grizzly Peak is a high mountain summit in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. Also known as Grizzly Peak D, the 13,433-foot (4,094 m) thirteener is located in Arapaho National Forest, 2.1 miles (3.4 km) southeast by east of Loveland Pass, Colorado, United States, on the Continental Divide between Clear Creek and Summit counties. Its proximate parent peak is Torreys Peak.

Bierstadt Lake Lake in Colorado, United States

Bierstadt Lake is located in Larimer County, Colorado and within the Rocky Mountain National Park. Near McHenrys Peak and Longs Peak, there are "spectacular views" of the Continental Divide at the lake. The Bierstadt Lake Trailhead is located about 6.5 miles (10.5 km) from the turn-off at U.S. Route 36 into the Rocky Mountain National Park. During the summer, shuttle buses provide transportation to the trailhead.


  1. "Indian Peaks Wilderness". Geographic Names Information System . United States Geological Survey . Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  2. "Indian Peaks Wilderness". Geographic Names Information System . United States Geological Survey . Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  3. "Indian Peaks Wilderness". Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  4. Nestor, Sandy (2015-05-07). Indian Placenames in America. McFarland. p. 39. ISBN   978-0-7864-9339-5.
  5. Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Douglas C-47-DL (DC-3) NC206 Ward, CO". Retrieved 2019-11-29.
  6. Pettem (1948). [< "Group Effort Recovered Plane Crash Victims"] Check |url= value (help). Boulder Daily Camera.
  7. "Climbing Older - Photo Gallery - Colorado - Indian Peaks - Pawnee Peak Ascent". Retrieved 2019-11-29.