National Forest Foundation

Nine Unique Colorado National Forest Experiences

The National Forest System, Adventures

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Our friends at the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado helped create a list of must-see and must-do experiences on the state's National Forests. Did they miss one? Let us know in the comments.

Maroon Bells - White River National Forest

Visit the most iconic and most photographed place in Colorado located in the heart of the White River National Forest - the famed Maroon Bells. Explore a glacial valley surrounded by 14,000-foot peaks, view vast fields of wildflowers, and be close to nature. 

Photo courtesy of U.S Forest Service

Colorado’s Only Wild and Scenic River: The Cache la Poudre - Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest

The Cache la Poudre River, located in Larimer County and on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests is Colorado’s only congressionally-designated Wild and Scenic River. The upper stretches of the river were designated because of its outstanding recreation, scenic and hydrologic features. 

Photo Courtesy of U.S Forest Service

Fish Creek Falls - Routt National Forest

Just four miles east of Steamboat Springs, Fish Creek Falls is one of the area’s most popular natural attractions. At 283 feet tall, it is the third tallest waterfall in the state and very accessible to all. 

Photo Courtesy of U.S Forest Service

Piney Lake - White River National Forest

Piney Lake and the Upper Piney Trail are some of the hidden gems of the White River National Forest. The trail starts at picturesque Piney Lake and gently climbs through open meadow before entering forest and reaching a cascading waterfall after about 3 miles, a good easy destination for the average hiker. 

Photo by Roger Poirier

The Pikes Peak Cog Railway - Pike National Forest

Named after this prominent mountain peak, Pike National Forest visitors can take the popular train to the summit of one of Colorado’s legendary fourteeners. Varying in steepness, the track climbs quickly past bristlecone pines and wildflowers into the alpine tundra to the Summit House. Visitors there can enjoy a snack/gift experience at an elevation of 14,115 feet.

Weather permitting, visitors can see the Great Plains to the east. The Sangre de Cristo Range stretches south to New Mexico. On the western horizon, lies the Continental Divide and Collegiate Range. And the skyscrapers of downtown rise above Denver to the north. 

Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

Hike to Hope Lake - Uncompahgre National Forest 

By mid- summer, the alpine meadows transform into a colorful mirage of delicate wildflowers. One of the best wildflower hikes in the Telluride area is the trail to Hope Lake. The leisurely 3.2 mile hikes skirts a spectacular deep blue alpine lake. A perfect hike to entice the young ones to a rock skipping contest and a picnic lunch! 

Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

Devil's Head Fire Lookout Tower - Pike National Forest

Situated on a large pinnacle of Pikes Peak granite, the Devil's Head Lookout Tower sits at 9,748 feet on the Pike National Forest. Just 20 miles from Sedalia, hikers can access the tower via a easy to moderate 1.4 miles on the Devils Head National Recreation Trail. After hiking around huge granite boulders through aspens and conifers and climbing the final 143 stairs up the tower to enjoy 100-mile views in all directions.

photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

Nordic Ski to Trout Lake Trestle -Uncompahgre National Forest

Walk out your front door, clip on your cross country skis and off you go exploring 10 kilometers of groomed Nordic trails through some of the most spectacular scenery in the San Juan Mountains. Ski to the historic Trout Lake trestle, or to the top of Lizard Head Pass while soaking in the inspiring views of the surrounding ridgelines looming above at over 13,000 feet!

Dinosaur Tracks - Comanche National Grasslands

Walking along the banks of the Purgatoire River, visitors can follow the paths of dinosaurs as they walked the shoreline of an ancient lake.

Possibly the “largest dinosaur tracksite in the world,” the eighth mile-long trackways are growing larger. Forest Service paleontologists and volunteers are working to excavate unmapped portions of the site that were buried by natural river processes over time. The initial mid 1980’s publication of the Purgatoire dinosaur tracksite documented roughly 1300 dinosaur tracks. The number is now in excess of 1600 individual dinosaur prints, including new evidence of herding behavior as observed by parallel trackways.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service


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