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Colorado > Pike and San Isabel National Forests > South Platte Ranger District
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South Platte Ranger District

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General Information

Description - The South Platte Ranger District holds numerous opportunities for outdoor activities within its boundaries. The following paragraphs describe some of the regions recreational highlights. The South Platte River Corridor extends from Cheesman Dam to Scraggy View Picnic Grounds. This section of the river is known for gold medal fishing for trout and its designation as wild trout waters.

On the eastern boundary of the South Platte Ranger District lies the Rampart Range Motorized Recreation Area. This area contains more than 120 miles of trail designed for off-highway vehicles and all-terrain vehicles less than 40 inches in width. The trails, some of which were originally stagecoach, logging or mining roads, provide challenges for riders of all ages and abilities.

For the mountain bike enthusiast this ranger district offers the Buffalo Creek Mountain Bike Area. The site includes approximately 40 miles of trails that have been developed specifically for mountain biking. Mild winters allow riding eight to ten months of the year. The area is about an hour south of Denver.

Hikers in the region will enjoy the Colorado Trail, which extends over 50 miles throughout the ranger district, with several trailheads and access points. The Devil's Head National Recreation Trail will interest hikers and history buffs alike. Located at the north end of the Rampart Range, this trail is accentuated by Devil's Head Fire Lookout Station. This fire lookout is the last in use in the Pike National Forest. The original structure completed in 1910 on Devil's Head Mountain, a site that provides a commanding view of points north, south, west and east.

For visitors to the area who desire a beautiful day trip in the car, the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway will provide an hour of scenic driving. The road extends from Georgetown on Highway 70 to Grant on Highway 285. The 22-mile drive offers views of Mt. Bierstadt and Mt. Evans, and 2 well-preserved examples of Rocky Mountain mining camps.

Recreation - A plethora of outdoor activities can be enjoyed by visitors to the South Platte Ranger District. The list includes, but is not limited to the following: boating, camping, backpacking, fishing, hiking, biking, motorcycle riding and horseback riding. The varied terrain of the region provides excellent opportunities for recreationists of all skill levels to participate in their favorite or a new sport.

Climate - Controlled mainly by the Rocky Mountains, weather in the South Platte Ranger District varies extremely on a yearly, daily and hourly basis. Colorado's high elevation makes the air thinner and harder to breathe. The elevation also makes it easier to get a sunburn, because there is less air between you and the sun to filter ultraviolet light. Temperatures are affected by elevation, cooling four degrees for every 1,000 feet gained.

When hiking, particularly on high mountain peaks, during the summer, morning and early afternoon hikes are best to avoid lightning and thunderstorms. The average yearly precipitation is 16 inches, the majority of which comes in spring and summer. Summer temperatures average 72 degrees during the day. Nighttime freezing temperatures are not uncommon during the summer. The mean winter temperature is 26 degrees. The low humidity on the eastern slopes makes both warm and cold temperatures seem more comfortable.

Location - The South Platte Ranger District comprises the northern section of the Pike National Forest. The Arapaho National Forest shares the northern border of this ranger district, which includes the Mt. Evans Wilderness Area. The Continental Divide forms the western border of the South Platte Ranger District again shared by the Arapaho National Forest. The southern border runs through Kenosha Pass and splits the Lost Creek Wilderness Area shared by the South Park Ranger District. The eastern section of this area includes the northern Rampart Range and ends with the leveling of the foothills on the Front Range.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: Paul Koger (Elizabeth, CO)
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: The South Platte is awesome for fishing!Catch your limit of footlong trout in minutes!It is also great for picknicking and watching wildlife.Many deer in the lower canyon,and further up the canyon,Bighorn sheep!This is one of my favorite fishing and recreation spots! Many picnic spots along the trail and giant aspen trees.It is a bit of a hike, for the trail is not open to unauthorized motorized vehicles.About a half mile until the trail joins the river.But the hike is definitely worth it when you come back with a stringer heavy with trout.From South,take Highway 85 to Sedalia.Continue North,and follow signs for Chatfield Reservoir.From North,take 85,South of Santa Fe,follow signs for Chatfield.Turn right at the Farm Crest milk store to Waterton Canyon.In the winter,the sun disappears behind the mountains at about 3:20 PM,so dress warmly if you're going late in the day. Fishing is normal regulations below Marston diversion dam,which is four miles up the canyon.Above the dam is artificial flies and lures only,two fish sixteen inches or more.Check the sign at the bottom of the canyon for specifics.Ten miles up the canyon is Strontia Springs Reservoir.In the 1960's, a 32-inch Rainbow Trout was caught above the dam,setting a Colorado record,which remains unbroken.Three times within twenty minutes,me and my family had two fish on the same line,all footlong trout.Waterton is also perfect for peaceful picknicking.I suggest going on cold or week days,because it is crowded on weekends and nice days. If you ever have a free day,I suggest you take my advice and spend the day at Waterton.For best fishing,fish salmon eggs off the bottom.It is very important to fish structure,where the fish live. There is one such spot about a mile up the path. GOOD LUCK,FELLOW FISHERMEN!

More Information

Contact Information:
South Platte Ranger District, U.S. Forest Service, 19316 Goddard Ranch Ct. , Morrison, CO, 80465, Phone: 303-275-5610

Additional Information:
Denver Area - The largest city in Colorado, Denver is a major transportation hub for those coming to the mountains.
Pike and San Isabel National Forests - The Pike San Isabel National Forest is an administrative compact between the two forests southeast of the Continental Divide in Colorado.
Pike National Forest - The Pike National Forest encompasses over one million acres of land in south central Colorado. This region includes 14,000 foot mountains, gold-medal fishing streams, wilderness areas, campgrounds, scenic byways, ski resorts and hundreds of miles of trails.

Current Fire Conditions - The current fire conditions in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests.
Pike, San Isabel National Forests and Cimarron, Comanche National Grasslands - The official agency website.


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