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Colorado > Colorado Wilderness Areas > Flat Tops Wilderness
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Flat Tops Wilderness

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Flat Tops Wilderness (Blanco District Section)- The Flat Tops Wilderness is located in northwest Colorado.
Flat Tops Wilderness (Eagle District Section)- The Flat Tops Wilderness is located in northwest Colorado. It is divided into three administrative sections: the Blanco District, the Eagle District and the Yampa District. The Eagle District administers the southeast portion of the wilderness.
Flat Tops Wilderness (Yampa District Section)- The Flat Tops Wilderness is located in northwest Colorado. It is divided into three administrative sections: the Blanco District, the Eagle District and the Yampa District.

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General Information

Looking over part of the Flat Tops Wilderness
Copyright: - US Forest Service
Looking over part of the Flat Tops Wilderness
Description - The 235,230 acre Flat Tops Wilderness is the third largest Wilderness Area in Colorado. The Flat Tops comprise the northern extent of the White River Plateau. Glaciation occurred approximately 13,000 to 17,400 years ago. As the ice melted and pushed downward, it gouged deep U-shaped valleys and created small lakes in the folds of the mountains.
Today, the geologic history of the Flat Tops remains in full view.

Sizable herds of deer and elk use this area as summer range. Other wildlife species include black bear, fox, coyote, bobcat, pine marten, mink, beaver, snowshoe hare, marmot and pika. On rare occasions, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain lions can be seen.

The Colorado River cutthroat trout, once abundant in the wilderness, are now reduced in numbers and distribution. Anglers are encouraged to use a catch and release approach with this sensitive species. Also found are brook trout, rainbow trout and brown trout.

The Flat Tops Wilderness contains a wide range of vegetation zones influenced by elevation and climate. At lower elevations, between 7,500 and 9,000 feet, south facing slopes are usually covered with sage, Gambel's oak and aspen. The moister north facing slopes are characterized by dense stands of conifers. Lodgepole pine is the conspicuous conifer at low to mid-elevations. Moving higher, Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir become the dominant forest cover. Tree line occurs at about 11,000 feet. In the harsh conditions at tree line, the spruce and fir trees become stunted and gnarled, taking on strange contorted shapes. This is the krummholtz (a German word meaning "twisted wood"). Above tree line, the high-elevation plateaus are occupied by fragile alpine tundra. The low ground-hugging plants in the tundra evolved in this severe climate over millions of years. They remain in delicate balance and can be destroyed if disturbed.


In the 1940's and 50's, the Flat Tops were infested by a spruce bark beetle. Standing dead trees or snags leftover from the bark beetle infestation continue to decay and fall, posing a safety hazard to the visitor. Please look around when you take your breaks and where you set up your camp.

For more information contact:

Blanco Ranger District
317 E. Market Street
Meeker, CO 81641
(970) 878-4039

Eagle Ranger District
125 W. 5th Street, Box 720
Eagle, CO 81631
(970) 328- 6388

Yampa Ranger District
300 Roselawn Ave, Box 7
Yampa, CO 80483
(970) 638-4516

Recreation - The Flat Tops Wilderness offers a variety of backcountry recreation opportunities. Some of these include hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, backcountry camping, fishing and hunting. Like all wilderness areas mechanized and motorized vehicles are not permitted within the Flat Tops boundaries. Please understand and use "No Trace" backcountry ethics when using this area for recreation purposes.

Climate - Elevations range from 8,700 to 12,347 feet in this region and weather can change rapidly. Temperatures below freezing and snowfall can occur any month of the year. Be prepared for all weather.

Afternoon thunderstorms often form in the summer. In case of lightning, move down from high ground. Avoid ridge tops and open meadows. Think ahead and get to safe areas before the storm hits.

Location - The Flat Tops Wilderness lies in northwest Colorado, at the northern end of the White River Plateau. It exists in the White River and Routt National Forests. It is divided into three administrative sections: the Blanco District, the Eagle District and the Yampa District. The wilderness is generally accessed from either Meeker, Yampa or Eagle. The headwaters of the White River lie within the boundaries of the Flat Tops Wilderness.

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

Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: I started at Sweetwater Lake and began on the sweetwater trail to Hack Lake. It was much more intense than I expected, not from incline as much as the incline does not break hardly at all during the full 5 miles to the junction. It was a beautiful fall day, and I would highly reccommend September, when the leaves are beginning to change. At the lower elevations the trail begins in a scrub-oak, dry, hot area. Then the flora changes dramatically into a high aspen forest, leading into the higher pines. I would not reccommend this route as an entry into the Flattops itself (I thought it would be quicker than driving all the way around to Trappers Lake) unless you want to spend an extra couple (7) hours entry time. The hike itself however is BEAUTIFUL, and the fishing is supposedly great at hack lake. The aspen glow wonderfully off its unassuming surface. There are huge clearings just past the old pioneer cabin to the NW, great for camping and viewing the stars. A TOPO was usefull, but it appeared much easier a hike on the map. Only three people and a herd of cows were encountered during the entire round trip....On second thought, I reccommend you dont go and to tell your friends to stay away as well!!!

More Information

Contact Information:
Yampa Ranger District, 300 Roselawn Ave., P.O. Box 7 , Yampa, CO, 80483, Phone: 970-638-4516

Blanco Ranger District, 317 E Market St. , Meeker, CO, 81641, Phone: 970-878-4039

Eagle Ranger District, 125 W. 5th St., P.O. Box 720 , Eagle, CO, 81631, Phone: 970-328-6388

Additional Information:
Colorado Wilderness Areas - Some of the most spectacular terrain in Colorado is preserved within Colorado's extensive system of Wilderness Areas.
Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway - This 82-mile byway leads from Yampa to Meeker through terrain that inspired the establishment of the 1964 Congressional Wilderness Act.

Leave No Trace - Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics


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