- There are more than 65 lakes in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness many of which were caused by glaciation in the region. The entire wilderness is a very high yielding watershed, in quantity and quality, for the North Platte and Yampa River Systems. The Elk River and the Encampment River are two major drainages which begin in the wilderness. Brook, rainbow and native cutthroat trout can be found in most of the lakes and streams, which are stocked for summer use. One primary cause of pollution is from increasing recreation use around popular lakes.
Copyright: USDA Forest Service
Gilpin Lake, Mount Zirkel Wilderness
Sizable herds of elk and lesser numbers of mule deer use the wilderness as summer range. Other wildlife include black bear, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, marmots, pika, blue grouse, ptarmigan and bighorn sheep.
Recreation - NOTE: ON OCTOBER 25, 1997, STRONG WINDS FLATTENED A LARGE NUMBER OF TREES ON THE ROUTT NATIONAL FOREST NORTH OF STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, INCLUDING APPROXIMATELY 12,000 ACRES IN THE MOUNT ZIRKEL WILDERNESS. NUMEROUS RECREATION FACILITIES AND FOREST ROADS HAVE BEEN AFFECTED INCLUDING MUCH OF THE UPPER SEEDHOUSE ROAD AND SLAVONIA TRAILHEAD AREAS.
The Mount Zirkel Wilderness offers a variety of backcountry recreation opportunities. Some of these include hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, backcountry camping, fishing and hunting. One hundred and fifty-five miles of trail provide access to the region. Like other designated wilderness areas, it is illegal to use motorized or mechanized machinery or vehicles within the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area. If you are camping, be aware that regulations prohibit camping within 1/4 mile of Gilpin and Gold Creek Lakes.
Climate - Elevations in the wilderness range from about 7,400 feet to over 12,000 feet. The ecosystems range from oak brush and sage at the lowest elevations, to lodgepole pine and spruce-fir at the middle elevations to alpine tundra at the highest elevations. There are 14 peaks in the wilderness which reach an elevation near 12,000 feet. The highest of which is Mount Zirkel with an elevation of 12,180 feet.
Snow persists over most of the area until late June and many snow banks remain all summer. Temperatures can be cold and frost can be expected most evenings. The recommended season for summer activities lasts from early July until mid October in an average year.
The 160,568 acre Mount Zirkel Wilderness is located in the Routt National Forest in northwestern Colorado. The area straddles the Park Range of the Continental Divide. It lies north of Steamboat Springs and east of Walden.