Flat Tops Wilderness Area

The United States Congress designated the Flat Tops Wilderness (map) in 1975 and it now has a total of 235,214 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Colorado and is managed by the White River and Routt National Forests. Flat Tops is Colorado’s second largest Wilderness, a precious expanse of open land.

The White River National Forest has a longstanding tradition of promoting wilderness stewardship.  In 1919, Arthur Carhart, a Forest Service landscape architect, realized the uniqueness of the location when he stood on the shoreline of Trappers Lake. Carhart’s task was to survey the area to build a recreational housing development of summer cottages. However, what Carhart saw and experienced at Trappers Lake compelled him to strongly recommend to his supervisors that the area remain undeveloped. Flat Tops, also known as the “Cradle of Wilderness,” is where the idea of wilderness was first applied to public land. 

The Flat Tops are part of the White River Plateau with an average elevation of about 10,000 feet. Approximately 110 lakes and ponds, often unnamed, dot the country above and below numerous flat-topped cliffs. Roughly 100 miles of fishable streams are in the Wilderness.

The valleys and relatively gentle land above the cliffs offers over 160 miles of trails. Thousands of recreationists in search of hiking, camping, horseback, hunting and fishing visit each year. The land is ideal for stock-users and traveling cross-country. Elk, deer and moose visit the area in the summer.

Trip Tip: Motorized vehicles are prohibited in the Wilderness and always follow the Leave No Trace Seven Principles.