wildflowers in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area

Wild flowers photo courtesy of Sable Mountain Outfitters

Written by Guest Blogger, Haley R. Pope

It’s a magical place, tucked into the Rocky Mountains far away from civilization, yet only 35 miles east of the tiny frontier town of Meeker, Colorado.

It’s a place where you can hear the peaceful music of nature—the wind rustles through the trees, songbirds chirp from their boughs, and streams tumble along on their way toward some pristine mountain lake. The water here tastes like freshly melted snow (filter and sanitize first!) and the fragrant scent of wildflowers and pine fills the air. You may even come across wildlife like mule deer, elk, moose, bobcat, and black bear…among countless smaller critters.

Simply, it’s the quintessential landscape of this rural region of Colorado and the second largest Wilderness in the State, called the Flat Tops Wilderness. Encompassed by the larger White River National Forest, it comprises some 235,406 acres and features volcanic cliffs, subalpine lakes, and alpine tundra.

My husband and I moved to Meeker in the winter of 2016. As a nature photographer and writer, I was eager to explore the rugged wild spaces of rural Colorado and learn about the local flora and fauna. Every spring and summer we make a point to explore the Flat Tops. The best way we’ve found of doing that is by heading out on foot for a weekend or longer with nothing but our camping gear, a camera, and map. (You can also explore the region on horseback.)

One of my favorite Flat Tops hikes is the Marvine Loop, a 21-mile long trail that circles you through the forest, up to the Flat Tops, and back down the other side. Once above the treeline, around 11,000 feet, the landscape opens up into a surprisingly flat meadow with horizons visible on all sides and views of jagged cliffs and lush valleys below.

Marvine Lake

Hiking past Marvine Lake photo courtesy of Sable Mountain Outfitters

Best Time to Go: Late spring, summer, early fall.

Directions: Head east out of Meeker on County Road 8 for about 28 miles. Turn right on County Road 12 and follow until the road dead-ends into the Marvine Campground and parking lot on the left.

Trailhead: The trail (1823) starts at the south end of the parking lot and follows the Marvine Creek toward Marvine Lakes. It climbs up to the Flat Tops and then connects with Trail-1825 (Oyster Lake Trail). Descend using Trail-1822 to return to the Marvine parking lot on the western side.


  • Pick up a map and learn more at the Meeker Chamber of Commerce located at 710 Market Street, Meeker, CO 81641. Reach them online: visitmeekercolorado.com or by phone: 970-878-5510.
  • Please make sure to follow “Leave No Trace” guidelines (www.LNT.org).
  • Pack sufficient food and water and methods for filtration and sanitation.
  • Pack warm layers and a 4-season sleeping bag if you’re camping. Night-time temperatures can dip below freezing even during the summer months.

Guest Blogger: Haley R. Pope, President of TerraLens Photography LLC (www.terralensphotography.com).