The Indian Peaks is a very popular and heavily used wilderness area partially because it is so close to the Denver/Boulder metro area, and a small portion of it snakes into the Rocky Mountain National Park. There are a large number of Indian Peaks Wilderness Area hikes available to you, with 28 maintained trails that cover over 100 miles.
A large number of peaks within this wilderness area are named after American Indian tribes. In 1978, these Peaks became part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. These are not the highest peaks in Colorado (53 peaks are in the over-14,000 category), but the elevations can still be challenging at 8,300 – 13,500 ft. Kayleen Cohen can attest to that, as a self-proclaimed “midwest transplant” to Colorado. She share this from a hike in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, starting from the Fourth of July Trailhead:
Indian Peaks Wilderness Area Hikes
I knew anything I did would knock out my lungs and leave my thighs begging for mercy, but I needed a dose of that Rocky Mountain High…
The Indian Peaks Wilderness area has more than 76,000 acres and 110 miles of trail, which provide plenty of choose-your-own adventures. Study a topographic map before you head out to select the right route for you. We launched from the famous Fourth of July trailhead and took our trek up Caribou Pass, (4.2 miles, one way).
From the trailhead, you’ll pass pine trees and miniature snowmelt streams. Above the treeline, you’ll have sweeping views of the surrounding peaks. The trail levels out as it moves northwest towards Arapahoe Pass. There are lots of small stream crossings, and sections of extremely rocky terrain in this area, so be sure to wear waterproof boots with full ankle coverage.
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The Indian tribe naming scheme was the brainchild of Ellsworth Bethel (a botany teacher) in 1914 – probably inspired by the Arapaho peaks. Although he named 11 peaks after tribes, only 6 of them were officially adopted by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names. These peaks were Apache Peak, Arikaree Peak, Kiowa Peak, Navajo Peak, Ogalalla Peak and Pawnee Peak. Other Indian tribe names were granted later. Pick a peak and plan a hike! If you do not plan to hike to a summit, you can start out at Fourth of July Trailhead and take Kayleen’s route, or if you want an easier hike try the 2.6 miles to Diamond Lake. Regardless of your hiking skills, you can find one of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area hikes that is right for you!
Please leave a comment below if you have hiked in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.