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Mount Zirkel Wilderness Information

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Current Conditions:

This section contains information about current activities and conditions that could affect a visit to the wilderness.  Links to other Web sites that may provide valuable information for planning a trip to the wilderness are found below.  Below those links, current activities and conditions which could affect your visit to the wilderness are detailed. 

The links below take you to other web sites for weather conditions and forecasts in cities near the Wilderness, as well as links to USGS web sites which give real time and historical river flow information for rivers flowing from the wilderness area.  This information could be valuable in getting an idea of river and stream conditions during the spring runoff.  Finally, a link is provided to a web site which gives current snow pack conditions for various river basins.  Snow pack information may be useful in trying to predict the magnitude and duration of the spring runoff. 

Current and planned activities and conditions which affect the wilderness are listed below the links. 

For Mount Zirkel Wilderness snowtel information, look at Yampa and White River Basins, Elk River Site for snow pack on the west side of the Continental Divide; and Laramie and North Platte River Basins, Rabbit Ears for east side of the divide.

Current Conditions in the Mount Zirel Wilderness:

The Wolverine Fire burned about 375 acres in mostly beetle-killed spruce trees in September of 2005 near Wolverine Basin, on the west slope of the Wilderness north of Steamboat Springs. The lighning-caused fire was allowed to burn for natural ecosystem benefits; burning away dead timber to make room for new growth. All trails and roads in this area are open, but please read the precautions below before venturing into recently burned areas.

The US Forest Service has issued safety guidelines for hikers and others entering burned areas in National Forest lands.  Some hazards you may encounter are: 

Snags – Wild fire often weakens trees, either in the root system or by burning the trunk.  It does not take much to make a weakened tree collapse avoid recently burned areas during periods of high winds if possible.  Walk cautiously while looking up and be prepared to move quickly.

Unstable hillsides – Rocks and logs, once supported by vegetation, have a greater chance of rolling downhill unexpectedly.  While watching where you walk, looking up for the possibility of falling snags, pay particular attention to the uphill where rock, logs and debris may suddenly roll.  Be even more alert if your hunting partner is above you.  He/she may unintentionally unleash a small slide above you.

Weather – thunderstorms are always dangerous in the high country.  But after a wildfire, the burn area is less capable of absorbing water.  Consequently, rainfall will collect quickly in the stream corridors; move down hill at a faster speed resulting in flash flooding.  Stay out of stream channels if it’s raining.

If you require further information, contact the Hahns Peak / Bears Ears Ranger District office at 925 Weiss Drive in Steamboat Springs at (970)879-1870. 

The spruce beetle epidemic triggered by the Routt Divide Blowdown continues to develop. Every year more mature spruce trees succumb to beetle attack as the epidemic moves through the forests in the Wilderness. See Backcountry Adventure Guide to the Mount Zirkel Wilderness for a primer on spruce beetles, spruce beetle epidemic cycles, and their relationship to fires in spruce-fir forests.

Fish Hawk Lake Trail No. 1168 has been cleared of wind-thrown trees as far as Lake Edward, and between Snowstorm and Fish Hawk lakes.  There is no trail between Lake Edward and Snowstorm lakes, where cross-country travel (and map and compass skills) are required. 

A section of FDR 431 Diamond Park Road has been re-opened as a non-motorized recreation trail:  The road section is from near Seedhouse Road (FR 400) to where the new road from Lost Dog Road ties into Diamond Park Road, near the new bridge over the North Fork of the Elk River. 

The Burn Ridge Fire burned about 14,000 acres during the summer of 2002.  The lightning-caused blaze ignited Monday, August 12, near Burn Ridge, located northeast of Clark, CO, 20 miles north of Steamboat Springs, CO.  It broke out about four miles south and one mile west of the Burn Ridge Trailhead, located on Forest Road 443, and spread east completely across wilderness.  The fire spread on the west side of the Continental Divide over an area bordered by Big Creek and The Dome to the south, and North Lake to the north. Backcountry Adventure Guide to the Mount Zirkel Wilderness contains maps that detail the burned areas in the Wilderness. Click here to see pictures of the Burn Ridge Fire. 

The Hinman Fire burned 16,000 acres of forest and blowdown during the summer of 2002.  The Hinman fire started  northeast of Clark, CO, 23 miles north of Steamboat Springs, CO between Hinman Canyon and Scotts Run Creek. Backcountry Adventure Guide to the Mount Zirkel Wilderness contains maps that detail the burned areas in the Wilderness. If you require further information, contact the Hahns Peak / Bears Ears Ranger District office at 925 Weiss Drive in Steamboat Springs at (970)879-1870. 

A web page has been added with pictures taken near the fire the day it broke out and a narrative description.  Click here to see pictures of the Hinman Fire.

Wyoming Trail 1101 was re-opened in 2002 from FDR 400 (Seedhouse Road) to FDR 431 (Diamond Park Road) near Diamond Park.   The trail had been impassable since the Routt Divide Blowdown. 

FDR 433 Lost Dog Road has been opened to vehicle use providing access to Diamond Park Trailhead.  Lost Dog Road provides access to Diamond Park Road just after crossing a new bridge over the North Fork of the Elk River, about four miles north of Seedhouse Road (FR 400).  Directions to Diamond Park Trailhead via Lost Dog Road are given in Backcountry Adventure Guide to the Mount Zirkel Wilderness.

Routt Divide Blowdown: On October 25, 1997, a storm produced winds in excess of 100 miles per hour, which knocked down approximately 13,000 acres of trees in the Routt National Forest.  Most of the trails that were affected by this blowdown have been cleared, however, some areas remain inaccessible.  Please be aware that blowdown areas still contain safety hazards.  If you choose to enter this area, use extreme caution.  Be careful!  Look up and around you.  Unstable trees no longer protected by surrounding trees will continue to fall in future winds.  Stacks of trees will continue to settle.  There is an increased risk of fire as the needles and twigs of downed trees dry out.  Take extra care to prevent sparks and campfires from igniting fallen trees.  An open fire is prohibited within 100 yards of blowdown material in the area identified as the Continental Divide on the east, Highway 40 on the south, CR 129 and FDR 550 on the west, and the Colorado / Wyoming State line to the north.  For more information, contact the Hahns Peak / Bears Ears Ranger District office at 925 Weiss Drive in Steamboat Springs at (970)879-1870.  To see a map showing the approximate locations of the area affected by the blowdown, click here. 

A portion of Luna Lake Trail 1168 has been rerouted beginning October of 2001 due to the Routt Divide Blowdown.  The rerouted section of trail is between Swamp Park Trail 1100 and near Lake Margaret.  Click here to see details of the rerouted trail.