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Mount Zirkel Wilderness Information

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Wilderness Regulations and Travel Restrictions:

The Wilderness Act defines wilderness this way: "A wilderness, in contrast with areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled, where man is a visitor who does not remain"  We must all work together to protect the wilderness character for present and future generations.  A backcountry ethic, that respects the wilderness, and recognizes its fragility and need for protections, combined with the use of Leave No Trace practices, is essential to preserve the beauty, solitude and challenge we seek.  The following regulations apply when within the Mount Zirkel Wilderness:

  1. Possessing or using any motorized or mechanized equipment, including chain saw, bicycle, motorcycle, hang glider or cart is prohibited.  This includes game carts.  Primitive methods are basic to the wilderness experience.
  2. No camping or campfires within 100 feet of any lake, stream or trail, or within 1/4 mile(1320 feet or 440 yards) of of Gilpin, Gold Creek, or Three Island Lakes - to protect water quality and fragile wet areas, provide for solitude and allow heavily-used areas to recover.  Evidence of prior use does not necessarily mean a campsite is acceptable. 
  3. Pets must be under immediate physical or voice control at all times - to prevent harassment of wildlife or disturbance of other wilderness users and their property. 
  4. Group size is limited to a combination of 25 people and livestock, with a maximum number of 15 people in any group.  The impacts of people and stock multiply in large groups.  Smaller groups help to promote the feeling of solitude. 
  5. Hobbling, tethering or allowing livestock to graze within 100 feet of any lake, stream or trail is prohibited - to protect water quality and fragile wet areas and to provide for solitude. 
  6. Possessing or transporting any unprocessed stock feed (including weed free hay) is prohibited within the wilderness - to help prevent the introduction and spread of non-native plants and noxious weeds.  When non-native plants become established, they can seriously disrupt natural plant communities.  National Forest lands in Colorado and Wyoming outside of the wilderness are closed to the use of hay or straw which has not been certified as noxious weed-free.  Certified weed free hay can be identified by its orange and blue twine, or galvanized wire. 
  7. Camping anywhere on national forest lands in Colorado is limited to 14 days in any 30 day period. 
  8. Caching or storing of equipment within the wilderness is prohibited. All equipment brought into the wilderness must be taken out when you leave. 

Leave No Trace, A National Outdoor Skills and Ethics Program:

Leave No Trace is more than a technique or a set of rules defining appropriate behavior in the wilderness; it is an attitude, a land ethic that respects the wilderness, recognizes its fragility and the need to protect it.  In years past we spoke of people's ability to survive the wilderness.  Now, we speak of wilderness as the land's capability of surviving human use.  The best way that you can help the land to survive is to make the least possible impact on the environment.  The principles of Leave No Trace are:

  • Plan ahead and prepare.  Know the area and what to expect when packing.  Give yourself time at the end of each day's travel to find a suitable camp.  Find a dry, screened area away from the trail.  It is required that you camp at least 100 feet away from lakes and streams to prevent pollution from dishwater, human waste, and manure. 
  • Camp and travel on durable surfaces.  Whenever possible choose an established site that will not show signs of additional use.  Avoid any heavily used campsites which have been posted as revegetation sites.  This will allow these areas to heal.  Pack a portable water jug to carry water to camp, thereby reducing trips to lakes and streams. 
  • Minimize use and impacts of fire.  Use a gas stove instead of building a fire.  Campfires leave permanent scars on the land.  If you must have a fire, use an existing rock firering (if available) or build a mound fire.  Do not build new firering. 
  • Leave what you find for others to enjoy.  Camp lightly and take only pictures.  Refraining from outdated practices such as trenching around tents, building structures, putting nails into trees, and collecting from the forest will help to protect the resources.  Your site should need no modification.  Good campsites are found, not made. 
  • Properly dispose of what you can't pack out.  Scatter waste water away from camp and water sources.  To protect water quality, bury human waste at least 6 inches deep and at least 200 feet from any water source.  Use biodegradable soap. 
  • Pack it in, pack it out.  Reduce litter at its source. Simplify by packing with reusable containers.  Before leaving camp, take one last look around.  Have you packed all of your trash and left your site in its natural condition?
  • Respect Wildlife.  Keep your distance from wildlife when observing them and don't feed them.  Protect wildlife from your food by proper storage.  Avoid wildlife contact altogether during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, winter.  Keep your pets under control at all times or leave it home. 
  • Respect other visitors.  Be considerate of  the quality of other visitor's experiences in the wild.  Take breaks and camp away from trails.  Let nature's sounds prevail, avoid loud noises and voices. 

To learn more about Leave No Trace, click here to visit the Leave No Trace website at www.lnt.org


If you require additional information contact:

The Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area is located on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests of the US Forest Service.  The district ranger offices below are responsible for management of the wilderness and adjoining national forest lands in their respective jurisdictions:

For visits to the west side of the Continental Divide:

Hahns Peak / Bears Ears Ranger District

925 Weiss Drive

Steamboat Springs, CO 80487

(970) 879-1870

For visits to the east side of the Continental Divide:

Parks Ranger District

P.O. Box 158

100 Main Street

Walden, CO 80480

(970) 723-8204