As of this Spring, Indian Peaks Wilderness backpacking permits have all been moved online, only being able to be reserved online. With a long list of campsites and areas, you may well be wondering which is best for your backpacking trip. We’ve gone through all the areas that need a permit and compiled this list to help you out with your planning! Here is a map to get familiar with the area.
You really can’t go wrong with any of these areas as far as beauty is concerned. The area is gorgeous!
West of Continental Divide: These campsites lie on the Western side of the Continental Divide, thus the trailheads will be more of a drive from Denver/Boulder/the Front Range.
Arapaho: Access from Monarch Lake. 2.5 Miles to get to Arapaho Pass Trail. Camp anywhere along the next 8 miles. About 1000 ft Elevation Gain. No designated campsites, find a good spot following all regulations.
Buchanan: This area is a long hike in. You can start from either Monarch lake to the West or Coney Flats to the East of the Continental Divide. From Coney Flats it is over a 5 mile hike to Buchanan Pass, crossing the Continental Divide, gaining about 2,700 ft. From there you can hike another about 5 miles to Gourd Lake, but the Buchanan Zone lies West of the Divide, with no designated campsites. Find a good spot following all regulations. From the West, it’s about 8 Miles up to Gourd Lake with over 2,000 ft elevation gain, making this a challenging hike.
Caribou Lake: Starts at the Junco Lake Trailhead. It is about 4 Miles to Arapaho Pass, gaining about 2,000 ft elevation gain, then another mile and a half down to Caribou Lake. There are 12 specified camping sites at the lake. Campsite Map
Cascade Creek: Accessed via the Monarch Lake Trailhead. This is the area around Crater and Mirror Lake, but not including them. It’s about 4 Miles in to some good spots, there are no designated sites. Find a good spot following all regulations and if you hike into Crater/Mirror Lake, make sure you don’t camp at one of those designated sites if you only have the Cascade Creek permit.
Columbine: This large South zone West of the Continental Divide is best accessed through either the Junco Lake or Devil’s Thumb Park trailheads. From Junco Lake it is about 3.5 Miles to Columbine Lake with about a 1,000 ft gain. There are no designated campsites, find a good spot following all regulations.
Crater Lake: This is the most popular camping spot in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Sitting on a lake with stunning views of the prominent Lone Eagle Peak, this is known as one of Colorado’s most beautiful campsites. You’ll have to plan way ahead for this one, as you must camp at a designated site, of which there are only 12, and it is already booked for the whole season this summer. The easiest way to get to the campsites is via Monarch Lake Trailhead. It is 7.1 Miles to the campsites with about 2,500ft of elevation gain, making it a challenging hike, but well worth it! Campsite Map
Hell Canyon: Best accessed from the Roaring Fork Trailhead. The hike up to Stone and Upper Lake is about 6.1 Miles with 2,600 ft elevation gain. No designated sites, find a good spot following all regulations.
Roaring Fork: Accessed via the Roaring Fork Trailhead. It is about 3.5 Miles up to Watanga Lake, gaining about 2,200 ft of elevation. No designated sites, find a good spot following all regulations.