Few areas overcame such overwhelming odds to become designated wilderness as did Eagles Nest. Eagles Nest wasn’t designated Wilderness without heated controversy. Denver wanted the water. Timber industries wanted the lush spruce forest that covers the lower elevations. Lovers of Wilderness can rejoice that these interests did not prevail, and that one of Colorado’s most untamed expanses was preserved. Today the serrated peaks, knife-edged ridges, valleys, forests and waterfalls of the Gore Range remain intact. The Gore Range’s highest peak is 13,534-foot Mount Powell, named for famed explorer John Wesley Powell, who made the first recorded ascent in 1868.
The Eagles Nest Wilderness Area and Dillon Ranger District were administratively completely transferred to the White River National Forest in 1998.
The Dillon Ranger District is home to two Wilderness areas, the Eagles Nest Wilderness and the Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness. The Eagles Nest Wilderness encompasses 133,688 acres on both the Dillon Ranger District and the Holy Cross Ranger District. The Eagles Nest Wilderness is administered jointly by the Dillon and Holy Cross Ranger Districts.
The forbidding topography of this range presents a significant obstacle to travel. Most trails dead-end in high valleys, often beside jewel-like alpine lakes. Only two trails cross the range, one each at the north and south ends of the wilderness, leaving the craggy core wild and empty. This is an area more vertical than horizontal, with sheer rock faces, keen-edged ridges, deep valleys, jagged peaks, and dense forests lower down. Foot travel can be strenuous. Rock climbers have been increasingly drawn to some portions of this wilderness, especially the southern region around Red Buffalo Pass and Uneva Pass.
Deep winter snowpacks give rise to the verdant, shimmering wet valleys of the Gore Range. Snowfields clinging to sheer rock faces feed brimming lakes, marshes and sloughs are sustained by their overflow, and rampaging creeks become swollen with the spring runoff of sun-softened slush. Plummeting down the steep flanks of the Gore Range, these creeks merge and swell into major tributaries of the Colorado, such as the Piney and Blue rivers. One of the more popular trails is Rock Creek Trail.
Size: 132,906 acres
Elevation: 7,850 to 13,534 feet
Miles of trails: 180
Year designated: 1978
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