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Wilderness Watch: Greenhorn Mountain Wilderness, CO

The Greenhorn Mountain Wilderness is a protected natural area in Colorado. Administered by the National Forest system, this area is free of roads and has few developed trails within, making this one of the state's least-accessed wilderness areas.


Greenhorn Mountain from Lascar Road in northern Huerfano County, Colorado.

Jeffrey Beall, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Greenhorn Mountain lies roughly 33 miles southwest of Pueblo, Colorado, with the town of Rye nestled in its foothills. Here, one can truly see the end of the Great Plains and the start of the Rocky Mountains, as the dry grasslands abruptly push into piñon-juniper and ponderosa forests in the foothills and aspen, fir, and spruce forest approaching the summit of over 12,300 feet above sea level.

While anywhere else, a peak of this size would be nothing to scoff at, Colorado, with its 58 "fourteeners" (peaks above 14,000 ft.) makes this huge granite uplift look relatively small. Another factor setting it apart from Colorado's other wildernesses is its lack of water, with no perennial lakes and only a handful of streams feeding the Huerfano River (Spanish for "orphan"), a tributary of the Arkansas River.

At over 23,000 acres, the Wilderness envelops the narrow canyons and knife-edge ridges of the west face as well as the nearly sheer cliffs of the east face. Only twelve miles of trails currently exist in the north half of the Wilderness, meaning the southern portion is still nearly untouched. Wildlife have found a refuge in this area, as the lack of "brag-worthy" peaks and lake-based recreation make this one of the least travelled wildernesses in the state.

Find more information on the wilderness through Wilderness Connect or the San Isabel National Forest.



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