Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forest

Over the years, Congress has been responsible for designating areas unique for the special characteristics and the opportunities they offer. Within the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland, there are a number of places that meet these criteria. 

Visitor information, maps, and publications are available at forest offices

Arapaho National Recreation Area The Arapaho National Recreation Area is in the upper reaches of the Colorado River Valley and was established by Congress in 1978. 

Cache la Poudre; Wild and Scenic River Explore Colorado’s Only Wild and Scenic River the Cache la Poudre. Recreation opportunities abound along their length. 

Brainard Lake The Brainard Lake Recreation Area is a popular destination in the Boulder Ranger District for hiking, camping, fishing, and more.

Mount Evans The Mount Evans Recreation Area offers easy access to Colorado’s inspiring high elevation environment.

Wilderness areasArapaho & Roosevelt National Forest includes ten Wilderness areas that encompass many of Colorado’s peaks.

Santiago Mill Santiago Mill is an increasingly rare example of an early- to mid-20th century American floatation mill.

Roosevelt National Forest

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Located in north-central Colorado is 813,799 acres of green lush forest. The Roosevelt National Forest, which was originally named the Colorado National Forest in 1910. In1932, the name was changed in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt. Now, biking, fishing, hunting, and scenic driving draw visitors to the area each summer. During winter, cross country skiing and snowshoeing are popular activities. Most importantly, this area is known for its hiking and camping destinations. Perfect for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of Denver and disconnect in nature for the weekend. Below are a few of the most sought-after hiking trails and camping spots in Roosevelt National Forest. 

Mount Olympus is infamous for its view at the summit. This mountain was even featured in the book, WildLife On The Rockies written by Enos A. Mills. Who was the main figure behind Rocky Mountain National Park. Enos spent his time fighting for the land to become a National Park. Eventually winning in 1915 once President Woodrow Wilson pronounced it the tenth national park in history. Mr. Mills talks about the amazing treeless view that is seen at the top of Mount Olympus. The trail is located only five minutes from downtown Estes Park. A 2.5-mile hike with 1,438 feet elevation gain. A difficult hike, not recommended for the faint of heart. This trail also features a river and views of Lake Estes. The best time to attempt this hike is from May until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail as long as they are kept on a leash.

A little over five miles south of Estes Park, just above Highway 7, is Lily Mountain Trail. A four-mile-long hike with a 1,180 feet gain of elevation. It is rated difficult but is known for its stunning wildflowers. In 2013 this area was hit by a large storm that caused serious flooding. The storm was so bad that it collapsed roads and bridges. Leaving some of its residents completely stranded. The trail eventually opened about a month later. It is now known for its steepness and rugged terrain. If you are planning to conquer this mountain, please come prepared and wear proper gear. The views of Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park will be worth the uphill battle. 

Kruger Rock Trail is an easier option located fifteen minutes southeast of Estes Park. A four-mile hike with only 977 feet of elevation gain. Rated as moderate, with beautiful views. The hike is relatively easy with uphill trekking. When nearing the top of the mountain be aware of a rock scramble. Hikers say it makes the summit even more exciting. This trail is located in Hermit Park and there is a $9 park entry fee. Enjoying the scenery at the top makes it money worth spending.  Take in the stunning 360 views of the Rocky Mountains, including the famous Longs Peak. 

Summertime visitors flock to camp in Roosevelt National Forest. The isolation and beauty are hard to pass up. Olive Ridge Campground is an option located inside the forest. Near the southeast corner of Rocky Mountain National Park. At an elevation of 8,350 feet. In the peak season, late May to September, reservations are recommended. They can be booked online to help plan your trip in advance. The campground has fifty-six sites in total. Twenty-six of those are built for RV Camping. Both tents and car camping are available at all of the sites. There is a maximum of eight people per site, with a few being able to accommodate ten people per request and availability. Every site has its own picnic table, ideal for a campsite cookout. There is a fire ring or grill available for each site. Vault toilets and garbage areas are advertised. This campground is only a little over a mile from Rocky Mountain National Park. Perfect for visitors looking for a woodsy area to pitch their tent after a full day enjoying the park. 

Meeker Park Overflow is a noteworthy home base for tent campers. There are twenty-nine first come, first serve campsites. Tents, campers, trailers, and RV’s are all allowed here. Tent camping is recommended due to steep hills and gravel roads. It is a more remote option that does not offer drinking water, electricity, hooks up or showers. A maximum of eight people is allowed per site. The location makes the campground even more unique. It is only two miles south of Longs Peak. One of Colorado’s most popular and occasionally dangerous 14ers. Not ready to climb this infamous peak? Wild Basin Trailhead is also two miles south from here. An easier and stunning waterfall hike that leads you to Ouzel Falls. Meeker Park Overflow Campground is about thirteen miles south of Estes Park. Giving you the option to visit downtown during the day. While still being able to sleep under the stars at night.

Red Feather Lakes is almost two hours north of Estes Park. A rustic mountain village with extensive hiking trail options. Located in the northern part of the Roosevelt National Forest. If cabins are more your style, this area has plenty of options. Ramona Lake Cabins is one of them. The owners have been renting their cabins since 1930.  All cabins are located three hundred feet from the lake. The lake is private and protected by Red Feather Storage & Irrigation. Resulting in swimming and fishing not being allowed. Propane grills and picnic tables are outside each unit. Every cabin does have a fully stocked kitchen, with a refrigerator, stove, and microwave. Perfect for cooking up a nice meal after a day in the mountains. Mount Margaret Trail is a popular hike here, only five minutes from the cabins. Spend the day strolling down the seven-mile, easily rated hike. Dogs and even horses are allowed on this trail as well.

If you are an outdoor enthusiast then add this National Forest to your list. It is home to ninety-four hiking trails. Leaving backpackers and campers anything but bored. At night, curl up in your sleeping bag under the vast Colorado sky. Do note that there is no camping allowed within a hundred feet of all lakes and streams. Making it important to research your campsite prior to hitting the road. If you love history, nature, and breathtaking views, Roosevelt National Forest is ready to be explored.