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White River National Forest

White River National Forest

A Rocky Mountain gem

white river national forest The Maroon Bells, two famous peaks in the Elk Mountains, White River National Forest.

Eleven world-class ski resorts—including Aspen, Breckenridge and Vail—make this Rocky Mountain gem the most visited National Forest in the United States.  It may surprise you to know that this forest is also the “Birthplace of Wilderness.”

It was here in 1920—while surveying a road—that Forest Service official Arthur Carhart visited Trappers Lake. The area so inspired him that he called on the Forest Service to protect it as wilderness. This was the first designation of its kind in Forest Service history, long before Congress defined wilderness in 1964 as "an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”  Today, Trappers Lake is part of the Flat Tops Wilderness, just one of eight designated wilderness areas in the White River National Forest. 

The Forest is an ideal destination for every season. Spring and summer come with boundless opportunities for fun—camping, hiking, boating, fishing, sailing, whitewater rafting, biking, backpacking, four-wheeling, and more. A fiery change in the Aspen leaves accompany autumn, and winter brings downhill skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. This quintessential winter wonderland is even the home of the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree, which the Capitol’s landscape architect will carefully select to grace the U.S. Capitol lawn this Christmas. 

The Forest is a bit further from Denver than other public lands (requiring a two- to four-hour drive), but  with  opportunities to view wildlife and scenery,  and historic mining towns like Georgetown along the way, it’s no wonder the White River National Forest’s 2.3 million acres are some of the most visited public land in our nation.  

Start planning your trip. Find out more on camping, reservations, passes and other great stuff.

View this Denver Itinerary to learn about many of the federal lands, recreation areas, national parks, and historical and cultural sites in the Denver area.

Read more about these Denver-area spots:

Visit Denver.org and Colorado.com for more information and search Recreation.gov for campgrounds and other nearby sites.