Mount Zirkel Wilderness

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Mount Zirkel Wilderness
IUCN category Ib (wilderness area)
Lake of the Crags.JPG
Lake of the Crags in Mt. Zirkel Wilderness
Map showing the location of Mount Zirkel Wilderness
Map showing the location of Mount Zirkel Wilderness
LocationJackson / Routt counties, Colorado, USA
Nearest citySteamboat Springs, CO
Coordinates40°44′53″N 106°41′42″W / 40.74806°N 106.69500°W / 40.74806; -106.69500Coordinates: 40°44′53″N 106°41′42″W / 40.74806°N 106.69500°W / 40.74806; -106.69500[1]
Area159,935 acres (647.23 km2)
EstablishedJanuary 1, 1980
Governing bodyU.S. Forest Service

The Mount Zirkel Wilderness is a U.S. Wilderness Area located in Routt National Forest in northwest Colorado. The closest city is Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The wilderness is named after Mount Zirkel, the highest peak in the range at 12,182 feet (3,713 m), which itself is named after German geologist Ferdinand Zirkel.[2][3][4]

Some areas within the wilderness display bedrock composed of metamorphic schists with large garnet crystals.[5]


Most of the wilderness is blanketed in dense spruce-fir forests, although it also contains alpine tundra, montane forest, meadow, and riparian habitats.

The southern portion of the wilderness is largely made up of a unique habitat called ribbon forest, formed when large amounts of snow and wind keep tree growth restricted to north-south bands of trees, mostly about twenty feet across. The Buffalo Pass and Mad Creek regions receive more snowfall than anywhere else in Colorado. The central portion contains the wilderness's highest peaks and encompasses alpine tundra. North of this, the lower elevations of the Encampment River headwaters are covered in dense lodgepole pine and spruce-fir forest, which was partially burned in the Beaver Creek Fire of summer 2016.


  1. ^ "Mount Zirkel Wilderness". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  2. ^ "Mount Zirkel Wilderness". Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  3. ^ "Mount Zirkel Wilderness". U.S. Forest Service. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  4. ^ "Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area". Colorado Wilderness. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  5. ^ Pearson, Mark; Fielder, John (September 1, 2002). The Complete Guide to Colorado's Wilderness Areas (2nd ed.). John Fielder Publishing. ISBN 9781565795167.