San Isabel National Forest

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The Czech graphic artist Vladimir Kokolia says that the way he gets to know an object is by painting it. The way to get to know the San Isabel national forest is by hiking it. The vastness of the forest's one million acres is too much to contemplate at once. Its contour lines must be explored individually, each trail hiked to reveal yet another perspective. There are nearly 800 miles of trails for the hiking artist to explore. Some meander through thick stands of spruce-fir and aspen. Others snake their way above timberline through an otherworldly landscape of boulder fields near the summits of the forest's nineteen 14ers. Expect to see bighorn sheep clambering around Trinchera Peak (13,487 feet). If you hike the volcanic Spanish Peaks, you'll come across unusual geologic teeth-like protrusions in the surface of the earth such as batholites, stock, and dikes.

No doubt Colorado's highest peak, Mt. Elbert at 14,333 feet (4,491 meters for Canadians), will tempt you. If you must climb it, we recommend the alternative Black Cloud Trail—the ten-mile round-trip sees far fewer hiking boots than the heavily overused North and South Mount Elbert Trails. A section of the Colorado Trail meanders through the San Isabel as it covers the 469-mile distance between Durango and Denver. The Continental Divide Trail also traverses the forest, spanning the 3,100 miles between Mexico and Canada.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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