Never Summer Wilderness

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: About 20 miles of trails, the 16.2-mile Bowen Gulch Trail being the most popular.

Access Points: Never Summer Wilderness can be accessed from Estes Park or from Grand County. The easiest entry is from Grand Lake. Take US Highway 34 north into Rocky Mountain National Park at the Kawuneeche Valley entrance. From there, follow Trail Ridge Road to the Bowen/Baker Trailhead to get to the most popular path through the Never Summer Wilderness.

Description: Designated in 1980, the Never Summer Wilderness area is located mostly within the Arapahoe National Forest. Situated to the west of Rocky Mountain National Park, the Never Summer Wilderness area, including the Never Summer Mountain Range, provides a beautiful backdrop for the famous mountain vistas from Trail Ridge Road.

The 20,840 acres of Never Summer Wilderness ranges from forested ridges to steep tundra. With altitudes ranging from 8,900 feet in elevation to 12,580 feet in elevation, the Never Summer Mountains supply water to the Colorado River, the North Platte River, and the Cache la Poudre River.

With 17 peaks that reach above 12,000 feet in elevation, the Never Summer Mountains are a sight to behold. And with peak names such as Cirrus, Stratus, Cumulus, and Nimbus, there’s no denying that the peaks are tucked amidst the clouds.  The Never Summer wilderness area got its name from the massive amounts of snow and rain the area regularly experiences, but this weather provides for some diverse wilderness.

The most fascinating wilderness in the area is to the north, where ponds and bogs create rare habitats for creatures including wood frogs, bog bean, pygmy shrews, and even wolves. The area moisture that helps create these habitats also supports exceptionally large and old spruce and fir trees, the largest of which can get up to four feet in diameter, and the oldest of which is estimated at about 600 years old. Visitors can observe these old trees on the 16-mile Bowen Gulch trail, which takes you across the moist gulches and about 5 miles into the oldest growth in the area.

For more information on the Never Summer Wilderness area, call the Sulphur Ranger District in Granby at 970-807-4100.