The United States Congress designated the La Garita Wilderness (map
) in 1964 and it now has a total of 126,487 acres
All of this wilderness is located in Colorado
and is managed by the Forest Service.
La Garita means "the lookout" in Spanish, and this Wilderness amply deserves the name. From the summit of this Wilderness's single fourteener (14,014-foot San Luis Peak), climbers can gaze across the upper Rio Grande Valley and down the long stretch of the San Luis Valley. About 35 miles of the Continental Divide lie well above a sprawling forestland that provides ideal habitats for huge numbers of elk and mule deer, though the animals may winter on the northern slopes when hard winds scour off the snow cover. On the southern slopes in Wason Park and Silver Park, added in 1993, you'll find a surprising ancient forest of towering spruce and fir. This is a land of rushing streams, broad and gentle alpine meadows, fascinating beaver ponds, long talus slopes, and tremendous mountain beauty. The Wheeler Geologic Area hides in the southeast corner of the Wilderness. It once claimed to be Colorado's most visited site and is probably the state's most unusual geological formation: fine, light-gray volcanic ash compressed into rock and wildly eroded into a striking series of domes, spires, caves, ledges, pinnacles, ravines, and balanced rocks. The bumpy old road leading to the edge of Wheeler was left out of Wilderness designation, allowing motorized access deep into the area. Many trailheads open onto approximately 175 miles of pathways, almost all especially well suited for horsepacking. About 27 miles of the Colorado Trail and Continental Divide National Scenic Trail follow the divide through La Garita Wilderness.