Are you using a screen reader? Click here to view the navigation links for this site as a bulleted list.

Partner logos: BLM, FWS, FS, NPS, University of Montana Logo
Connecting federal employees, scientists, educators, and the public with their wilderness heritage
Text size: A | A | A  [Print]

Sangre de Cristo Wilderness

General Location Maps Contacts Area Management Wilderness Laws Trip Planning Images Volunteer

Area Management

The Sangre de Cristo Wilderness is part of the 110 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System. This System of lands provides clean air, water, and habitat critical for rare and endangered plants and animals. In wilderness, you can enjoy challenging recreational activities like hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, stargazing, and extraordinary opportunities for solitude. You play an important role in helping to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness" as called for by the Congress of the United States through the Wilderness Act of 1964. Please follow the requirements outlined below and use Leave No Trace techniques when visiting the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness to ensure protection of this unique area.

Forest Service Information

General Wilderness Prohibitions

Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited on all federal lands designated as wilderness. This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters, unless provided for in specific legislation.

In a few areas some exceptions allowing the use of motorized equipment or mechanical transport are described in the special regulations in effect for a specific area. Contact the Forest Service office or visit the websites listed for more specific information.

These general prohibitions have been implemented for all national forest wildernesses in order to implement the provisions of the Wilderness Act of 1964. The Wilderness Act requires management of human-caused impacts and protection of the area's wilderness character to insure that it is "unimpaired for the future use and enjoyment as wilderness." Use of the equipment listed as prohibited in wilderness is inconsistent with the provision in the Wilderness Act which mandates opportunities for solitude or primitive recreation and that wilderness is a place that is in contrast with areas where people and their works are dominant.

Wilderness-Specific Regulations

Wilderness managers often need to take action to limit the impacts caused by visitor activities in order to protect the natural conditions of wilderness as required by the Wilderness Act of 1964. Managers typically implement 'indirect' types of actions such as information and education measures before selecting more restrictive measures. When regulations are necessary, they are implemented with the specific intent of balancing the need to preserve the character of the wilderness while providing for the use and enjoyment of wilderness.

The following wilderness regulations are in effect for this area. Not all regulations are in effect for every wilderness. Contact the Forest Service office or visit the websites listed for more specific information about the regulations listed.


-- Group size is limited to 25, including pack and saddle stock, with no more than 15 people in any one party.

-- Do not cut switchbacks. Doing so can cause severe erosion.

-- Camping is prohibited within 300 feet of lakes and 100 feet of streams or trails. Obey posted signs prohibiting camping or other activities. Some campsites may be closed to allow the area to recover from overuse.

-- A lightweight camp-stoves are recommended. Campfires should be at least 300 feet from lakes, streams, and trails and built in a manner that minimizes impact. Collect only dead and down wood, that is less than three inches in diameter (if you can't break it by hand, don't use it). Do not build a fire on exposed rock surfaces to prevent scarring. If possible, build fires on a fire blanket or a fire pan.

-- Soap, even biodegradable, pollutes the water. Dispose of wash water at least 300 feet away from any water source.

-- Pack out all garbage. It is NEVER acceptable to bury trash.

-- Bury human waste in a 6 to 8 inch deep hole at least 300 feet away from any open water, trail, or campsite.

-- With increasing visitor use in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness, the Forest Service is considering a self-issuing permit system. Please contact the San Carlos Ranger District (719) 269-8500.


-- All pack or saddle stock feed must be CERTIFIED WEED-FREE hay or pelletized food.

-- Restraining or grazing of pack or saddle stock is not permitted within 300 feet of lakes or 100 feet of streams.

-- Tie a highline between two trees and tether pack or saddle stock to it. Hobbling or loose grazing stock will prevent the "ring" appearance caused when stock are tied to trees.

-- To minimize damage to vegetation and prevent erosion, keep pack or saddle stock in single file on the trail.

Learn more about why regulations may be necessary in wilderness.

National Park Service Information

Some regulations vary between portions of the wilderness administered by the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service. The following regulations apply within that portion of the wilderness located within Great Sand Dunes National Preserve:

Group size limit is 15 people. Groups with livestock may have a combination of up to 25 people and livestock, of which no more than 15 of the group may be people.

Camping is not allowed within 100 feet of streams, 200 feet of trails, or 300 feet of lakes except for campsites that have been posted as open for camping within these areas. Camping is not allowed above timberline.

Campfires are not allowed above timberline but may be kindled in existing fire rings below timberline. Dead wood on the ground that is less than four (4) inches in diameter may be collected for use as fire wood.

Food, garbage, or other items that could attract bears must be stored in a solid, non pliable container or suspended at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet horizontally from a post or tree trunk.

Toilet paper must be carried out of the wilderness area. Human body waste shall either be carried out or buried in at least six inches of soil at least 100 feet from any water source.

Dogs are allowed in the wilderness but must be kept leashed at all times (except when engaged in legitimate hunting activities).

Livestock must be picketed at least 100 feet from streams and 300 feet from lakes. They must be picketed in a manner that prevents damage to trees and pawing around tree trunks, grazing to an extent that plants are eaten to ground level, or causing denuding of vegetation by grazing or trampling.

Livestock must be fed weed-free hay at least 24 hours before entering the wilderness. Only certified weed-free hay, grain, or processed pellets may be packed into the preserve.

Caches of food and equipment are allowed provided the NPS is notified in advance of when and where the cache is to be made. Caches may be set in no sooner than one week in advance of the trip, must be removed within one week after the trip, and must be stored in a wildlife proof manner without digging or altering natural conditions.

Give us your feedback