Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado
(One that should be named for the person who helped protect it, but isn’t.) – His co-workers teasingly referred to him as the first “Beauty Engineer” in the U.S. Forest Service. But Arthur H. Carhart was quite serious. Almost 60 years before the passage of the Wilderness Act, he believed wild places should be preserved simply for their scenery. In June 1918, the young Carhart was sent to Trappers Lake in the Flat Top Mountains of Colorado to survey the area for summer homes. Instead, he recommended the area be preserved as “wild land,” an idea that caught the attention of another young forester named Leopold. When the National Wilderness Preservation System was finally created in 1964, one of the first areas preserved was the 235,000-acre Flat Tops Wilderness, where the boundaries take in not only Trappers Lake but a whole lot of beauty.
On the trail: Although Trappers Lake gets all the attention, being one of the birthplaces of the wilderness idea, the Flat Tops has a lot of other great hikes. Try the East Fork Trail, a 14-mile, one-way trip along the East Fork of the Williams Fork River in the northern part of the wilderness area. There are great views from atop the 11,600-foot saddle separating the Williams Fork and Bear River drainages. The several river crossings also make pretty good fishing spots. Every time you stop to enjoy the scenery, thank Arthur Carhart, the “Beauty Engineer.”
Contact: Routt National Forest, Yampa Ranger District, 300 Roselawn, P.O. Box 7, Yampa, CO 80483; (970) 638-4516.
Trail Guide: Hiking Colorado, by Caryn and Peter Boddie. Falcon Press, P.O. Box 1718, Helena, MT 59624; (800) 582-2665; http://www.falconguide.com; $15.95.