Congress has dragged its feet in granting federal wilderness status to the James Peak Roadless Area, but if the 435 members could be force-marched in their Gucci loafers to the windswept crags of 13,294-foot James Peak, a unanimous “yes” vote would be assured. This chunk of high-country magnificence is the real deal. Clear days atop any of James Peak’s five 13,000-footers or scores of lesser summits reveal eye-popping views.
South Boulder Creek Trail provides the best access to the James Peak Area. Side trails lead to exquisitely beautiful Crater, Clayton, and Iceberg Lakes. Heart and Rogers Pass Lakes lie 4 miles in; they’re great basecamps for climbs to Rogers Pass, the Continental Divide Trail, and the James Peak summit.
Where: 52 miles west of Denver. The East Portal trailhead is 8 miles west of Rollinsville on Rollins Pass Road near the Moffat Railroad Tunnel.
Maps:Winter Park/Central City/Rollins Pass, #103 ($9.95, Trails Illustrated, 800-962-1643).
Trail Info: Arapaho/Roosevelt National Forests, Boulder District, (303) 444-6600.