The Rocky Mountains, one of the most famous mountain ranges in the world, stretch 3,000 miles from Alaska to New Mexico. The Colorado Rocky Mountains has the greatest concentration of high peaks in the lower 48 states, with hundreds of “Thirteeners” and 54 “Fourteeners.” The state is famous for its abundant wilderness adventure possibilities, from skiing to rock climbing to mountaineering. Colorado courses may take place in a number of different mountain ranges that are all challenging, beautiful, and wild. These regions are within the ancestral lands of the Ute, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Sioux, Eastern Shoshone, Jicarilla Apache, and Pueblos Nations.
The Sawatch Range is a large, high section of the Rocky Mountains in central Colorado. This range forms a portion of the Continental Divide and contains 15 peaks with elevations higher that 14,000 feet including Mount Elbert, which is the highest peak in the Rockies at 14,440 feet. Sawatch comes from a Ute word meaning sand dune as some of the peaks have a sandy color after the spring snows melt. These peaks are high enough that snow typically lasts into late July and some years may last year-round.
The continental divide is a one-of-a-kind geographic feature: it separates the water drainages that flow to the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The divide runs from Alaska to Panama. The famous 10th Mountain Division of the US Army used to make its home nearby at Camp Hale. Students may encounter elk, mule deer or even moose. This area is rich with lush alpine lakes and streams, and seemingly infinite rolling ridge line.
The San Juans Mountain Range is the largest range in Colorado by area. These rugged mountains are also home to sheepherders as the high alpine meadows provide ample opportunities for grazing. Lucky students may get to spot shepherds on horseback traveling with their herd.
The Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is located in the rugged Elk Mountains of Colorado. The Elk Mountains rise 9,000 feet above the Roaring Fork Valley. The mountains are known for their red coloring, spectacular wildflowers and for the huge aspen groves that grow along the mountainsides.
In Northern Colorado seated between Rocky Mountain National Park and the Medicine Bow Range, lies the Rawah Wilderness. Glaciated valleys, wildflowers and alpine lakes lie in the foreground while the rugged peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park can be spotted in the background. Rawah is a Ute term meaning “wild place.”
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains are the southernmost subrange of the Rocky Mountains. The name means “blood of Christ” in Spanish and is thought to have come from the reddish hues seen on snowfields when the sun is rising or setting. The Sangres contain several Wilderness areas such as the Green Mountain Wilderness Area. They are also known for some several geologic wonders including the Crestone Needle and Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Situated in the pristine Eagles Nest Wilderness, the Gore Range is dense with seldom traveled mountains. The Gore contains abundant ridges and saddles, making it possible to reach many summits in one day. This makes for spectacular alpine hiking and mountaineering.