The Colorado Rockies is one of the most famous and iconic sections of the Rocky Mountains. Colorado is home to the greatest concentration of high peaks in the lower 48 states, with hundreds of mountains standing over 13,000 and 14,000 feet tall. The region is characterized by dense pine forests and rocky alpine ecosystems. Students on a COBS expedition will enjoy clear blue glacial lakes, fields of wildflowers, waterfalls, and striking rock formations. Many students will also get the opportunity to attempt to summit a mountain peak. If they are observant, students can spot wildlife like elk, mountain goats, moose, marmots, pikas and eagles. These regions are the ancestral lands of the Ute, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Sioux, Eastern Shoshone, Jicarilla Apache, and
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 than 14,000 feet, including Mount Elbert, the highest peak in the Rockies at 14,440 feet. The word 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. Rain that falls West of the divide in flows into the Pacific Ocean. Rain that falls to the East flows to the Gulf of Mexico. The entire Continental Divide runs from Alaska to Panama. In Colorado, the famous 10th Mountain Division of the US Army used this region as a home base at what is now known as Camp Hale National Monument. Students in this course area may encounter elk, mule deer or even moose. This area has lush alpine lakes, waterfalls, and a seemingly infinite rolling ridge line.
Nestled in the southwestern corner of Colorado, the San Juan Range offers students a chance to explore one of the most rugged and picturesque mountain ranges in the state. This range is renowned for its colorful terrain, high alpine lakes, and a plethora of ridgeline trails. Adventurers can expect challenging trails, as well as the chance to learn about the region's abundant mining history. Lucky students may spot shepherds on horseback traveling with their herd. The range was prospected for minerals in the 1800s and students may hike past historic mining camps that have been long since abandoned.
The Maroon Bells are a group of iconic peaks nestled in the Elk Mountains of Colorado. Aspiring backpackers will be drawn to the Maroon Bells' striking red-hued, pyramid-shaped peaks and the surrounding wilderness. While backpacking in this area, students can access a variety of trails, including Maroon Lake and Crater Lake, providing opportunities for both day hikes and extended backpacking trips amidst some of Colorado's most photographed mountains.
In Northern Colorado seated between Rocky Mountain National Park and the Medicine Bow Range, lies the Rawah Wilderness. The word Rawah is a Ute term meaning “wild place.” 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. Students embarking on adventures here can encounter dense old-growth forests, open meadows, and high-altitude tundra, all within a relatively compact area.
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains are the southernmost subrange of the Rocky Mountains. The region is designated a Dark Sky Range, making is a great destination for spotting shooting stars and the Milky Way. The Sangre de Cristos and the neighboring San Luis Valley are home to a rich cultural history at the intersection of Latinx, Native American and African American heritage. As such the region was designated a National Heritage Area. The Sangres contain several Wilderness areas and are known for several geologic wonders including the Crestone Needle and Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Situated in the pristine Eagles Nest Wilderness, Nuchu Range (also known as the Gore Range) is a paradise for backpacking and wildlife watching. Located in north central Colorado, This range is characterized by its high peaks, dense pine forests, and sparkling alpine lakes. Hikers will be immersed in the tranquility of this remote and lesser-visited region, providing an opportunity to disconnect from the modern world and connect with the beauty of nature. There is currently a local campaign to officially change the region’s name to Nuchu Range, which translates to “Ute Range.” Learn more.