Camping at James Peak in Colorado
“Peak-bagging” where you summit a number of mountains over the course of a summer, several years or a lifetime is a popular pastime in Colorado, where more than 50 peaks rise above 14,000 feet in elevation, and nearly 600 more top 13,000 feet.
One of the more moderate 13ers at 13,260 feet, James Peak rises from a wilderness by the same name, giving visitors not only peak-bagging opportunities on its slopes but trails leading to three other nearby peaks, and lakes, streams and other points of interest. You can pitch a tent in the James Peak Wilderness to extend your journey by as much as 14 days.
Points of Interest
In addition to James Peak, overnight camping in the James Peak Wilderness could include a hike to three other 13ers within 2.6 miles. Mount Bancroft, Parry Peak and Mount Eva lie clustered to the south at distances as close as 1.15 miles away.
James Peak Lake is another favorite destination in the wilderness; you’ll descend 500 feet in elevation from the James Peak Lake Trailhead over the course of a half-mile. Little Echo Lake, the Continental Divide and Roger’s Pass are some other scenic destinations you might choose to visit. Little Echo Lake is on private property, so remain on the trail and make sure you are setting up camp on public land.
The rugged road leading to the James Peak Wilderness is not plowed during winter, and requires a high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle to access during warmer months, usually May through early October. The rough, bumpy journey to get to the wilderness and the availability of more readily accessible mountain areas in Colorado keeps usage low in the James Peak area, making it a great place to get away from it all.
Light usage also means no backcountry permits are required for overnight camping, providing you pitch your tent a minimum of 100 feet away from water sources or trails and use low-impact camping techniques. No mechanized vehicles are allowed in the wilderness, so leave your bike at home.
Camping With Animals
Horses and other pack stock can join you in the wilderness, although pulling a trailer down the bumpy road can be a challenge. Your group can consist of up to 12 heartbeats total, including pack animals and livestock. Bring certified weed-free hay, pelletized food or steam-rolled grain to feed your stock.
When making camp, be sure not to picket, tie or hobble your stock within 100 feet of streams, lakes or trails. If you bring dogs, they must be on a handheld leash at all times.
When camping in the James Peak Wilderness, you will need to bring a backpack stove because campfires are not allowed. A water purification kit will help you use the water found in the area’s streams and lakes, saving precious pounds from your pack.
Bring a bear-resistant food storage container large enough to contain food, scented items and garbage, and maintain a clean camp. If small-framed adults, kids or dogs are in your group, keep them close to the group to prevent drawing the attention of a hungry mountain lion.
Avoid altitude sickness by hydrating your body for several days in advance before your arrival at James Peak. Spend a day or two at camp to allow your body to acclimate before attempting a rigorous hike in the wilderness.