San Isabel National Forest is located in the central part of Colorado. Nineteen of Colorado's "fourteeners'' are located in San Isabel. Fourteener is a term used in mountaineering that refers to a mountain that rises above 14,000 feet. Mount Elbert is one of the aforementioned and the highest summit in Colorado, reaching over 14,400 feet. San Isabel has a total area of over 1.1 million acres. The Forest Service manages San Isabel National Forest along with Pike National Forest, Cimarron National Grassland, and Comanche National Grassland.
Mountaineers are attracted to San Isabel National Forest mainly by the challenge of climbing the treacherous Mount Elbert. The Climbers have a choice of different paths when ascending the mountain. The Colorado Trail is the most popular, while the Black Cloud Trail is the hardest ascent. The mountainside contains jagged outcroppings and volcanic formations fashioned by molten volcanic emissions ages ago. Regardless of the course taken up the mountainside, climbers are advised that the ordeal of scaling over 14,000 is not for the faint of heart, nor is it and endeavor for couch potato tourists.
The Interlaken Resort, established in 1879, is located near Leadville, Colorado, within the boundaries of the Pike-San Isabel National Forest. The Resort, once a private residence, has not been in use since the 1950's, but is in process of being converted for public use. Volunteers of the National Trust have devoted over 250 hours of service to the venture. The Trust has made available a $5,000 grant for bringing in utilities that will benefit overnight guests.
In addition to mountaineering, the opportunities for other forms of recreation in the San Isabel National Forest are endless. Numerous backpacking ventures can be undertaken on the Continental Divide or Colorado Trails. Either trail will prove to be a test of endurance regardless of the hiker's experience level. Ghost towns in the area of the National Forest are popular destinations of visitors to the region. The mountain valleys afford the fisherman with many opportunities to pursue the elusive trout that call the local streams and rivers home. The rivers are also well-liked by kayakers and rafters who come to the area for some white water fun and adventure. Furthermore, mountain biking and four-wheeling are also trendy undertakings in the forest region.
Visitors will require more than just a day trip to take in everything there is to see in San Isabel. Campers will find accommodations at Mirror Lake Campground. The campground is close to North Fork Chalk Creek. Garfield Campground is another popular camping location in the area.
If there was ever a perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts, San Isabel National Forest would have to rank up there with the best of them. Enjoyable diversions from normal day to day work life are abundant. Planning for a vacation visit will present the planner with a difficult task of deciding which form of outdoor entertainment to undertake first. No matter where the vacation starts in San Isabel National Forest, visitors are almost assured of having the time of their lives during their visit and will want to make a return trip in the near future.