1,170 acres (1.8 square miles)
This small area extends the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area down to the Piney River, the primary drainage from the high Gore Range into the Colorado River. The areas are forested mostly with lodgepole pine, although Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, and aspen may be found as well. Freeman Creek features some large wet meadows. Freeman Creek itself is around 9,000 ft. in elevation.
What’s special about it
Ecology: This landscape provides summer range for elk and mule deer, and moose are known to frequent in the wet meadows around Freeman Creek. The proposed Freeman Creek Addition also contains a well-preserved lower-montane willow carr (a unique wet shrub community). The area is an underrepresented ecosystem in existing protected areas.
Recreation: There is an opportunity to experience self-reliance and adventure in this remarkable area which retains an outstanding natural character.
Logging: This area is under USFS management for wood fiber production, as demonstrated by the clear-cut areas on the southern boundaries of the unit. Further harvesting in the area would have to occur very close to the wilderness boundary. Pine bark beetles are killing most mature lodgepole in the region and there is likely to be pressure to salvage the beetle killed trees. Salvage logging here would have significant negative ecological impacts while providing dubious wildfire risk reduction for communities.
Division of Wildlife habitat qualities, species of significance
Freeman Creek has areas of rolling valleys, to very steep slopes and high ridges containing spruce fir, aspen, lodgepole pine, and grassland meadows. The area supports abundant wildlife: elk, deer, black bear, mountain lion, moose, Colorado River Cutthroat trout, blue grouse, pine martin, snowshoe hare and lynx. Moose colonized this area on their own and use it as overall habitat. Winter use of the area is limited to pine martin, blue grouse, snowshoe hare, moose, Colorado River Cutthroat trout and lynx because of high elevation. In the summer, the area provides both high quality habitat for elk and deer; summer range, production areas and migration corridors. The area does contain potential lynx habitat. The area is significant for its lack of roads which provides excellent solitude and abundant wildlife. The USFS management prescriptions for the area are 1.2 recommended wilderness and 1.31 backcountry recreation non-motorized.
The boundaries for this proposal have been adjusted to accommodate convenient use of adjacent private land and to provide for an important local bicycle trail.
The proposed Elliot Ridge Wilderness Area is one of 12 Roadless Areas that are contiguous with the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area, which together forms a roadless complex of over 168,000 acres (262 square miles).
How to get there
The proposed Freeman Creek Addition to the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area is about 5 miles north of Vail. Approach the area from Vail via Red Sandstone Road (FS 700).
- Take Red Sandstone Road (FS 700) to Piney Crossing Campground, a couple of miles from Piney Lake. You will pass about a dozen dispersed campsites on your left along the way. From the campground, hike down the Piney River Trail (1890), or take the closed FS 410 to East Meadow Creek. Both of these trails enter the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area.
- The USGS 7 1⁄2' quad for the proposed Freeman Creek Wilderness Area is Vail West.