Updated: Jul 30
While lesser known than the San Juan Mountains to the south, the Flat Tops certainly aren't lacking in impressiveness or grandeur. The area gets its name from a series of table-top mountains that dominate the region. These unique geological formations were created by ancient volcanic activity and erosion over millions of years.
Trip Length & Season
Adventure Rating: Epic Trip Length: 4-8 days, 298 miles miles (95% dirt) Season: Recommended mid-June to October. Given the elevation of this route, always check the weather and snow levels in advance. This track may be accessible earlier/later in the season depending on snow.
Technical Ratings & Terrain
Avg Technical Rating: 2
Peak Technical Rating: 4
Typical Terrain: The majority of the track is manicured graded dirt roads until you hit Blair Mountain. The Blair Mountain section is the one section where we recommend a stock 4x4 vehicle given the rocks, off camber, and steep sections.
Recommended Vehicle / Moto / Adventure Vans
Recommended Vehicle: Stock 4x4.
Recommended Moto: A big adventure bike can handle the trail up to Blair Mountain. Take Country Road 217 to avoid Blair Mountain. Mid-weight bikes should be able to manage the entire trail, but expect a lot of rocks and off camber trails around Blair Mountain.
Adventure Vans: Sprinter 4x4s can handle the trail up to Blair Mountain. Take Country Road 217 to avoid Blair Mountain.
Fuel, Provisions, and Recommended Gear
Fuel: Plan to travel 125 miles from Yampa to Meeker (20 miles off the main track), and then another 115 miles from Meeker to Gypsum. Plan to travel approximately 220 miles from Yampa to Gypsum, if you skip fueling up in Meeker. Provisions: Provisions can be obtained in the same general vicinity as fuel. Gear: no specialized gear is recommended for this adventure.
CR-217 Distance: 31 miles Technical Rating: 1-2 This road is an escape route for Sprinters, AWD vehicles, and big ADV bikes to avoid the rocky, and off camber sections of Blair Mountain.
Grizzly Jeep Trail Distance: 6 miles Technical Rating: 4-5 For those looking to spice things up a bit, consider the Grizzly Jeep Trail. Stock 4x4s should be able to manage the go arounds, while those with an extra lift may wish to take on some of the harder options rated as a 5.
Crescent Lake Distance: 23 miles round trip Technical Rating: 6+ This trail gets harder and harder the closer you get to Crescent Lake, but if you can make it, it's worth it! We only recommend that dual sport bikes and high clearance 4x4s with armor try to attempt this track.
The Flat Tops are an absolutely amazing place for dispersed camping. We've added a number of pins for disersed camping areas and specific campsites. Some of our favorite places to camp include:
Sleepy Cat Peak (great for solitude)
Adams Lake (maybe our favorite place to camp)
Fawn Creek Camp
Trappers Lake (reservations required)
Crescent Lake (high clearance 4x4 recommended)
DP1 - Sheriff Reservoir
DP2 - Dunkley Pass
DP3 - Dunkley Flat Tops
DP4 - East Fork Williams Fork
DP5 - Ripple Creek Pass
DP6 - Ripple Creek Overlook
DP7 - Trappers Lake
DP8 - Chinese Wall
DP9 - North Fork White River
DP10 - Sleepy Cat Peak
DP11 - Burro Mountain
DP12 - Blair Mountain
DP13 - Adams Lake
DP14 - Heart Lake
DP15 - South Fork Meadows
DP16 - Coffee Pot Road
DP17 - Deep Creek Overlook
DP18 - Colorado River
DP19 - Sheep Mountain
DP20 - Derby Meadows Loop
DP21 - Crescent Lake
DP22- Finger Rock
DP23 - Flat Tops Viewpoint
DP24 - Flat Top Mountain
Land Managers & Other Resources
Permits & Papers
While lesser known than the San Juan Mountains to the south, the Flat Tops certainly aren't lacking in impressiveness or grandeur. The area gets its name from a series of table-top mountains that dominate the region. These unique geological formations were created by ancient volcanic activity and erosion over millions of years. Around 65 million years ago, a series of volcanic eruptions occurred in the region. These eruptions created massive lava flows that covered much of the area, including the sedimentary rock layers. As the lava cooled and solidified, it formed a layer of basalt, which now makes up the flat-topped mountains that give the wilderness area its name.
Over time, erosion wore away at the softer sedimentary rock layers, leaving behind the hard basalt layer that now forms the Flat Tops. The tops of these mountains are characterized by broad, flat plateaus that are hundreds of feet thick, and are often covered in grasses and alpine meadows.
Glaciers also played a role in shaping the landscape of the Flat Tops. During the last ice age, which ended around 10,000 years ago, glaciers covered much of the area. As these glaciers moved, they carved out valleys and cirques, leaving behind U-shaped valleys and high-altitude lakes that are now popular hiking and fishing destinations.
The route forms a near-perfect loop that can be driven in either direction. For the sake of this guide, we'll start in Oak Creek and travel in a clockwise direction. Oak Creek is a quaint village with just under 1,000 people in the Yampa Valley, that was originally established as a coal mining town in the early 1900s. The first several miles of the route begin on well manicured county gravel roads until reaching your first discovery point, the scenic and popular Sheriff Reservoir (DP1). When you're a couple miles north of the lake, be on the lookout for Sand Point, which is a the north tip of one of massive flat top mountain. If you're up for a bit of exploring on foot, consider taking the trail up to Sand Lake.
Retrace your tracks until you're back on the main track and follow the gravel road up and over Dunkley Pass (DP2). To your right sits the Dunkley Flat Tops (DP3), which rise to over 10,085 feet in elevation. Not long after summiting Ripple Creek pass (DP5), get ready to make the turn Trapper Lake. Trapper Lake (DP7) is exemplary of the Flat Tops stunning beauty. Surrounded on three sides by massive Flat Top mountains, the lake also serves as the gateway to several foot trails within the Flat Tops Wilderness. Trapper Lake is one of the most popular locations within the Flat Tops. If you'd like to stay at the lake , we recommend making reservations ahead of time with one of the many campgrounds managed by White River National Forest. By now you've become accustomed to the graded dirt and gravel roads that most two wheel drive sedans can easily manage, but that's about to change! FR290 is narrow, bumpy, and rutted any many places, but a stock 4x4 should be able to manage the trail quite easily. If you're looking for some camping, check out the spur road to the north with a dispersed camping pin in the GPX file. Follow the track back down to the White River where the pavement awaits. From the pavement jump onto the gravel of New Castle-Buford Road, which climbs up Burro Mountain. The track up Burro Mountain is a bumpy two track. Being a flat top, there are numerous opportunities to camp, and the wide opens meadows provide fantastic views of the surrounding mountains. As you make your way back down the mountain, the last stretch of manicured trail is ahead of you. Turning off of New Castle-Bedford Road, the trail senses your 4-wheel drive vehicle hasn't really been tested thus far. While many sections of the road can still be easily managed by a 2-wheel drive vehicle, there are numerous sections that are rutted, rocky, steep and off camber as you make your way up and over Blair Mountain. This is by far the most technical section of the main track (outside of the alternative routes). Big ADV bikes and Sprinters are recommended to exit via CR-217 to avoid the Blair Mountain section. Just south of Blair Mountain (DP12) sits perhaps the best camping location in all of the Flat Tops-- which is definitely up for debate, because there are literally hundreds of dispersed campsites that will blow your mind with the awe inspiring scenery. The area around Heart Lake is definitely one of the more popular areas for dispersed camping within the Flat Tops, but if you head up towards the South Fork Meadows (DP15), you'll get away from the most of the crowds, and of course you can expect wide open views of the Rocky Mountains.
Upon reaching Coffee Pot Road (DP16), things definitely tame down a bit. As make make your way down the mountain, be sure to check out the Deep Creek Trail Overlook (DP17). At the bottom of the mountain you'll find the Colorado River (DP18)-- it's crazy to think this thing keeps going up into the mountains, and snakes its way all the way down to the Gulf of California. Once you reach the Colorado, the main track follows a series of primarily dirty county roads except for the Derby Meadows Loop, which is still a well manicured dirt road. For those with substantially built out 4x4s, we definitely recommend taking the alternative track up to Crescent Lake. After Crescent Lake, the route makes one final out-and-back trip to the scenic Stillwater Reservoir area, and concludes in the historic mountain town of Yampa.
Maps + Navigation
Download Digital Mapping Files