Designated Wilderness, Forest Service, BLM

Mule Deer, Aspen Forest In 1924, the U.S. Forest Service set aside part of the Gila National Forest in New Mexico as the nation's first wilderness area. Since that time, the continuing spread of human impact has led Congress to designate millions of acres across the country as wilderness. Technically, "wilderness" is defined by the National Wilderness Preservation Act of 1964 as an area of undeveloped federally owned land, designated by Congress, that has the following characteristics:

  • It is affected primarily by the forces of nature, where man is a visitor who does not remain. It may contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.
  • It possesses outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation.
  • It is an area large enough so that continued use will not change its unspoiled, natural condition.

In practical terms, wilderness is simply land managed in a way that allows for long-term continuation of natural ecosystems, and the preservation of places that are scientifically, geologically, or historically unique.

Aspen Trees On the simplest level, wilderness is land intended to provide opportunities for public use, enjoyment, and understanding. Although motor vehicles (and mountain bikes) are not allowed in wilderness areas except under special circumstances, wilderness is widely used for hunting, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, backpacking, and camping. Mining is conducted on pre-existing claims. Grazing continues where it is already established.

In Utah, the U.S. Forest Service administers 774,520 acres of wilderness across the state, in the following 13 blocks:

  • High Uintas Wilderness/Northeastern Utah/ 456,705 acres
  • Mt. Naomi Wilderness/Northern Utah/44,350 acres
  • Wellsville Mountains Wilderness/ Northern Utah/23,850 acres
  • Mt Olympus Wilderness/Northern Utah/16,000 acres
  • Twin Peaks Wilderness/Northern Utah/11,463 acres
  • Lone Peak Wilderness/Northern Utah/30,088 acres
  • Timpanogos Wilderness/Northern Utah/10,750 acres
  • Mt. Nebo Wilderness/Central Utah/28,000 acres
  • Deseret Peak Wilderness/Western Utah/25,500 acres
  • Dark Canyon Wilderness/Southeastern Utah/45,000 acres
  • Ashdown Gorge Wilderness/Southwestern Utah/7,000 acres
  • Box-Death Hollow Wilderness/Southcentral Utah/25,814 acres
  • Pine Valley Mountains Wilderness/Southwestern Utah/50,000 acres.

The Bureau of Land Management administers two wilderness areas in Utah:

  • Paria Canyon Wilderness/Southcentral Utah/20,000 acres
  • Beaver Dam Mountains Wilderness/Southwestern Utah/2,600 acres.

The BLM also administers 95 blocks, totaling 3,258,250 acres, of public land which are currently being considered for wilderness designation. These Wilderness Study Areas also provide for excellent remote and backcountry adventures.

Wilderness areas provide the setting for many of Utah's most unusual guided adventures. See the Guides/Tour Operators section for suggestions.

For more information on how you can enjoy Utah's wilderness areas, and on "Leave No Trace" camping and hiking techniques, contact the U.S. Forest Service, Intermountain Region Office, 324 25th St., Ogden, UT 84401, (801)-625-5306, and the Bureau of Land Management, Utah State Office, P.O. Box 45155, 324 S. State St. Suite 301, Salt Lake City 84145-0155.

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