Front Range: Wikis


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Front Range
Mountain Range
Grays Peak on left with Torreys Peak on right
Country United States
State Colorado
Part of Rocky Mountains
Highest point Grays Peak
 - elevation 14,278 ft (4,352 m)
 - coordinates 39°38′02″N 105°49′01″W / 39.63389°N 105.81694°W / 39.63389; -105.81694
The Front Range is shown highlighted on a map of the western United States
Pikes Peak stands beyond the valley

The Front Range is a mountain range of the Rocky Mountains of North America that is located in the north-central portion of the U.S. State of Colorado. The Front Range is so named because, moving west along the 40th parallel north across the Great Plains of North America, it is the first mountain range encountered.

The name "Front Range" is also applied to the Front Range Urban Corridor, the populated region of Colorado and Wyoming just north of the mountain range and extending from Pueblo, Colorado, north to Cheyenne, Wyoming. This urban corridor is made possible by the weather-moderating effect of the Front Range mountains, which help block prevailing storms.

This setting provides both scenery as the Front Range towers over Denver and Boulder and is an outdoors hotspot for the people living there who take part in mountain biking, hiking, climbing, camping, skiing, and snowboarding during winter. However, millions of years ago the present-day Front Range was home to ancient mountain ranges, deserts, beaches, and even oceans.[1] The evidence for these vastly different landscapes lies in the very rocks the people of Colorado live on. Clues from these rocks have given geologists the necessary tools in unlocking the Front Range’s past.




Pike’s Peak Granite

About 1 billion years ago, the earth was producing mass amounts of molten rock that would one day amalgamate, drift together and combine, to ultimately form the continents we live on today. In the Colorado region, this molten rock spewed and cooled, forming what we now know as the Precambrian Pike’s Peak Granite. Over the next 500 million years, little is known about changes in the sedimentation (sediment deposition) after the granite was produced. However, at about 500 – 300 million years ago, the region began to sink and sediments began to deposit in the newly formed accommodation space. Eroded granite produced sand particles that began to form strata, layers of sediment, in the sinking basin. Sedimentation would continue to take place until about 300 million years ago.[1]

Fountain formation

Around 300 million years ago, the sinking suddenly reversed, and the sediment-covered granite began to uplift, giving rise to the Ancestral Rocky Mountains. Over the next 150 million years, during uplift the mountains would continue to erode and cover themselves in their own sediment. Wind, gravity, rainwater, snow, and ice-melt supplied rivers that ultimately carved through the granite mountains and eventually led to their end. The sediment from these once gigantic mountains lies in the Fountain Formation today. Red Rocks Amphitheater outside of Denver, Colorado, is actually set into the Fountain Formation.[1]

Lyons Sandstone

At 280 million years ago, sea levels were low and present-day Colorado was part of the super-continent Pangaea. Sand deserts covered most of the area spreading as dunes seen in the rock record, known today as the Lyons Sandstone. These dunes appear to be cross-bedded and show various fossil footprints and leaf imprints in many of the strata making up the section.[1]

Lykins Formation

30 million years later, the sediment deposition was still taking place with the introduction of the Lykins Formation. This formation can be best attributed to its wavy layers of muddy limestone and signs of stromatolites that thrived in a smelly tidal flat at present-day Colorado. 250 million years ago, the Ancestral Rockies were burying themselves while the shoreline was present during the break-up of Pangaea. This formation began right after Earth’s largest extinction 251 million years ago at the Permian-Triassic Boundary. Ninety percent of the planet’s marine life was destroyed and a great deal on land as well.[1]

Morrison Formation

After 100 years of deposition, a new environment brought rise to a new formation, the sandstone Morrison Formation. The Morrison Formation contains some of the best fossils of the Late Jurassic. It is especially known for its sauropod tracks and sauropod bones among other dinosaur fossils. As identified by the fossil record, the environment was filled with various types of vegetation such as ferns and zamites.[1] While this time period boasts many types of plants, grass had not yet evolved. [1]

Dakota Sandstone

The Dakota Sandstone, which was deposited 100 million years ago towards Colorado’s eastern coast, shows evidence of ferns, and dinosaur tracks. Sheets of ripple marks can be seen on some of the strata, confirming the shallow-sea environment.[1]

Pierre Shale

Over the next 30 million years, the region was finally taken over the by a deep sea, the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway, and deposited mass amounts of shale over the area known as the Pierre Shale. Both the thick section of shale and the marine life fossils found (ammonites and skeletons of fish and such marine reptiles as mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, and extinct species of sea turtles, along with rare dinosaur and bird remains). Colorado eventually drained from being at the bottom of an ocean to land again, giving yield to another fossiliferous rock layer, the Denver Formation. At about 68 million years ago, the Front Range began to rise again due to the Laramide Orogeny in the west.[1]

Denver Formation

The Denver Formation contained fossils and bones from dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops. While the forests of vegetation, dinosaurs, and other organisms thrived, their reign would come to an end at the K-T Boundary. In an instant, millions of species are obliterated from a meteor impact in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. While this extinction lead to the dinosaurs’ and other organisms’ demise, some life did prevail to repopulate the earth as it recovered from this tremendous disaster. The uplifted Front Range continued to constantly erode and, by 40 million years ago, the range was once again buried in its own rubble.[1]

Castle Rock Conglomerate

Suddenly, 37 million years ago, a great volcanic eruption took place in the Collegiate Range and covered the landscape in molten hot ash that instantly torched and consumed everything across the landscape. An entire lush environment was capped in a matter of minutes with 20 feet of extremely resistant rock, rhyolite. However, as seen before, life rebounds, and after a few million years mass floods cut through the rhyolite and eroded much of it as plants and animals began to recolonize the landscape. The mass flooding and erosion of the volcanic rock gave way to the Castle Rock Conglomerate that can be found in the Front Range.[1]

Quaternary deposits

Eventually, at about 10 million years ago, the Front Range began to rise up again and the resistant granite in the heart of the mountains thrust upwards and stood tall, while the weaker sediments deposited above it eroded away. As the Front Range rose, streams and recent (16,000 years ago) glaciations during the Quaternary age literally unburied the range by cutting through the weaker sediment and giving rise to the granitic peaks present today.[1] This was the last step in forming the present-day geologic sequence and history of today’s Front Range. [1]

Prominent peaks

The Front Range includes the highest peaks along the eastern edge of the Rockies. The highest mountain peak in the Front Range is Grays Peak. Other notable mountains include Torreys Peak, Mount Evans, Longs Peak, Pikes Peak, and Mount Bierstadt.

The 20 Mountain Peaks of the Front Range With At Least 500 Meters of Topographic Prominence
Rank Mountain Peak Subrange Elevation Prominence Isolation
1 Grays Peak[2] NGS Front Range !B9916216092114 4352 m
14,278 feet
!B9932614968559 844 m
2,770 feet
!B9893966379461 40 km
25 miles
2 Mount Evans NGS Front Range !B9916225287517 4348 m
14,265 feet
!B9932618581689 844 m
2,769 feet
!B9903347696365 16 km
10 miles
3 Longs Peak NGS Front Range !B9916229888391 4346 m
14,259 feet
!B9932019345948 896 m
2,940 feet
!B9888410388702 70 km
44 miles
4 Pikes Peak NGS Pikes Peak Massif !B9916330926332 4302 m
14,115 feet
!B9925701563606 1686 m
5,530 feet
!B9885091156659 98 km
61 miles
5 Mount Silverheels NGS PB Front Range !B9916535951295 4215 m
13,829 feet
!B9934548543834 696 m
2,283 feet
!B9909152228509 8.8 km
5.5 miles
6 Bald Mountain[3] PB Front Range !B9916636562494 4173 m
13,690 feet
!B9935388834479 640 m
2,099 feet
!B9905998660563 12 km
8 miles
7 Bard Peak[3] PB Front Range !B9916668536928 4159 m
13,647 feet
!B9937491274770 518 m
1,701 feet
!B9909243345313 8.7 km
5.4 miles
8 Hagues Peak NGS PB Mummy Range !B9916722738335 4137 m
13,573 feet
!B9933965766360 738 m
2,420 feet
!B9898488714245 26 km
16 miles
9 North Arapaho Peak[3] PB Indian Peaks PB !B9916770782011 4117 m
13,508 feet
!B9937705190527 507 m
1,665 feet
!B9898822078448 25 km
15 miles
10 Parry Peak[3] Front Range !B9916853294400 4083 m
13,397 feet
!B9937316445209 528 m
1,731 feet
!B9903696343685 15 km
9 miles
11 Mount Richthofen[3] PB Front Range !B9917196006019 3946 m
12,945 feet
!B9932945273816 817 m
2,680 feet
!B9903488273760 16 km
10 miles
12 Specimen Mountain[3] PB Front Range !B9917550720665 3808 m
12,494 feet
!B9937316445209 528 m
1,731 feet
!B9910355601664 7.8 km
4.9 miles
13 Bison Peak NGS PB Tarryall Mountains PB !B9917600370258 3789 m
12,432 feet
!B9933838478039 747 m
2,451 feet
!B9896647300310 31 km
19 miles
14 Waugh Mountain[3] PB South Park Hills PB !B9918194242557 3571 m
11,716 feet
!B9934344759086 710 m
2,330 feet
!B9896196573432 32 km
20 miles
15 Black Mountain NGS PB South Park Hills PB !B9918251562823 3551 m
11,649 feet
!B9934765507692 681 m
2,234 feet
!B9905334682226 13 km
8 miles
16 Williams Peak NGS PB South Williams Fork Mountains PB !B9918276096485 3542 m
11,620 feet
!B9935629926271 625 m
2,049 feet
!B9902375001407 17 km
11 miles
17 Puma Peak[3] PB South Park Hills PB !B9918314996940 3528 m
11,575 feet
!B9934649793629 689 m
2,260 feet
!B9906098412014 12 km
7 miles
18 Thirtynine Mile Mountain[3] PB South Park Hills PB !B9918333821075 3521 m
11,553 feet
!B9935441381346 636 m
2,088 feet
!B9902543365326 17 km
11 miles
19 Twin Sisters Peaks[3] PB Front Range !B9918438794080 3485 m
11,433 feet
!B9934353352100 710 m
2,328 feet
!B9911449070199 7.0 km
4.4 miles
20 Green Mountain NGS PB Kenosha Mountains PB !B9919358982583 3178 m
10,427 feet
!B9936603058204 567 m
1,859 feet
!B9911871565664 6.7 km
4.2 miles
The Front Range as viewed from Tower Road east of Denver, Mount Evans is shown in the center
The Front Range as viewed from Greenwood Village south of Denver, Mount Evans is on the far right

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Johnson, Kirk R. et al. (2006). Ancient Denvers. Fulcrum Publishing. ISBN 978-1555915544. 
  2. ^ The summit of Grays Peak is the highest point on the Continental Divide of North America.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j The elevation of this summit has been converted from the National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929 (NGVD 29) to the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD 88). National Geodetic Survey

Further reading

  • Fishman, N.S. et al. (2005). Principal areas of oil, natural gas, and coal production in the northern part of the Front Range, Colorado [Geologic Investigations Series I-2750-B]. Reston, VA: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Sprague, L.A., R.E. Zuellig, and J.A. Dupree. (2006). Effects of urban development on stream ecosystems along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado and Wyoming [USGS Fact Sheet 2006-3083]. Reston, VA: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

The Flatirons, a symbol of Boulder
The Flatirons, a symbol of Boulder

The Front Range is a region in the US state of Colorado. It includes the range of the Rocky Mountains that gives it its name, as well as the Eastern Slope with communities in the eastern foothills of the mountains.


Roughly speaking, this region is bounded on the:

  • South, by the metropolitan Denver Area, Gilpin County and the northern half of Clear Creek County, bisected by east-west running Interstate 70 near Georgetown.
  • West, by the Continental Divide, an imaginary line that marks the flow of precipitation. Rain falling on the west of the Divide makes its way to the Pacific Ocean. Rain on the east makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
  • North, by the Wyoming State line.
  • East, by the eastern boundary of Weld County and the beginning of Colorado's Eastern Plains.

Region boundaries in Colorado are indistinct, and sometimes contentious. If you're looking for a destination/attraction that you think should be in this region, but can't find it, check the pages for Northwestern Colorado, Eastern Plains, Denver Area, and even South Central Colorado and Southwestern Colorado.


For a quick list of all Colorado's ski resorts, take a look at Skiing in Colorado.

Ground Squirrel in Rocky Mountain National Park
Ground Squirrel in Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Arapahoe Roosevelt National Forest
  • Chautauqua Park [1] - Home of one of the few remaining Chautauqua lecture halls (a National Historic Landmark), this recreation area abuts the jutting red sandstone crags of the Flatirons, a symbol of Boulder.
  • Eldora Ski Area
  • Grandby
  • Hohnholz Lakes State Wildlife Area
  • Murphy State Wildlife Area
  • Owl Mountain State Wildlife Area
  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Routt National Forest


This region takes its name from possibly the best-known sub-range of the Rocky Mountains in the United States, so called because it was the first range encountered by historic settlers as they moved in from the east. However, the region also contains other mountains. In Colorado, the Rockies consist mainly of two broadly parallel ridge lines running diagonally across the state, with high mountain parks (valleys) between them, and it's convenient to treat both the mountains of the Front Range and also the Gore and Park Ranges (two of the "rear" ranges paralleling the Front Range) as part of the region, along with the intervening parks and a few cities in the foothills that some other sources call the Eastern Slope.

The mountains in this area, with a few exceptions, are generally not as high as the southern extension of the Rockies or the geologically distinct San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado. However, they're still high enough to get serious winter weather, and winter sports are important here, with several world-famous ski resorts as well as Rocky Mountain National Park. East-west routes through the mountains are relatively few and far between, and generally go over high, rugged passes that may close for a while in the winter (and tax the cooling systems of passenger cars in the summer).


English, although you may find all manner of languages spoken at the ski resorts. Interpretive materials in several other languages are available at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Get around

During the winter, heavy ice and snow are a major concern, which can make driving difficult and slow going. Always check the weather and road conditions [2] before heading out. Even on a clear winter's day, make sure your vehicle's wiper fluid reservoir is full. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) [3] spreads both sand and magnesium chloride on the roads, which makes for an impenetrable, gluey mess on your windshield.

In the summer months, it's not uncommon to see the shoulders of the highways littered with broken-down vehicles that could not handle the steep grades and high altitude air of the Rocky Mountains. If you are venturing from a lower altitude, make sure your car can handle mountain driving. Thinner air means you will be burning more gasoline. Also, with so many steep grades, expect to gear down to avoid unnecessary friction to your brake pads.

Stay Safe


There's no reason to fear the mountains, as long as you approach them with proper respect and preparation. As with anywhere else, recklessness and a lack of forethought can get you into trouble, especially in Colorado's vast back country.

  • Altitude sickness - Can lead to dizziness, headaches, nausea, even blackouts and pulmonary edema. Give your body a few days to adjust to the high altitudes before going full throttle with your hiking or skiing.
  • Dehydration - When you engage in strenuous outdoor activities, be sure to replenish your fluids as you go. You may be losing moisture through your mouth and nose and through sweating, but be completely unawares due to the arid mountain air. May result in dizziness, intense thirst and elevated heart and breath rates.
  • Giardia - Drinking untreated water from regional streams is not a good idea owing to Giardia parasites, but tap water is not a problem.
  • Hypothermia - Prolonged exposure to the cold can result in confusion, a slowed heart rate, lethargy, even death. Dress warmly in non cotton clothing to allow any sweat to wick away from your body and evaporate. Otherwise, it may thoroughly chill you later in the day when temperatures drop.
  • Frostbite - During periods of severe cold, your circulatory system pulls all your warming blood into the core of your body to protect your vital organs. This makes your extremities such as your ears, fingers and nose especially vulnerable. Wear a face mask, insulated gloves and other heavy gear on the worst winter days. It gets cold sitting still on those ski lifts!
  • Sunburn - Lather up with sunscreen, even if there's cloud cover. Colorado's high elevation means you have less protection to the sun's powerful ultra violet rays. This can be compounded while skiing or snowboarding, when the rays are reflected off the snow and hits the underside of your jaw. Don't forget to wear UV-rated goggles or sunglasses, as well. There's nothing more painful than sunburned eyeballs.
  • Avalanches - Colorado claims about a third of all avalanche deaths in the U.S. The ski resorts have groomed slopes that are are safe, but it is extremely dangerous to ski or snowboard outside of the designated terrain. It's popular amongst daredevil skiers to "run the chutes," steep, shaded slopes that funnel into tight gullies. These are classic avalanche zones. Far more common (and deadly) are slab avalanches that break along a fault line and bury unsuspecting snow mobilers or skiers. Always wear a homing beacon and check the conditions at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center [4] before heading into the back country.
  • Lightning - This is especially deadly in the high country above timberline when no shelter is nearby. If you hear crackling or hissing sounds, or your hair begins to stand on end, squat down immediately in the "lightning desperation position" - feet together and your hands clapped over your ears. Remember, a tent and inflatable mattress offer no protection from a lightening strike. Avoid the high ground, or solitary objects like trees that stick out higher than the surrounding terrain (they may act like natural lightning rods). For more information, see the safety tips at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) [5].
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