Colorado Flat Tops Wilderness Scenery near Budge's Wilderness Lodge

The Colorado Experience at Budge’s Wilderness Lodge

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Author Ryan McSparran

As a Colorado company that’s focused on helping others enjoy the outdoors, we love working with businesses that share a similar mission. For that reason, we are excited to talk about Budge’s Wilderness Lodge in northwest Colorado. 

Budge’s Wilderness Lodge isn’t new – but it is new to us. Caribou Gear team member, Ryan McSparran and his wife Kelly, recently purchased this historic lodge and are working to revive it for a new generation of guests.

Budge's Lodge near the Flat Tops Wilderness in Colorado

The lodge is nestled against the Flat Tops Wilderness, along the upper reaches of the White River. Caribou Gear founder, Ted Ramirez and his family, have been fishing and hunting in the Flat Tops for decades. It’s one of the largest wilderness areas in Colorado. And it’s a special place for those of us who have had the opportunity to explore it.

Caribou Gear's Ted Ramirez Jr. and Melanie Stark enjoying a trip to Budge's Wilderness Lodge in the Flat Tops.



The story of Budge’s actually begins in the mid-1920s when founder Ed Budge struck out on horseback toward the headwaters of the White River. He found an ideal location near the South Fork Meadows. Receiving his first permit from the U.S. Forest Service in 1928, he began construction on the log cabins. Legend has it that Ed Budge was a wizard with an axe.

Today, guests enjoy staying in those original log cabins. A few basic upgrades have been made over the years. But the camp maintains its authentic wilderness charm. It sits at the end of a long forest road, 40 miles from the nearest pavement and surrounded by Wilderness on three sides.

Historic 1920s Log Cabins in the Colorado Flat Tops


The Flat Tops is the second-largest Wilderness area in Colorado. Wilderness designation requires an act of congress, and is a set of protections that can be placed over National Forests and other public lands. Among other things, it prohibits the use of motorized equipment, vehicles and bicycles, preserving the wild and primitive nature of an area. Within the wilderness boundary, travel is by foot or horseback only.

The Flat Tops is geologically unique compared to the rest of Colorado. Most obviously, these mountains are flat. From the parks and alpine tundra on top of the plateau, the area drops away along cliffs and into large U-shaped valleys. This area is also unique in that it belies Colorado’s typically arid, high-desert climate. The Flat Tops is covered in water, containing hundreds of lakes and hundreds of miles of streams. In large part, this is what makes it such rich habitat for fish and wildlife. The White River elk herd is known as the largest elk herd on earth, and the rivers and lakes are teeming with trout.

Colorado River Cutthroat Trout Caught in the Flat Tops with Budge's Wilderness Lodge


Budge’s Wilderness Lodge provides fly fishing, elk hunting and horseback riding adventures in the Flat Tops. Beyond the main lodge overlooking the river, there is 370 square miles of wild country. No roads and no motors, just you, your horse and the sounds of the wind and the river. 

Whether it’s an elk hunting trip or a fly fishing trip, guests can choose from two types of adventures at Budge’s – they can do a trip based out of the main lodge. Or they can stay at a remote wilderness camp, complete with wall tents and wood burning stoves.

Horseback Riding in the Colorado Flat Tops at Budge's Wilderness Lodge

Lodge-Based Trips

On lodge-based trips, guests stay in one of the historic log cabins. Each day, they will set out on horseback into the wilderness area, whether that’s in pursuit of elk, or the area’s native cutthroat trout. At the end of the day, guests return to enjoy a hearty dinner served in the main lodge, followed by a restful night in their cozy cabin.

Wilderness Camp Trips

Those who are feeling more adventurous can choose to stay at a remote wilderness camp. Budge’s has camp locations on remote parts of the river, on high alpine lakes, and in rugged elk country. Guests ride on horseback to the camp, where they will be dropped off to fish or hunt on foot for the duration of their stay, along with a dedicated camp host and/or guide who will keep the group well fed and help provide a memorable adventure.

Fly Fishing in the Flat Tops with Budge's Wilderness Lodge

Caribou Gear Game Bags

On hunting trips with Budge’s Wilderness Lodge, all guided hunters who harvest an elk will receive a set of Caribou Gear game bags. Meat care is an important part of the experience. For that reason, Budge’s elk hunting guides exclusively carry Caribou Gear game bags. If an elk is harvested on the trip, those game bags go home with the hunter so they can be washed and re-used on the next adventure.

Guided Elk Hunting in the Flat Tops at Budge's Wilderness Lodge


If you have questions about Budge’s Wilderness Lodge or planning your own Colorado adventure, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can learn more at We’d be happy to recommend gear or anything else to help make your next trip a success. The gear we carry in the Caribou Gear store are items that we personally use and have tested in the field. Let us know how we can help and good luck out there this season!

New Budge's Wilderness Lodge owners, Ryan and Kelly McSparran, Nolan and Clara.

1 comment

  • I stayed there thirty-six years ago and have camped nearby a couple of times since then. The piano was brought in between two mules. I have fond memories and need to return but not when there will be lots of ATVs. It is great to see this place will continue for more generations to enjoy.

    - Richard Wheeler

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