Uncompahgre Wilderness Trails
Uncompahgre Wilderness Trails
The Uncompahgre Wilderness contains one of the most distinctive skylines in Colorado. The broken summits of lofty ridges such as Turret, Coxcomb, and Precipice peaks invariably enthrall tourists driving on US 550 near Ridgway. Many precipitous peaks populate the area including two fourteeners, Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre, and other well-known summits like Courthouse Mountain and Coxcomb Peak. These craggy peaks soar above long, U-shaped valleys where, in fall, dense aspen groves look like golden aprons skirting the high ridges. Ouray’s chamber of commerce promotes itself as “America’s Switzerland” in celebration of the area’s remarkable scenery. This rugged section of the San Juan Mountains consists of volcanic deposits, as is the case for much of the range. Uncompahgre Peak cuts an extraordinary figure, tilting skyward like a cocked top hat. On three sides, sheer volcanic cliffs drop 1,500 feet from its flat-topped summit; the sloping fourth side creates an easy route for climbers. Nearby Wetterhorn Peak, an igneous intrusion, is most likely the neck of a vanished volcano. Glaciers shaped the surrounding landscape, leaving the pointed summits of Wetterhorn and Matterhorn where they poked above the ice, and scoured the deep, wide valleys below them. The south side of the wilderness includes the gentle tundra of American Flats. Hikers can stroll across the flats to the sharp point of Wildhorse Peak and its precipitous view into Cow Creek Canyon, one of the wildest canyons in all of the San Juan Mountains. At the western end of the wilderness, Cow Creek Canyon’s sheer valley walls, tumbling cascades, and impenetrable forests dictated that trail builders avoid its mysterious depths. Instead, trails skirt the canyon on ridgelines east and west, giving hikers panoramic glimpses of wilderness. The central portion of the wilderness includes the many forks of the Cimarron River, which descend long, glacial valleys and are connected by an extensive network of trails. The Uncompahgre Wilderness contains only a few small and scattered lakes; anglers are more drawn to the cutthroat, brook, and rainbow trout of the area’s many streams. Other wildlife includes elk, mule deer, black bear, mountain lion, and bighorn sheep. This trail guide includes descriptions of American Flats, Dexter Creek, Uncompahgre Peak, Wetterhorn Peak, Big Blue Creek, Wetterhorn Basin Trail, Horsethief/Bear Creek Trails, and East Fork to Middle Fork.
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Directions to: Uncompahgre Wilderness Trailsprint directions
Trail Statistics & Information
|Skill Level||Easy to Strenuous|
|Season||Best Spring through Fall|
|Trailhead Elevation||8,400 ft|
|Top Elevation||14,309 ft|
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