Uncompahgre Wilderness covers 102,721 acres within the north-central region of the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. The Wilderness spans the Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (99,399 acres) and lands administered by Bureau of Land Management. Elevations range from 8,400 to 14,309 feet. Points of interest include: Uncompahgre Peak (14,309’), Wetterhorn Peak (14,015’), Matterhorn Peak, Coxcomb Peak, Silver Peak, Slide Lake, and Big Blue Creek.
Uncompahgre Peak's unusual broad, flat, tilted summit falls away almost vertically on three sides for as much as 1,500 feet, a landmark visible from far away. Its fourth side lies gentle and inviting to many climbers. Most climbers approach Uncompahgre Peak on three miles of trail up the Nellie Creek. Wetterhorn Peak (14,015 feet) stands just southwest of Uncompahgre Peak. The trail up Matterhorn Creek provides access to Wetterhorn Peak after three miles of hiking.
Water off Wildhorse Peak near the southwest corner combines to create the turbulent and deep Cow Creek Canyon, which is rough and densely forested enough to prevent trails being established here. American Flats lies south of Wildhorse Peak and north of the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway.
Trails lead into the wilderness from trailheads located in the West, Middle, and East Forks of the Big Cimarron River, which flow north out of the central area of the Wilderness. The Big Blue Trail, beginning south of the campground by the same name, also is a major route into the Wilderness. Several trails near the town of Ouray lead into the wilderness from the west. Ridgway, Ouray and Lake City are the closest towns to this Wilderness.
While the lowest elevations of the Uncompahgre Wilderness may be snow free starting in June, the normal snow-free conditions are from mid-July to early September, but conditions vary from year to year.
Trails to the 14,000-foot peaks are heavily used. High use of these trails creates a heavy impact on fragile landscapes. Please stay on established trails. Always use Leave No Trace techniques to help keep this area wild, clean, and pristine.
View a Recreation Opportunity Guide & map of Uncompahgre Wilderness.
At a Glance
|Restrictions:||Wilderness restrictions apply.|
|Closest Towns:||Ouray, Colorado; Ridgway, Colorado; Lake City, Colorado|
|Water:||Treat all non-potable water before consuming.|
|Operated By:||Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management|
General InformationGeneral Notes:
National Forest Recreation Maps- Uncompahgre Plateau, Mountain Division East (pdf) Zoomify
Forest Service Topography Maps: These maps overlay Forest Service assets, such as roads, trails, and campgrounds, on USGS's topographic maps. They are available for download by quadrangle.
Buy maps online
National Forest Store: Offers a full, nationwide selection of National Forest, Ranger District, Wilderness, and Specialty Maps for purchase online or by phone, fax, and mail.
Colorado’s Fourteen Thousand Foot Peaks (14ers)
Fourteen Thousand Foot Peaks on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest.
Find more information about climbing Colorado’s peaks at the Rocky Mountain Region 14ers page.
Go to Wilderness.net for additional maps and information about Wilderness.
Trailheads/trails that access Uncompahgre Wilderness:
- Alpine/Little Cimarron Trailhead - Little Cimarron Trail #229
- Big Blue Trailhead - Big Blue Creek Trail #232
- Crystal Larson Trailhead (area is unavailable) - Larsen Lakes Trail #236, Crystal Lake Trail #235
- East Fork Trailhead - East Fork Trail #228
- Fall Creek Trailhead - Fall Creek #231
- Independence Trailhead -Independence Gulch Trail #234, Independence Bypass Trail #234.1A
- Little Elk Trailhead - Little Elk Trail #244
- Matterhorn Trailhead - Ridge Stock Driveway Trail #233 (area is unavailable)
- Middle Fork Trail #227
- Nellie Creek Trailhead- Uncompahgre Peak Trail #239
- Wetterhorn Basin Trail #226
- Storm Gulch #212
- Thistle Park/ CutlerTrailhead - Cutler Creek Trail #217,
- Baldy Trail #216
- Dexter Creek Trail #205
- Horsethief Trail #215
- Bear Creek Trail #241.1A
- Courthouse Trail # 218
- Stealy Mountain South Trail #258