Uncompahgre Peak is among the most distinctively shaped 14ers in Colorado, with a great route up to it’s summit. Hiking Uncompahgre Peak is long and tiring, however you can shave off a good bit of distance with a 4WD vehicle with good clearance. After a fun scramble up the peak’s south ridge, you’ll find yourself 14,000 feet high on the flat summit plateau. Before you go hiking Uncompahgre Peak, plan ahead with my tips and resources below .
Hiking Uncompahgre Peak: Fast Facts
CAUTION: This Route is Hazardous!
You are responsible for your personal safety in the backcountry.
These peaks can be unpredictable and dangerous. Help is often hours or days away: your safety is primarily your responsibility. Prepare for your trek, understand your limits, be aware of the risks, and equip yourself with the necessary skills and gear.
Hiking Uncompahgre Peak - South Ridge Route
The route up Uncompahgre Peak starts at the Nellie Creek Trailhead in the San Juans. Set out from the trailhead and hike up the well-built trail until you reach the tree line. The trail here follows a stream as it weaves through large boulders. The summit of Uncompahgre lies above you far ahead.
Once above the stream, you’re treated to one of the best views of the mountain you’ll get on the entire route. The trail heads left ahead of you before climbing to the south ridge of Uncompahgre.
Once upon the ridge, the route ahead becomes a bit more obvious. Your next goal is a series of switchbacks that climbs the slope up to the peak’s west face.
From the top of the switchbacks, you head to the far side of the ridge for a short section along with the West Face. The rock here is more loose and dangerous, so take your time and be careful.
Once around the corner, watch for a large rock spire to guide you. You can take a more immediate, steeper line up to the summit plateau above. Or you can take the longer route beyond the spire to the plateau. Pick your line and send it!
You will experience some looser rock in this section. Give climbers plenty of space above you in case they knock down loose rocks.
Just below regaining the ridge, there is loose rock on this short section. This is the crux of the trip hiking Uncompahgre Peak. Take your time, and you’ll be fine.
Once upon the ridge, the summit plateau lies ahead of you. Hike the last few hundred feet up to the summit to enjoy amazing views of the San Juan Mountains in all directions.
Once on the summit, enjoy your accomplishment! Take a picture, enjoy a snack, and ensure you get back to the tree line before afternoon thunderstorms become a hazard. I hope you enjoyed my route guide. Good luck if you go hiking Uncompahgre Peak, and safe travels on the trail!
If you’re planning on hiking Uncompahgre Peak, I recommend downloading a digital copy of the map on your phone to bring with you. I also recommend printing out a paper backup copy in case anything happens to your electronics.
Besides reviewing this Uncompahgre Peak Route Guide, you should also review the weather forecast several times, from several sources, before you go on your climb. Here are several sources to get started with on your weather research.
Below is the National Weather Service forecast for Uncompahgre Peak. I highly recommend that you read it thoroughly before your hike.
The right gear makes hiking Uncompahgre Peak much easier, and will also help you stay safe. Here’s a rundown on what you should bring with you for this route.
Start with a good pair of hiking boots (I recommend them over shoes due to their ankle support). Here are six of my favorite hiking boots for 14ers.
You should also have the ten essentials with you during your hike. These are the key pieces of gear needed to stay safe and respond to emergencies in the mountains. Here is a refresher on the topic.
A backpack will help you store your ten essentials as you go on your hike. For day trips, aim for a bag between 15 and 30 liters in capacity. If you’re hiking Uncompahgre Peak over several days, you will want a bag with 45-65 liters. Here are some of my favorite options.
Learn more about packing for a 14er here.
Camping near Uncompahgre Peak:
There are also many dispersed camping opportunities along forest roads near the trailhead ideal for those hiking Uncompahgre Peak. Learn more about dispersed camping near 14ers here.
Lodging near Uncompahgre Peak:
There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Lake City and Ridgway, perfect for those hiking Uncompahgre Peak.
The area around Uncompahgre Peak is still largely pristine, but more and more people are visiting it every year. Help us preserve this spectacular ecosystem by following these important Leave No Trace practices while hiking Uncompahgre Peak.
- Plan ahead, review the route and pick a weekday or day in September to hike.
- Stay on the trail, and keep dogs leashed on and off-trail to reduce trampling of alpine grass.
- Leave your Bluetooth speaker at home and let nature’s sound reign.
- Urinate off trail, and pack out your waste – a cathole won’t work at high altitude.
- Give wildlife a wide berth – 100 meters if possible. If they approach, back up to keep space.
- Take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints.
Safe travels, and good luck hiking Uncompahgre Peak!
More info coming soon.
Hiking Uncompahgre Peak is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.
Hiking Uncompahgre Peak and other mountains, scrambling and climbing up Colorado’s high peaks are inherently high-risk, dangerous activities. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these summits at your own risk.