Hiking Uncompahgre Peak | Advice to Summit this 14er Successfully
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
Hiking Uncompahgre Peak - South Ridge Route
Those hiking Uncompahgre Peak start out at the Nellie Creek Trailhead in the San Juans. Set out from the trailhead and hike up the well built trail until you reach 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 up on 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 west face of the peak.
From the top of the switchbacks, you head to the far side of the ridge for a short section along 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!
This shows some of the terrain on the standard, longer section. You will experience some looser rock on 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 up on 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 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. 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.
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 high peaks is dangerous. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my Uncompahgre Peak Route 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.
Alex is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others explore the mountains, stay safe, and preserve the peaks for the future. Subscribe to the Next Summit Newsletter here.