Friday, September 19, 2014

Uncompaghre Peak in the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado

          The hulking form of Uncompaghre leans into the sky like the prow of a ship at sea, and every time I gaze at this 14,309 foot peak I imagine it animating and sailing off into the clouds.
          But Uncompaghre isn't going anywhere just yet—a good thing for those who want to climb it and stand atop the San Juan Mountains.

Uncompaghre (the "tall ship" in the center of the photo) dominates
the skyline near Lake City Colorado.

          Uncompaghre is described as a "walk-up"—no technical climbing skills required—although a near-vertical section of loose scree near the top requires some hand-and-feet scrambling.
          Nerves of steel are required, however, to drive the rough and rutted four-wheel drive road to the trailhead.  After arriving safely at the trailhead it's another four miles and 3000 vertical feet to the top of Mighty Unc.  Braving the climb to the top of Uncompaghre's wide and level summit I feel like a pioneer arriving in a brand new world; layers of peaks and valleys stretch to the horizon with no roads, vehicles, buildings or towns in sight.

Less than a mile from the trailhead Uncompaghre bursts into view,
allowing unobstructed anticipation of the destination.

As we neared the summit we turned around to see the trail far below.
The yellow arrows point to two areas of the trail.

Tim navigates an area of loose rocks near the summit.

View from the top.  This is a great place to linger on a clear day.

          September is the perfect month to climb Uncompaghre.  The next time you're in Lake City, Colorado, grab a guidebook to Colorado's high peaks and discover new lands for yourself.


  1. Hi Rita,

    Your photos of Uncompaghre and its vistas are stunning - what a beautiful day to hike and climb. The mountain range looks like shark's teeth.

    Whenever I see landscape like this I always wonder what the earliest settlers of the region must have thought the first time they climbed a mountain like this. Or what the native Americans thought the first time they looked out over what's now San Francisco Bay (but without all the buildings and boats!).

    Another great adventure and beautiful photos to show for it!

    1. Ah, San Francisco Bay without all the buildings and boats—now that's something I would have liked to have seen!

      Luckily we still have a few places in the US that look as they did when the Native Americans and early settlers first saw them.

      Thanks for commenting, Vickie!

  2. Wow, Rita, I have been wondering if I still have a fourteener in me, and your post has motivated me to think "Yes, I do." I think this hike just jumped to the top of my list for next summer's adventures.

    1. Go for it, Janet! Because you already live at relatively high altitude I think that if you continue jogging—and add a few hill climbs to your weekly routine—you'll be good to go for a 14er next summer.

      Thanks for your comments!

  3. Hi Rita,

    Well, I was blown away by your posting a few years ago about your terrific experience at the Silver Jack Campground in Colorado's Uncompahgre National Forest. And now, as impossible as it might seem, I'm even more blown away by the sights and descriptions contained within this blog posting!

    I'm captivated by the fact that you're able to have an unobstructed view of this exceptional destination for most of your trek. Since my hiking adventures are done in New England where it is heavily forested, this rarely happens. About the only thing I can relate to is your description of the rough and rutted drive to the trailhead. I experience that a lot, especially when hiking to more remote destinations in Maine.

    Should I ever have the opportunity to hike in the Western U.S., I know for certain that Uncompaghre Peak would be at the top of my list for places to visit!


    1. John, the unobstructed view is one of the factors that make a hike up Uncompaghre so rewarding—you see the top of the mountain and know that, with a little more effort, you'll soon be enjoying the view from up there!

      I hope you have the opportunity to climb Uncompaghre some day.

      Thanks, as always, for your kind comments!

  4. Wonderful pictures as always Rita and what incredible shades of blue!

    1. Those shades of blue were amazing, weren't they? Luckily we had great weather for our climb.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Soumyendu!