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Uncompahgre Wilderness

General Location Maps Contacts Area Management Wilderness Laws Trip Planning


The United States Congress designated the Uncompahgre Wilderness (map) in 1980 and it now has a total of 102,214 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Colorado and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service.


Uncompahgre Wilderness gets its name from a Ute Indian word meaning, in one translation, "dirty water". This Wilderness is located in the north-central region of the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. There are two fourteeners and at least twenty-five thirteen thousand foot peaks in the Uncompahgre Wilderness. Big Blue Creek flows off Uncompahgre Peak (14,309 feet) in this rough and majestic section of the San Juan Mountains, which was formerly known as Big Blue Wilderness Area. The name changed came along with the addition of BLM land, including the rolling gentle tundra of American Flats, to the south.

Uncompahgre Peak's unusually broad, flat, and 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. Below Uncompahgre Peak, the Wilderness is a mountainous land of towering rock castles and sweeping ridges that some claim form the most splendid scenery in the state. Technical climbers find endless routes to challenge their skills. Wetterhorn Peak (14,015 feet) stands not far southwest of Uncompahgre Peak. Water off Wildhorse Peak near the southwest corner combines to create the turbulent and deep Cow Creek Canyon, which is ragged and densely forested enough to prevent any trails being carved in its depths. American Flats lies south of Wildhorse Peak. Numerous forks of the Cimarron River rush out of the central section of this Wilderness, flowing north to eventually become one. You'll find a few small lakes with trout, and many trout in the many streams.

About 110 miles of trails reach up numerous waterways into this beautiful Wilderness. The trail up Matterhorn Creek provides access to Wetterhorn Peak after three miles of hiking. Most climbers approach Uncompahgre Peak on three miles of trail up the Nellie Creek.

Planning to Visit the Uncompahgre Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Uncompahgre Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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