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Mount Sneffels Wilderness Area

Government information and links are at the bottom of this page.

Located in Uncompahgre National Forest

Neighboring towns: Ridgeway, Ouray, Camp Bird, Telluride

Nestled into a narrow box canyon in a precipitous range of peaks, the town of Ouray fancies itself as "America's Switzerland". Few could argue with this characterization when considering the sheer, knife-edge ridges and craggy peaks of the nearby Mount Sneffels Wilderness. Designated in 1980, Mount Sneffels could easily be Colorado's most spectacular wilderness, particularly in early fall when fresh snow lightly dusts the banded layers of rock towering above auburn tundra grasses. While the peaks and serrated ridges are incomparably dramatic, this area offers relatively little in the way of biological diversity, due to the fact that the vast majority of the wilderness consists of largely vertical rock and ice slopes.

The challenge of Mount Sneffels (14,150 feet) and its neighboring peaks sparked a long and glorious era of mountaineering in the San Juans during the 1920s and '30s. The many serrated peaks of the area post difficult climbs, and even today mountaineers still find new summit routes. Loose volcanic rock makes many of the climbs downright dangerous, so prospective climbers should come well prepared with helmets and technical equipment.

Many Coloradans know Mount Sneffels from calendar photographs taken from Dallas Divide. Particularly in autumn, photographers catch the mountain behind a foreground of golden aspen forests. But an equally renowned scenic bonanza is found on the mountain's back side, amidst the flowering fields of Yankee Boy Basin. Blossoms of every hue imaginable unleash shutter-clicking frenzies as amateur and professional photographers attempt to capture the intense blues, yellows, reds, and whites of columbines, paintbrush, arnica, phlox, and lupine - a kaleidoscope of color.

The only lakes around, Blue Lakes huddle below the western flank of Mount Sneffels in a deep basin. The forbidding central region of the area is rugged beyond words and relatively seldom explored.

Size: 16,565 acres

Elevation: 9,600 to 14,150 feet

Miles of trails: 15

Year designated: 1980

Hunting areas: 61, 65

For more information contact:

Gunnison & Uncompahgre National Forests, 2250 Highway 50, Delta, CO 81416  (970)874-6600 Forest Headquarters
This e-mail will be distributed to the correct Ranger District.
Grand Valley Ranger District, PO Box 330, 218 High Street, Collbran, CO 81624  (970)487-3534
Gunnison Ranger District, 216 N. Colorado, Gunnison, CO 81230  (970)641-0471
Ouray Ranger District, 2505 S. Townsend, Montrose, CO 81401  (970)240-5400
Paonia Ranger District, PO box 1030, North Rio Grande Ave., Paonia, CO 81428  (970)527-4131
Gunnison Ranger District, PO Box 89, Lake City, CO 81235  (970)641-0471 or (970)944-2500
Grand Valley Ranger District, 2777 Crossroads Blvd., Grand Junction, CO 81506  (970)242-8211
Norwood Ranger District, PO Box 388, 1760 Grand Ave., Norwood, CO 81423  (970)327-42261

Wilderness sunset

NOTE: coloradowilderness.com gratefully appreciates the eloquent descriptions of our wilderness areas provided by Mark Pearson, author of "The Complete Guide to Colorado's Wilderness Areas", Westcliffe Publishers, Englewood, CO. The book also contains many beautiful pictures by renowned photographer and Colorado resident John Fielder.


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