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Uncompahgre Wilderness Area (Formerly the Big Blue)

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

Located in Uncompahgre National Forest

Neighboring towns: Ouray, Ridgeway, Lake City, Gunnison

The Uncompahgre Wilderness contains one of the most distinctive skylines in Colorado. The broken summits of lofty ridges such as Turret, Coxcomb and Precipice peaks invariably enthrall tourists driving on Highway 550 near Ridgeway. Many precipitous peaks populate the area, including two fourteeners, Wetterhorn (14,015 feet) and Uncompahgre, and other well-known summits like Courthouse Mountain and Coxcomb Peak. These craggy peaks soar above long, U-shaped valleys, where all fall dense aspen groves look like golden aprons skirting the high ridges. Ouray's chamber of commerce promotes itself as the Switzerland of America in celebration of the area's remarkable scenery.

The south side of the wilderness includes the gentle tundra of American Flats. Hikers can stroll across the flats to the sharp point of Wildhorse Peak and its precipitous view into Cow Creek Canyon, one of the wildest canyons in all of the San Juan Mountains. At the western end of the wilderness, Cow Creek Canyon's sheer valley walls, tumbling cascades, and impenetrable forests dictated that train builders avoid its mysterious depths. Instead, trails skirt the canyon on ridge lines east and west, giving hikers panoramic glimpses of wilderness. The central portion of the area includes the many forks of the Cimarron River, which descent long, glacial valleys and are connected by an extensive network of trails. The Uncompahgre Wilderness contains only a few small and scattered lakes; anglers are more drawn to the cutthroat, brook and rainbow trout of the area's many streams. Other wildlife includes elk, mule deer, black bear, mountain lion and bighorn sheep.

Size: 102,721 acres

Elevation: 8,400 to 14,300 feet

Miles of trails: 110

Year designated: 1980, 1993

Hunting areas: 65, 66

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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