Uncompahgre – 14,309


·The trailhead is 4WD

·The trail was pretty much free from snow, even after Monday’s storm.  Microspikes were not needed.

· This would be a great first class 2 hike:  it’s easy to follow, relatively short, and
not too taxing

· If you’re looking to spend the night on a 14er summit, this would be a good choice

Uncompaghre, or “Uncle Padre” as it’s affectionately referred to, wasn’t supposed to be my hike today.  We had a storm come in on Monday, blanketing
the entire state with snow.  So I’d gone on the Colorado Webcams page to see what the conditions looked like in different areas of the state.

I was specifically looking at peaks in the Crestone area, and the webcam made it look like there was surprisingly little snow.  I was thrilled!  That is, until night fell and I looked at the web cam again, and it still showed daylight.
It was then I went on the forum and someone said there was a lot of snow
on the Crestones, and I concluded the webcam must have been broken.  It was showing the correct time/date, but the image was obviously wrong.  UGH!  

No worries though, I had about 5 different 14ers I was interested in, so I just went down my list. I wasn’t 100% sure the conditions weren’t great at the Crestones (I asked for clarification from the poster and never got any), but the webcams for Lake City looked promising.  I gave it some thought and did a pro-con list.  The Crestones were closer, the hike was longer, and I’d get 2 14ers in tomorrow, but I didn’t know for certain the conditions. Uncompaghre was a lot further (6 hours), the hike was shorter, and I’d only get in one peak (I really wanted to hike it with Wetterhorn).  But my knees still weren’t 100% from my falls last week (I’d say 80% on one knee, 85% on the other) so a shorter hike was probably a good idea.  Also, Uncompaghre is affectionately referred to as “Uncle Padre”, and it’s my Uncle’s birthday today, who pretty much was like a father to me growing up, so I saw it a sign of good luck and just went for it.
Uncompaghre it was!

I woke up at midnight and made it to the trailhead at 6am (remember, I don’t sleep well at trailheads, so it’s just easier for me to drive and hike).  There’s an obvious sign telling you where the trailhead is.  If you don’t have 4WD, park here.

The drive up is definitely 4WD.  My directions indicated I’d cross 2 streams,
but I crossed 3, and was delighted to do so!
My whole face lit up when I saw the first one:  I love it when I get to drive my Tundra through streams!  


The only downside to this road is it’s pretty narrow, and a bit bumpy in places. There were 3 turns that were tight for my Tundra, and I had to back up and reposition my truck to make the turns happen.

There was also a lot of ice on the trail (which I’m assuming is gone now).  In fact, there was a lot of snow on the entire drive up, starting at about 8000’.  This seriously worried me for the hike ahead!  I had microspikes and snowshoes,
but would rather not carry them if not needed.

The trailhead had parking for about 10 vehicles and was pretty open.

The weather forecast for the area today was a low of 22 and a high of 44, but as I drove I saw the temperature drop to 19 degrees, and stay there.  Lovely.  There was a half moon, and I could see there wasn’t enough snow on the mountains for snowshoes (woot!), but I brought along my microspikes anyway.  I bundled up and began my hike at 6:15am.  There were two Park Service trucks at the trailhead, but I never saw people on the trail. The trucks were still there when I left.

The beginning of the trail had a bit of ice in the creek areas

I hiked through a basin, and about a mile in there was a little bit of snow on the trail, but it was easily avoidable, and this was seriously the most snow I saw on the entire hike.

As I came to the trail junction for Matterhorn Creek and Uncompaghre Peak the sun and the temperature began to rise.  This is why I’d woken up at midnight!  The sunrise was amazing!

I turned around to take a look at Uncompaghre.  Wow.

The entire trail was well maintained and very easy to follow. It was almost too easy, it didn’t seem as if I were hiking a 14er.  

The Alpine glow this morning was fabulous against the blue sky!  I hiked up some switchbacks to Uncompaghre’s south ridge.  

This ridge gave me amazing views!  I had fun taking pictures

At the top of the ridge I turned left and went behind the mountain

I followed the trail and looked for this rock tower.  

You can either go to the left of it or the right of it.  I chose the right

The hike up until this point was very much a class 1 hike.  However, at this point there’s about 30 vertical feet of hand and feet climbing.  Woot! My favorite!  I took a picture and put away my camera.  Here’s why this is considered a class 2:  

This is what it looked like from the top

The rest of the hike was pretty straightforward.  I just followed a trail to the summit.  

The summit was a wide, flat, barren summit.  If you were looking for a 14er to camp out on for the night, this would be it (if you don’t mind wind). I summited at 8am.

I turned to look around, and all around me there was snow!  I’d picked the only peak in the area without snow!  Amazing!

I took a summit photo to prove I’d summited

And as I looked over the edge, I saw there was snow on the north face of the mountain.  What a drop!

I didn’t spend long on the summit, but turned around and started back down.  As I was descending the class 2 part of this hike I stopped to take in the view.  

I thought to myself how this was the perfect hike for today!  I didn’t get in Wetterhorn, but there are several 13ers in the area I can partner with Wetterhorn and take my time on instead of rushing to get them all in.
I was glad I’d chosen to hike Uncompaghre solo for today.

I didn’t see anyone else on the hike until I was just about to exit the basin.  It was a couple hiking together.  I didn’t see anyone else the entire day, and luckily didn’t pass anyone on the drive down.

I made it back to the trailhead at 9:55am, so I hiked 7.5 miles in less than 4 hours, with 3000’ feet of elevation gain.  

Author: Laura M Clark

Laura has summited over 500 peaks above 13,000' solo, including being the first woman to solo summit all of the Colorado 14ers, as well as the centennials. After each hike, she writes trip reports for each one and publishes them on her blog, which is read by fans all over the world. Author of Wild Wanderer: Summiting Colorado’s 200 Highest Peaks, which is available to purchase on Amazon.

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