Scenic USA - Colorado

Uncompahgre Peak

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Uncompahgre Peak and Big Blue Creek - Uncompahgre Wilderness, Lake City, Colorado

Photo by Jack Brauer
Jack Brauer Photograpy

     As sightseers follow U.S. Route 550 between Ridgeway and Ouray their eyes can't help but wander toward one of the most distinctive skylines in Colorado. All around the San Juan Skyway Rocky Mountains pierce the clouds with dozens of peaks over 13,000 feet. While Ouray calls itself the Switzerland of America, the Uncompahgre Wilderness boasts of its namesake, the highest peak in the San Juan Range. Totaling over 100,000 acres, this rugged wilderness is one of the popular stops for mountain climbers, anglers, photographers, hikers and campers.
     Including two peaks over 14,000 feet, the preserve was established in 1980 and called the Big Blue Wilderness Area. When BLM land was added in 1993, including American Flats, the name was changed to Uncompahgre.
     Topping out at 14,309 feet, Uncompahgre Peak displays an unusual flat, tilted summit, rising near vertical on three sides. Its fourth side, starting from the end of the Nellie Creek Road, beckons to most climbers, avoiding the sheer walls of Uncompahgre.
     This mountain view looks upon one of the most beautiful scenes in Colorado. Said to be one of the prettiest trout streams in the area, Big Blue Creek winds its way up the valley, just begging to be enjoyed and fished. Brook and cutthroat trout coax both dry-fly and hook-and-line anglers to test their skills. The stream ranges from 10 to 20 feet wide, with some of the deep pools and beaver ponds harboring trout up to 17 inches.
     About 19 miles from Lake City, the Big Blue Campground marks the start of four area trails, including Big Blue Trail seen in this inviting alpine view.

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