Wetterhorn/Middle Canyon/Saddle

Wetterhorn Basin Wetterhorn Peak

Wetterhorn Basin Trailhead

To the Wetterhorn Basin from
the West Fork of the Cimarron
Red Cliff and Coxcomb
in the distance

From the West Fork
Red Cliff & Coxcomb to left

From the West Fork-North
Prescipice Peak
Two Photos Above by A. Gegauff

Approaching Wetterhorn from Henson Creek (Lake City)

The Lower Wetterhorn Basin Trail

A deadfall cut on the trail

Approaching Wetterhorn from Henson Creek (Lake City)

Looking SE from the trail
down into Henson Creek

Intersection of Wetterhorn (Henson Creek) and Ridge Stock Driveway trails. Wetterhorn in background

Wetterhorn from the SW
on the Saddle Trail

The Wetterhorn Basin Trail - #226

The trailhead is off the end of the West Fork of the Cimarron Road. Drive 2 miles north of Ridgway to the Owl Creek Pass Road (County Road 10). Go east another 15.8 miles to Owl Creek Pass, and continue over the pass 0.3 mile to the West Fork Road. Turn right and drive to the end (4WD), which is 3.4 miles. The road crosses the West Fork of the Cimarron River at 2.7 miles. At the end of the road, the trailhead sign can be seen about 80 yards to the southeast. Parking is available at the end of the road.

This is one of the premier trails in the area for unsurpassed beauty up the West Fork river valley, the views from the top of the West Fork Pass, and the descent into Wetterhorn Basin.

Head through an extended meadow to the Wilderness boundary (.7 mile), cross a stream (1.9 miles), and climb to a house sized rock in a lush basin. Switchback to the 12,500' West Fork Pass (3.1 miles). (Be sure to scramble 100' up the right side of the pass to see Wetterhorn Preak rising.) A descent to the basin reveals Coxcomb, Wetterhorn and Blackwall arrayed from left to right. Trails then radiate outward; at .3 mile, Cow Creek Trail - marked with cairns - goes right 1.4 miles, through a good camping area in the trees, to Wetterhorn Basin Overlook (12,400') and grand views of the converging canyons of Wetterhorn, Cow, Wildhorse and Difficulty Creeks. (For an unusual loop (9.9 miles) with a jeep waiting, descend 5.1 miles to Cow Creek Road.) The Basin Trail reaches Coxcomb Trail .7 mile below the pass. Wetterhorn Basin Trail is faint here - look for posts and cairns on the way to Wetterhorn Pass (6 miles). The remote Middle Canyon Trail - a backpacker's dream of 3.4 miles of plateau and forest requiring some route finding - leaves the basin trail 2.1 miles below West Fork Pass and rejoins it 1.6 miles south of Wetterhorn Pass.

Follow the trail, which is marked by several posts, to the Uncompahgre Wilderness boundary (7.2 miles). Matterhorn Cutoff to Ridge Stock Driveway (2 miles) goes left; Saddle Trail goes right 2.3 miles to Ridge Stock .3 mile later. At that point, the trail leaves an open meadow and starts uphill through a spruce forest. As the trail approaches treeline, look for a house-sized boulder in a small basin filled with lush plants and wild flowers, in season. A good campsite can be found in the trees just beyond the boulder. This area could provide welcome shelter if a storm chases you off the pass. Traveling down Mary Alice Creek, the basin trail meets Forest Road 870 at 9.4 miles.

Round trip to the West Fork Pass is 6.1 miles with an altitude gain of 1,940 feet. A round trip on into the basin is 8.6 miles. From the Wetterhorn Basin trailhead to the Middle Fork trailhead, the trip is 10.7 miles with an altitude gain of 2,180 feet.

Weather is always a factor when a high mountain pass lies between you and your vehicle. Be observant and plan a hasty retreat if storms threaten. Extended backpacking trips can be taken from the basin in several different directions, but are not recommended for the inexperienced hiker, or one without additional topographic maps and a good compass.

At the Wetterhorn Basin Saddle


Click on pictures to enlarge


Wetterhorn from the SW

Another view

The Wetterhorn Peak Trail

NOTE: Wetterhorn Peak is a CLIMB--not a hike!

The trail to the peak breaks off the Ridge Stock Driveway Trail on the southeast side of Wetterhorn. From Wetterhorn Basin, a poorly marked trail ascends a west ridge coming off Wetterhorn Peak and then descends to the Ridge Stock trail (about 3 miles). Follow the Ridge Stock east for about 2 miles to the trailhead.

(Note: See the Special Precautions in the Wetterhorn Basin description). The trail switchbacks up a steep valley to a bench below Wetterhorn, follows the south edge of the bench for about 0.3 mile, and then the climb begins up the edge of a ridge coming southeast off the peak. Beautuful views all around.

The Top of Wetterhorn - Uncompahgre Peak in Background


Wilson Creek Summit

A beaver dam caused the trail to be flooded and washed out

Cirque Peak from Wilson Creek Trail

Mt. Sneffels from the trail

From the intersection of Hwys 550 and 62 at Ridgway, go west on 62 for 4.8 miles. At the East Dallas Creek Road, turn left and drive 8.8 miles past Willow Swamp and the Forest Boundary to a locked gate.

Park here. On the road south from the locked gate, keep going straight where the Blue Lakes Trail takes off to the right. This is the Dallas Trail #200. The Blaine Basin Trail branches off at 2.3 miles just .2 mile from where the trail turns sharply left from the creek. Go left from this junction, cross a dry wash, and continue on an easy trail to a ridge at 3.4 miles. Turn left and travel .2 mile for the Wilson Creek Summit.

The destination of this hike is the summit providing spectacular views of the north face of Mt. Sneffels, Blaine Basin and a panorama all the way from Whitehouse Mountain on the east to North Pole Peak on the west end of the Sneffels Range. Blaine Basin lies directly below. The La Sal Mountains in Utah are visible to the west on clear days. Back down to the main trail, the Dallas continues east to the River Road north of Ouray.

The second and third stream crossings on the Blaine section need care, particularly at high water flows. Leave the open ridge quickly if a storm is approaching.

The picture below shows construction of a
bridge at one of the Wilson Creek crossings.


Wright's Lake Spur - #201.1A

Wright's Lake Spur with Potosi in Background

New Sign on the Wright's Lake Spur
Stony Mountain:  Rt-Center Background

Wright's Lake

Travel southwest out of Ouray on the Camp Bird Road (County Road 361) into Yankee Boy Basin (4WD). At the toilet on the left side of the road Parking can be found. Walk 0.5 mile up the road to the trailhead on the left side of the jeep road.

The Wright's Lake Spur round trip to Wright's Lake is 2.4 miles with the trail going through flower covered slopes on the way to the lake. At the lake is a junction with the Blue Lakes Trail. From that point, it is 0.4 miles to the Blue Lakes Pass and the Sneffels Wilderness area.

Weather changes rapidly in this high basin; storms may not be seen until they clear the ridges, and lightning is a serious hazard on high points.



Copyright © 2001 by the Ouray Trail Group.   All rights reserved.