Hiking Project Logo

Wetterhorn Peak

Difficult
 4.8 (6) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A stunning San Juan 14er with some fun scrambling near the summit.


Your Rating:      Clear Rating
Your Difficulty:
Your Favorites: Add to Favorites · Your List
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

6.5

Miles

10.5

KM

Out and Back

13,917' 4,242 m

High

11,071' 3,375 m

Low

2,847' 868 m

Up

2,846' 867 m

Down

17%

Avg Grade (9°)

83%

Max Grade (40°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Lake · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Matterhorn Creek Trailhead is difficult enough to get to in the summer months. During winter and parts of spring, the way is generally closed somewhere along the Henson road, about 10 miles below the trailhead.

While the land manager requests dogs be leashed, they probably don't intend for Fido to be scrambling about the rocks near the summit. Few dogs can cover this quasi-technical terrain.

Overview

This remote 14er is a favorite for many reasons. It's close to quirky Lake City, boasts incredible views of the San Juan Range, and offers excellent scrambling with little scree. This is a great choice for hikers just starting to get into scrambling/class 3 routes.

Need to Know

While an easy scramble with mostly solid rock, many hikers will bring along a helmet for the final couple hundred feet. If solo it's probably not a true necessity, but those traveling in larger groups should be equipped for potential rockfall so plan on wearing a helmet. As always, bring sun protection and plenty of food and water.

Faster hikers should expect around 4 hrs RT; average hikers closer to 6-8 hrs.

Description

From Lake City, head west on Second Street. In a block or so turn left onto Henson Creek Road, AKA the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway. In 5 miles, pass the Nellie Creek Trailhead sign. This is an alternate route for this hike. In 4 more miles, turn right onto the North Henson Road. Up to this point, pretty much any car will do. After this turn, reasonably high clearance is needed. In 2 miles, there is another junction with a sign pointing toward the Matterhorn Creek Trailhead. It's just 0.7 miles to the upper TH from here. A Subaru/CR-V or better should be fine.

While Matterhorn Creek doesn't have a bathroom or any amenities, it is a proper TH, well signed and with a fair amount of parking. A small field next to the dirt lot provides room for around 5-6 tents.

From the upper TH, hike on clear, mellow trail for about 0.75 miles. Reach a junction in a clearing, turning right and heading up some switchbacks before continuing north at 11,300 ft. Follow the trail to treeline at 11,600 ft or so. Continue up Ridge Stock Driveway before coming to a junction at 12,000 ft. Turn left for Wetterhorn Peak Trail (turning right will take you to Uncompahgre Peak).

Hike up through the basin, crossing through some rocks while heading left toward the summit ridge. Once through a brief rocky patch, switchback SW on excellent trail before reaching the ridge around 13,000 ft.

Follow the trail, more or less ridge proper, before you reach some yellow dirt on the trail. This brief change in soil marks the end of the easier terrain. The path drops left of the ridge and then becomes unclear. You should be able to see "the Prow," a sharp and jagged rock formation appearing like a fin below the summit. Your goal is to scramble up just to its right. Once at the Prow, you'll come to a V-notch in the rock. Scramble either left or right, then turn left and hike toward a flat dirt area surrounded by rock formations at 13,800 ft. The summit is up and to the right.

Continue north through a notch in the rock before reaching a set of large stone steps to your right. This natural formation makes for a fun scramble right below the top. Some more adventurous hikers may opt to simply scramble around here until they top out. There's plenty of fun climbing and lots of exposure to be had. Stay within your comfort zone! Top out and enjoy the views from Wetterhorn's flat and large summit. This is a great spot for a 14er finishing party.

From the summit, head back down to the Matterhorn Creek trailhead, or head back to the junction with Ridge Stock Driveway to hike Uncompahgre Peak as well.

Flora & Fauna

Just like with other peaks in the area, expect mountain goats, marmots, and pika. The valleys between Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre offer some of the most stunning views of mountains and wildflowers in the state.

History & Background

Translated from Swiss German, "Wetterhorn" means "weather peak." The name fits. Like its European namesake, this part of the state is prone to sudden weather changes, as discovered by all too many hikers.

Contacts

Shared By:

Tyler Prince

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 6 votes

#1062

Overall
  4.8 from 6 votes
5 Star
83%
4 Star
17%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#202

in Colorado

#1,062

Overall
42 Views Last Month
4,518 Since Apr 2, 2015
Difficult

0%
0%
17%
0%
83%
0%

Photos

Somebody's been feeding this guy! A curious marmot in the basin below Wetterhorn.
Apr 9, 2015 near Ouray, CO
Wetterhorn summit block. The steps below the top are about as technical as it gets.
Apr 9, 2015 near Ouray, CO
Pass "the Prow," the finlike rock formation in the distance, on its right.
Apr 9, 2015 near Ouray, CO
A hiker approaches the summit block. The technical formation behind him is not a part of this hike. There are many excellent scrambling options in this area. Have fun, but be careful!
Apr 9, 2015 near Ouray, CO
Some autumnal views off of the Ridge Stock Driveway. with permission from dreamer 200
Mar 19, 2016 near Lake City, CO
Coming out of the basin and onto the ridge, much of the remaining Wetterhorn Peak Trail is visible.
Apr 9, 2015 near Ouray, CO

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

Update Conditions
Unknown See History
Add Your Check-In

Check-Ins

Aug 13, 2016
Andrew Beckman
Jun 30, 2015
Valerie Norton
Grabbed two 14ers without a 4x4: https://valhikes.blogspot.com/2015/06/wetterhorn-peak.html
Aug 19, 2012
Ethan Gehl