Southwest Colorado Outdoors

Climbing and Fishing
Uncompaghre Peak


The mountains meet the canyons in southwest Colorado, so climbers need to make a choice. Those interested in bagging fourteeners will find nontechnical routes up Mount Sneffels , Uncompahgre Peak and Handies Peak. For technical peak climbing, try the Lizard Head Wilderness. The Lizard Head formation is only a little over 13,000 feet, but its crumbly volcanic rock makes it so risky that climbing is not recommended. But the wilderness also holds two of the most difficult fourteeners, Mount Wilson and El Diente.

For climbing in the canyon country, you can't beat Colorado National Monument. . Its unusual sandstone spires and cliffs present serious adventures. Independence Monument, at 350 feet, is the tallest and most popular spire for climbers.

Southwest Colorado has also become quite the mecca for ice climbers. The opportunities for winter challenges are especially awesome at Telluride and at Ouray.


For wild trout fishing in the backcountry, the Weminuche Wilderness is the place to head. The Los Pinos watershed has two major streams, the Los Pinos River itself and Vallecito Creek . In the wilderness sections of the watershed, the trout run wild—no hatchery-raised fish here. Trout aficionados say a serious angler could pop flies forever along Vallecito's riffles and pools. Both streams require at least a good day hike in—but head in for a few days to really experience the magic of wilderness trout fishing.

Maybe it's stretching the definition of southwest, but the other side of the Weminuche launches another great trout stream, the Rio Grande . In the headwaters, brown trout run in sparkling, clear pools.

Southwest Colorado fly fishers can also head right across the New Mexico border to the San Juan River . Below the Navajo Dam, the rainbows and cutthroats can run over 20 inches.

Published: 24 Jun 2003 | Last Updated: 30 Sep 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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