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Mount Sneffels

Southwest Ridge
Difficulty Class 3 
Risk FactorsExposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Considerable  
Commitment: Considerable  
Start11,350 feet
Summit14,155 feet
Total Gain1,750 feet - From upper trailhead (12,460')
2,950 feet - From outhouse parking (11,350')
3,400 feet - From highest 2WD parking (10,800')
RT Length3.00 miles - From upper trailhead (12,460')
6.50 miles - From outhouse parking (11,350')
8.25 miles - From highest 2WD parking (10,800')
Last UpdatedOct 2022
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Take US 550 to Ouray. 1/4 mile south of town, turn west onto Country Road (CR) 361 (2WD, Dirt) toward Yankee Boy Basin and start measuring mileage from this point. Your mileage may vary slightly, but the following list describes the turns and milestones:

  • 4.6 miles: Stay right on CR 26.
  • 5.2 miles: The road is cut into the cliffs like a "C" so there is rock hanging over the road.
  • 5.9 miles: Stay right on CR 26 at the junction for Imogene Pass.
  • 6.7 miles: Stay right at the junction for Governor Basin. The remaining drive is 4WD and 2WD cars should park at or near this junction.
  • 7.5 miles: Reach the lower "trailhead" where there's a restroom.

Driving beyond this point requires high-clearance 4WD

  • 100 yards after the restroom parking area, pass a large rock and stay right at a junction.
  • 8.0 miles: Stay right.
  • 8.2 miles: There's a sign that recommends only 4WD, high-clearance, short-wheelbase. 4WD vehicles can continue another mile to the signed, upper trailhead at 12,460'.


From the outhouse parking area, continue up the 4WD road toward the upper trailhead. Follow the road approximately 3/4 mile to 11,700'.

Note: You're initial goal is to reach Blue Lakes Pass and there are two different trails that will get you there: 1) the directions described below or 2) Just above 11,700' on the road, at a switchback, there's a marked trail that leaves the left side of the road and climbs up to Blue Lakes Pass. It's used frequently and passes Wrights Lake along the way. The remaining route description will use option #1...

It's another mile to the upper Sneffels trailhead, but the remaining road is rough and should only be attempted by 4WD vehicles with good clearance and a short wheelbase. Continue up the road. On a flat spot near 12,300' ( 1), stay right at a road junction and continue the last 1/4 mile to reach the upper trailhead at 12,460'.

From the upper trailhead ( 2), hike northwest across talus on a good trail. After over 1/4 mile, reach a trail junction near 12,600' - 3. Stay left and continue towards Blue Lakes Pass - 4. Follow the trail west toward the slope below Blue Lakes Pass and over some talus at the end of the basin. Locate the trail as it starts to climb the slope and begin your ascent to the pass - 5.

Once on the pass ( 6), turn right (north) to see the Southwest Ridge - 7. This is a good place to re-tool for scrambling and put on your helmet. Follow a faint trail up to the left side of the rugged pinnacles at the base of the ridge and continue on loose, Class 2 terrain next to the pinnacles - 8. Beyond the first set of pinnacles, locate a gully ( 8 and 9) along the ridge crest which is used for the next section of the route. Continue to the gully and begin climbing on sharp, somewhat-loose rock - 10 and 11. After over 100' of climbing, turn left ( 12) and continue in another short gully - 13. After a short distance, ascend steeper rock to exit the gully on its right side ( 14 and 15) and reach another section of loose rock near 13,400' - 16. Angling slightly right toward the ridge, climb this rough patch to reach a small notch ( 17), near 13,500' on the ridge. Blocking your route is a large pinnacle along the ridge crest and it's easiest to bypass it on the right. 18 looks back at the small notch after passing through.

Drop less than 50' toward a defined gully ( 19) and turn left around the steep rock ( 20) to see the top of the gully ( 21) and a much larger notch. Taken from high in Yankee Boy Basin, 22 and 23 show the location of the gully and notch on the ridge. Climb to the notch ( 24) and turn right to see another steep, narrow section of rock on the north side of the notch - 25. Climb the short pitch to reach easier terrain above - 26 looks back over the area. If you take the standard line, the remaining climb will be easier than this short pitch. Next, enter a short gully on the left side of the ridge - 27. Climb about 50' and locate a narrow exit (right) that leads to easier terrain on the ridge crest. Just before you exit, there's an interesting rock formation back to your left (west), called the "Kissing Camels" - 28. It's easy to miss the rock formation if you're not looking for it. Exit right ( 29) to reach the ridge crest, near 13,700' - 30.

It's less than 500' to the summit, but plenty of fun climbing remains. Bypass an initial pile of rugged rock ( 31) and scramble back to the ridge. Climb a bit more and you can finally see the summit - 32. Continue along the ridge crest or just to the right. Near 13,900', reach a steeper section of the ridge ( 33 and 34) which contains plenty of grippy, stable rock. The remaining ridge climb has a bit of exposure on the left and some people may prefer to stay just right of the ridge. Either way, the views are excellent and the climbing is fun. 36 looks down from just below the summit. Continue on the good rock to reach the summit - 37 and 38.


This is more difficult than the standard route and has a few loose rock sections that require some careful scrambling. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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