#285 / 13,455' Ute Ridge

Range › San Juan Range
Quadrangle › Rio Grande Pyramid
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 42' 39.90", W 107° 27' 27.44" (Not Field Checked)
Neighboring Peaks › Peak Icon UN 13342 Peak Icon UN 13308

Peak Summary

A difficult to access peak in a remote location requiring 4WD and a lot of driving, but the peak itself is easy Class 1 to Class 2 hiking and can easily be combined with two other 13er summits for a 3 peak day.

Ute Ridge WSW Ridge Route

Class 2
Peak Icon Peak Icon Peak Icon
Long Day // Back for Dinner
Climbed with UN 13342 + UN 13308
RT From Bear Creek/Hunchback Pass/Kite Lake: 7.3 mi / 3,990'
From UN 13342: 1.75 mi / 950' (One-Way)
  • Trailhead
    • Bear Creek/Hunchback Pass/Kite Lake TH

      WARNING: This trail head approach REQUIRES 4WD with good ground clearance. The drive as described below from Silverton may take up to 2.5 hours.

      From the Town of Silverton, and where the main road splits at the NE end of town, drive 4.2 miles NE up along the Animas River on blue-signed County Road 2 to Howardsville. Turn right onto FR589 up Cunningham Gulch and stay right at the turn for the "Old Mine Tour" (4.4 miles) but do take the left fork toward Stony Pass (FR737) at 5.9miles. Once on the Stony Pass Road, expect 4W conditions. The road climbs steeply to the pass. Abundant wildflowers as you approach the pass may delay you. Once across the pass, the road becomes FR520 and eventually leads to Rio Grande Reservoir, but you will not drive that far. The road eventually descends down the valley to a low water crossing of Pole Creek. There are several primitive campsites on both sides of the Pole Creek crossing. Watch out for the steep embankment climb out on the east side if the road is wet from rains. You could easily slip off the edge. After the crossing, continue south for under a mile to another fork where you'll turn right (west). Another long, low water crossing is found here across the Rio Grande River. This crossing is usually more shallow than the Pole Creek, but the closer you are to runoff season, the more difficult these crossings will be.

      It is also possible to come into this area from either Creede or Lake City over Slumgullion and Spring Pass to Rio Grande Reservoir. From state highway 149 either about 20.5 miles from Creede or 32 miles from Lake City, turn west onto FS520 and drive all the way to the reservoir on the well-signed, graded dirt road. Passenger cars can make it all the way to the "Lost Trail Campground" at the far west end of the reservoir. Beyond that point, FR520 continues west and crosses some rugged sections before connecting with the other section of FR520 coming down from Stony Pass and the low-water crossing of the Rio Grande. We have never driven in all the way on this section and from those we know who have, they have complained about one particularly difficult stretch.

      From the Rio Grande crossing, continue up what is now, the Beartown Road for a slow 4 miles (mainly because of potholes) to the former location of Beartown. (There's really nothing left to see there, but just before the road crosses Bear Creek, beyond the old townsite, there is some good camping. The road goes all the way to Kite Lake at about 12,100 ft., but the Hunchback Pass trailhead is about 1/2 mile below the lake. There's a trail sign there and some very limited parking is available. Road Notes as of 2018: About half the distance toward Beartown, the road crosses an unnamed creek and at that spot, there are some difficult mud/potholes that have really been dug out. Longer bed vehicles may have some difficulty getting through. Take it slow. Closer to Beartown, the road passes through a fence line. At that point, the road conditions will begin to deteriorate and become more rocky as it begins to gain some elevation.

      As the road begins climbing more steeply toward Kite Lake and the Hunchback trailhead, after crossing Bear Creek, it becomes quite a bit more rocky in that stretch as well. For a long section, the road is deeply entrenched in the middle because of runoff and the trench tends to fill with loose rocks. If you have driven in here to do the Ute Ridge group of summits, camp in the vicinity of where the road crosses Bear Creek just past the old Beartown site. See coordinates below. From that creek crossing, it's not quite .3 mile to the trailhead for Ute Ridge, which is a jeep track that turns off to the left and drops down to cross another lesser fork of Bear Creek. Park somewhere along this track if heading for Ute Ridge. On the Caltopo map, this trail is called the "Bear Town Trail" and designated FR869. On trails Illustrated Map #140, it does not appear to have a designation. Coordinates for this road & trailhead are: N 37° 42' 54.53" W 107° 30' 35.00". You can find a good camp spot here as well. You can also find some additional camp spots within a few hundred yards of the Hunchback Pass trailhead. One of those spots goes off to the south to an old mining area.


      You can find some very limited camping spots in the immediate vicinity of the Hunchback trailhead. There's one particularly good spot back down the road a fairly short distance on the south side. There's also some good camping back toward the Beartown site. See coordinates provided.

      Campsite Locations

      Beartown Campsite › N 37° 43' 05.02", W 107° 30' 35.47"
    Approach Map Photos
    • From UN 13308 UN 13342

      • UN13,308 East Ridge  Class 2 / 2.5 mi / 1,900’ One-Way

        From the trailhead described, follow the Bear Town Trail east in the direction of Indian Ridge. Though the USGS map does not show them, there are a couple of switchbacks as you work your way through forest to the open ridge. The first 400 feet of gain are the steepest, then the grade begins to lessen as you approach the tundra and grass-covered, broad ridge. There is a good possibility of seeing elk in this area. We encountered a nice-sized herd when we did this trip and even played a little hide-and-seek with a young bull elk, getting within about 50 yards of him before he bolted and headed for the willows. Be on the lookout. They'll probably spot you before you see them.

        Once on Indian Ridge, the trail turns almost south and follows along the eastern flank of UN13,308 and well below its north ridge. The trail then heads for a pass between UN13,308 and UN 13,342. The hiking is on mostly tundra with some scree & rock as you approach the pass. You may be tempted to angle right and depart the trail in favor of a more direct approach to the east ridge of the peak. We succumbed to this temptation by heading up a steep gully cutting through the rocky cliffs below the east ridge. What we found was difficult loose gravel and rock. It wasn't worth the effort and probably saved us no time in the end. Once you gain the saddle, turn right and walk west up the ridge for some more difficult Class 2 work that takes you onto some large, rock blocks. From the trailhead, a good party should be able to make this in 2 hours or under.

        From the summit, there are spectacular views to the west and south of the Grenadiers and Needles, particularly the more northern summits. Once you tear yourself away from the impressive sight, either return by the same route or continue on to UN13,342.

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      • UN13,342 West Ridge  Class 2 / 0.8 mi / 640’ One-Way

        From the summit of UN13,308, descend back down the east ridge through the large rock blocks and arrive at the saddle between the two peaks. A hike directly following the west ridge of UN13,432 will get you into some rocky terrain about mid way up but will easily go. If you wish to avoid the difficulty, from the saddle just swing out on the south side of the mountain and do an ascending contour more on the SE flank. Then just head up to the summit on mixed tundra-rock-gravel. Near the summit there are more large rock blocks with gravel in between. This is easy Class 2.

        Once you finish your summit visit, either return back to the saddle from whence you came or continue on to the Ute Ridge summit, another easy mile and a half away.

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    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Ute Ridge WSW Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2001

    From the summit of UN13,342, follow the ridge SE that drops a little then regains some elevation to a 13,220 ft. point. This will be the most difficult part of this traverse. It's all very rocky and unstable, but once you get past this false-summit sub peak, you'll be able to return to milder, tundra terrain descending to the saddle at 12,616 ft. There's a well-used game trail that crosses this saddle. From the saddle, hike NE avoiding the unranked Pt. 13,092 by contouring up to the ridge beyond on the SE flank. Once on the SW ridge of Ute, hike the last half mile to the summit, using any one of numerous game trails forged through the gravel. Near the summit, you'll come to a cliff band that encircles the summit that's not evident on Google Earth. We found two ways up through it. The one we used went through a narrow slot that broke through the band. Once above, continue on to the summit which is guarded by large rock blocks. Find a nice flat rock to sit on and devour your well-deserved lunch. From the trailhead to here over the other two summits took us about 4 hours.

    For the return trip you can shortcut it back to Indian Ridge, but you'll need to plot a route through dense willows. Descend back down the ridge which you just came up and at a flatter stretch at about 13,120 ft., descend NW down a steep talus slope that tapers into tundra about 700 feet down. At 12,200 feet, pick a game trail and contour west below the 13,092 ft. sub peak of Ute. Work your way into trees at 11,800 foot level and across another minor drainage. Bushwhack briefly through the trees on down and emerge into an open and relatively flat area of Starvation Gulch. Head through possible boggy areas and lush grass generally NW to get across the valley. Then head uphill utilizing groups of trees where the willows aren't so bad and do the best you can to avoid willows and regain the 500 feet in elevation back to Indian Ridge and the Bear Town trail used earlier in the day. Going through Starvation Gulch, you will likely see all kinds of evidence of elk. Follow the trail back to your waiting vehicle. Total round trip time for all three summits was 6 hours for us. From Un13,342 to Ute Ridge and then return to the trailhead is a total of 4 miles.

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