Share:

Matterhorn Peak

San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Start Exploring
Matterhorn Peak

Share:

Advertisement
  • Four-wheel drive trailhead with Sunshine Mountain in the background.- Matterhorn Peak
  • Please observe the regulations posted at the trailhead.- Matterhorn Peak
  • Wildflowers along the trail.- Matterhorn Peak
  • The trail follows Matterhorn Creek.- Matterhorn Peak
  • Wildflowers along the trail.- Matterhorn Peak
  • The first trail split is 0.6 miles from the four-wheel drive parking area. Turn right at that junction.- Matterhorn Peak
  • Wildflowers along the trail.- Matterhorn Peak
  • Looking back toward Sunshine Mountain from the trail.- Matterhorn Peak
  • The second junction is at 1.77 miles from the four-wheel drive parking area. Turn right to go to Matterhorn or left for Wetterhorn.- Matterhorn Peak
  • Looking back south from the trail as a storm approaches. Lightning can be very dangerous in the mountains, especially above the tree line.- Matterhorn Peak
  • A view of Matterhorn Peak from the trail.- Matterhorn Peak
  • Last light looking southeast from the trail.- Matterhorn Peak
  • Hiker just past the tree line.- Matterhorn Peak
  • The basin is used for herding sheep. Here is the shepherd with his loyal dog.- Matterhorn Peak
  • A view of Uncompahgre Peak to the east. The trail to Matterhorn continues to the left- Matterhorn Peak
  • Alpine flowers approaching the peak.- Matterhorn Peak
  • Looking back toward Sunshine Mountain.- Matterhorn Peak
  • A view of Wetterhorn Peak close to the Matterhorn Peal summit.- Matterhorn Peak
  • Uncompahgre Peak as seen from near the Matterhorn Peak summit.- Matterhorn Peak
  • Matterhorn summit.- Matterhorn Peak
  • Descending from the summit.- Matterhorn Peak
  • Sheep herd at the base of Matterhorn (right) and Wetterhorn (left).- Matterhorn Peak
  • Sheep herd crowding the trail.- Matterhorn Peak
  • Matterhorn (right) and Wetterhorn (left).- Matterhorn Peak
  • Trail up to Matterhorn (right) and Wetterhorn (left).- Matterhorn Peak
  • Camping on the edge of the tree line.- Matterhorn Peak
  • Perseid meteors, Mars, and the Milky Way. Mars was particularly close to Earth in August 2018, which coincided with the Perseid meteor shower and a new moon, making for a great star gazing opportunity.- Matterhorn Peak
  • Perseid meteors, Mars, and the Milky Way. Mars was particularly close to Earth in August 2018, which coincided with the Perseid meteor shower and a new moon, making for a great star gazing opportunity.- Matterhorn Peak
  • Long exposure view of Matterhorn under the stars as seen from the edge of the tree line.- Matterhorn Peak
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Beautiful and moderate hike without the crowds found in more popular areas.
Cons: 
Visible marks of mining past in the area
Advertisement
Region:
San Juan Mountains, CO
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions
Highest point: 
13,596.00 ft (4,144.06 m)
Net Elevation Gain: 
2,775.00 ft (845.82 m)
Year round: 
No
Open from: 
June 01 to November 23
Parking Pass: 
None
Permit required: 
No
Preferable Season(s):
Summer
Suitable for:
Horseback
Total Distance: 
8.00 mi (12.87 km)
Total elevation gain: 
2,850.00 ft (868.68 m)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
10,821.00 ft (3,298.24 m)
Typically multi-day: 
No
Current Local Weather:
Advertisement
Hike Description

Hike Description

Sponsored Contributor

Matterhorn Peak is a thirteener located in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. At 13,596 feet, it is one of the 200 highest mountains in the state. The hike up to the peak is 7.5 miles round trip or 9 miles, depending on where you start. It is a beautiful hike that is usually not crowded, even on summer weekends.

To get there, take Co Rd 20 from Lake City, following Henson Creek West. It is a beautiful canyon, though be careful because there is usually a lot of OHV traffic on summer weekends. Also note that the road is closed from December to May. After turning onto Co Rd 24, the area located at 38.022987, -107.491803 is a good place to park if you do not have a high clearance vehicle. If you do, you can drive up to the two-wheel drive parking area some 0.7 miles north or the four-wheel drive parking area just ahead.

For the first 0.6 miles the trail follows the Matterhorn Creek through the forest, gradually ascending 400 feet in rocky terrain. The creek carries minerals and metals resulting in part from the mining history in the area, so it is not recommended to drink the water, even if filtering it. Follow the trail to the right (east) toward Wetterhorn and Matterhorn peaks. The last trees are at about 1.3 miles from the trailhead, signaling the last spot to camp below the tree line. As the trail is not crowded and skies are remarkably dark, this is a great location to observe and photograph the night sky.

At 1.77 miles from the trailhead, after some 1,160 of elevation gain, the trail splits. Take a right for Matternorn or a left for Wetterhorn. Wetterhorn Peak, being a fourteener, is more popular and also requires a bit more scrambling and exposure. At 2.5 miles from the trailhead and some 1,640 feet of elevation gain, the trail splits again – turn left for the Matterhorn or keep going straight toward Uncompahgre Peak, which is visible to the east. From that point the trail more or less disappears until the last hike before the scramble to the summit. The ascent is considered a Class 3 scramble, not technical climbing per se, but there is height exposure on loose rocks.

As on any other mountain in Colorado, it is recommended to summit early in the day because weather can change rapidly and afternoon lightning storms are very common. The area is used as grazing grounds for large herds of sheep, which are often visible from the mountain and sometimes crowd the trail.

Updates, Tips + Comments

Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide

Field Guide

Download
Advertisement
Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(8 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(29 within a 30 mile radius)

Adventure Community

Adventure Community

Who Wants To Do It
Become a pioneer and be the first to add this adventure to your Bucket List
Who's Done It
Have you done this adventure? If so, be the first to check this adventure off your list.
Submission by
Sponsored Contributor
42 Adventures Explored
39 Adventures Published

Newsletter Signup

Join the Outdoor Project Community

Get access to essential planning materials and information for your next adventure. Take a few seconds to join the community. It’s FREE!

Free Field Guides + Maps

Post Updates, Tips + Comments

Organize + Track Your Adventures

Insider Detailed Info, News + Benefits

Custom Driving Directions

Recommended Campsites, Photos + Reservation Info