The San Juan Mountains span approximately 6,000 square miles in the southwestern portion of Colorado and contain several sub-ranges, including the Grenadier Range, Needle Mountains, West Needle Mountains, La Garita Mountains and the La Plata Mountains. The San Juans are home to some of the most rugged and breathtaking mountains in the continental United States.

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Friday, 05 February 2010 02:50

San Juan Mountains

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The San Juan Mountains span approximately 6,000 square miles in the southwestern portion of Colorado and contain several sub-ranges, including the Grenadier Range, Needle Mountains, West Needle Mountains, La Garita Mountains and the La Plata Mountains. The San Juans are home to some of the most rugged and breathtaking mountains in the continental United States.

Grenadier and Needle Range

Many summits in the San Juan range score quite highly on the spire measure, or Omnidirectional relief and steepness. Omnidirectional relief and steepness (ORS) is a purely objective mountain measure which takes into account how high the peak rises above local terrain, and how steeply. Since it is a local measure it does not take absolute elevation into account, only the relative height of the peak above its surroundings. So for example a lot of the Colorado Fourteeners get low ratings, since many of them are not very steep and rise from high bases (David Metzler, Peaklist.org). Since the summits in the San Juans typically rise from their valleys in a much more dramatic fashion, they tend to score much higher in on the ORS.

Two such examples of this are Pigeon Peak and Vestal Peak:

Pigeon Peak

Pigeon Peak as seen from the summit of Vestal Peak

Vestal and Columbine

Vestal Peak

The San Juans are home to the Weminuche Wilderness Area, defined by many as the State of Colorado's finest outdoor paradise. This wilderness area encompasses nearly a half million acres. Subsequently, several summits within this mountain range are not visible by any road. Access to this wilderness area is generally strictly available by backpacking only.

The San Juans is also home to the Mount Sneffels Wilderness Area, one of the most pristine and photogenic areas of all of Colorado.

Mount Sneffels Wilderness Area

Find out the avalanche conditions in the Northern San Juans

Find out the avalanche conditions in the Southern San Juans

Find all summits in the San Juan Mountains

This map shows the Grenadier Range, West Needle Mountains, Needle Mountains, and the heart of the Weminuche Wilderness Area. Some of the most rugged summits in Colorado are in this area, including Vestal Peak, Storm King Peak, Pigeon Peak, and Turret Peak. It is also home to the Chicago Basin, which provides access to the three popular 14'ers of this area - Sunlight Peak, Windom Peak, and Mount Eolus. Most hikers choose to ride the train and backpack in from the train stop.

San Juan Mountains Map

This map shows the San Miguel Group, which includes Mount Wilson, Wilson Peak, El Diente Peak, and Gladstone Peak:

San Juan Mountains Map

The next map shows the Mount Sneffels Wilderness Area, including Mount Sneffels, Dallas Peak, the Yankee Boy Basin, and the town of Ouray, which offers one of the world's premier Ice Climbing Parks.

Here is Matt Payne ice climbing near Ouray:

Ice Climbing Ouray

San Juan Mountains Map

The Sneffels Wilderness Area, February 2010:

Sneffels Wilderness Area Photo

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