Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 38.08010°N / 107.5335°W
Additional Information County: Hinsdale & Ouray
Activities Activities: Hiking, Trad Climbing, Scrambling
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
Additional Information Elevation: 13656 ft / 4162 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Patterned Sky
Cimarron Sky over Coxcomb Peak

I know Colorado's Fourteeners tend to get all the attention due to their elevation. There are no technical standard routes on the Fourteeners. However, if you're looking for harder peaks to climb, you have to step back and admire the lower Thirteeners.
Coxcomb Peak is a technical mountain by its' easiest route which is rated 5.6. The standard route wraps around to the south side of the mountain and proceeds up a 4th class rubble gully (extremely loose and chossy).
There are two chimneys at the top belay ledge and both are climbable. The left option tends to be the standard and is broader. This is rated at about 5.3. The right chimney is a bit longer, tighter and is roughly 5.4 or so. The crux is actually climbing out of the summit ridge notch. This 30' foot wall runs around 5.6.

At 13,656' it isn't an especially imposing peak to look at, not like say, Lizard Head, Wetterhorn or Jagged Peak. However, from up close at its' base, it's mildly ferocious. Coxcomb (so named for its semblance to a cock's comb on a rooster) is located in the Cimarron Range on the northeastern border of the massive San Juan Mountains. Due to it's relatively easy technical pitches, it is frequently used as a graduating climb for the BMS (Basic Mountaineering School) for the Colorado Mountain Club. Garrett and Martin's description of Coxcomb Peak from their book, "Colorado's High Thirteeners: a climbing & hiking guide," states it as,
"A difficult climb, with rope recommended, that should be attempted only by experienced climber."

Coxcomb was first climbed (unsuccessfully) on August 14th, 1929 by Forrest Greenfield and Dwight Lavender. They made it to within a few meters of the true summit before being stopped by a sizable gash in the summit ridge. Not having rope with them (and not expecting the gash), they had to abandon their summit bid.
Two days later, a group of eight individuals led by Henry Butchel were able to successfully repel into the notch, leaving the rope in place for the short climb out, thus claiming the first true summit.

The Cimarron Range is a wildly spectacular place. The rock is almost entirely of a volcanic nature (read: bad quality), multiple hues of red up high, profuse aspen forests and for the most part, is a quiet and secluded place. It's more frequented in autumn by hunters than by hikers or climbers. Other peaks of note in this area include: Wetterhorn, Uncompagre Peak, Chimney Rock, Precipice Peak and Colorado's hardest 12,000' peak, Turret Ridge.

Getting There

Starting from Gunnison, drive west on #50 for roughly eight miles to the Blue Mesa Reservoir. You'll want to stay on #50 driving past the reservoir. Approximately 18 miles past the reservoir, you'll come up to the Black Canyon RV Park and Campground on the left (south) side of the road. Shortly past this is the Little Cimarron Road. Two miles past the RV park, again on the left, you'll want to turn left onto Big Cimarron Road. If you hit the small town of Cimarron, you've gone too far.
Continue driving south on good hard=packed gravel roads, sometimes washboard for about 21 miles. Pass Watson Lake on the right. Stay straight at a T-intersection (turning here will lead you to a church camp). Eventually, Cimarron Road turns into Cty. Rd. #858. Pass some signs for Fish Creek Reserviors and continue south to Silver Jack Reservoir (large!). #858 will continue straight but you'll want to turn right onto #861. This will basically dead-end at a clearing in the trees with good parking and equally good camping spots. This is the trailhead.

Viewed from the north Springtime in the CimarronAt the saddleTime to get down!

Red Tape

This is part of the Uncompaghre Wilderness. That means:
  • Absolutely no motorized travel is permitted
  • No camping within 100' of any water source
  • No campfires within 100' of open water sources
and just in general, use common sense when it comes to 'Leave no Trace.' 

Leave your surroundings in the same condition it was for future generations and hikers/campers to enjoy. Because who knows, this may not be your only trip into the Cimarron Mountains.
This is a BEAUTIFUL place. Let's keep it like that!!!

When To Climb

Almost any peak can of course, be climbed year-round if the climbers' skill and experience is commensurate. Coxcomb Peak however is better suited for summer and fall. The avalanche potential in the upper basin is fairly substantial in winter. And in fact, Coxcomb does see more ascents in the warmer months; on occasion, springtime climbs are done.
In my opinion, due to the reds of the alpine rock and the gracious aspens everywhere, I think autumn is the best time to be in the Cimarron.


There are several options for camping in the Middle Fork.
  1. Black Canyon RV Park & Campground
    Located along state highway #50 about 4 miles east of the small town of Cimarron, this option does have spots that will accommodate tents. There are of course, RV pull-in sites but also some really nice cabins. This is a good option if you're looking for more comfort. And probably not a bad option since the trailhead is only 22 miles south. Open year-round.
  2. Trailhead
    This is an excellent option if you wanted to park as close as you can to maximize time for the approach hike in. The trailhead is partially in the forest with some spots exposed in a partial meadow. It is relatively flat with pre-existing fire-rings and plenty of space to park. In summer, it can fill up quickly from hikers due to the numerous trails that bisect the area. Another option is to hike 1.5 miles up the trail and set up camp in one of the meadows on the right side of the valley underneath Coxcomb and Redcliff Peaks. There is water but due to cattle and animals, treat it.
  3. Silver Jack Reservoir Campground
    Another great option with a more formal lay-out and good water nearby. This is located about 17 miles south of #50 along Cimarron Road. The turn-off for Silver Jack is labeled. Beware, summer weekends, this campground does fill up and can be loud but otherwise, it's fairly quiet.

Topographic Map

Topo map


Some trip reports:
Cimarron Summits

A Pair of Classics -by: Doug

Stuck in the Rockies

Mountain Project

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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John Prater

John Prater - Jul 22, 2004 2:12 pm - Hasn't voted

Untitled Comment

I climbed the North Face of Coxcomb over Memorial Day weekend of 2000. We went to the Redcliff/Coxcomb saddle (climbed Redcliff first), then climbed talus up to the cliff band of Coxcomb. We roped up and climbed the obvious weakness in the cliff band. You're climbing on red rock in somewhat of a right-facing dihedral here, and I recall the crux being climbing left out of the dihedral at the top. This places you on loose, sloping class 2/3 terrain briefly. Above, I continued up a chimney (4th to low 5th class?) and belayed where the chimney turns to the right. This pitch might have been close to 50m. A short second pitch up the chimney (4th to low 5th class) dumped us out right at the summit cairn.

The excitement came on the descent. I placed a sling right below the summit and rapped down the chimney. I searched for a while for another anchor before spotting some slings up and left of the chimney. We had to ascend a bit of snow to reach those slings. A second rap from those slings placed me on the class 2/3 loose crap. Finding a suitable rap anchor here was difficult. I finally draped a sling over a solid boulder with barely a lip on the back side, and we carefully rapped off that. Yikes! This was way sketchy, from my point of view anyway.

Note that we had a single 50m rope on this trip. The route we took avoided any snow (for the most part). There was a bit of ice in the chimney, but it was avoidable by stemming.

I climbed Coxcomb again 3 weeks ago. We went up the standard southwest chimney route this time, but we planned to descend the North Face so we could more easily combine it with Redcliff. We packed two 60m ropes to avoid the "sketchy" rap. The first rap anchor I had placed 4 years ago was still there and had been backed up with another sling. However, we managed to downclimb east-northeast (?) from the summit over 3rd to 4th class terrain to reach our second rap anchor from 2000. From here, we did one 60m rappel to the bottom of the cliff band (ie, to hiking terrain). I checked out the "sketchy" rap anchor I had used in 2000, and about 4 or 5 slings had been added to it! I guess the route has seen a bit of traffic since I was up there. My recommendation is to take two 60m ropes if you plan to descend the north face. I'm not sure if two 50m ropes would reach.


peakwolf - Nov 13, 2004 4:49 pm - Hasn't voted

Untitled Comment

Morgan sorry I didn't get to you in time. The trail is #226 and the approach I described is from the north, heading south to Coxcomb. The trail is named on the Trails Illustrated map as Wetterhorn Basin trail. If the map is wrong please let me know and I will change it. You do hike in along Cimarron creek.


mpbro - Jul 21, 2004 8:05 pm - Hasn't voted

Untitled Comment

If I understand you correctly, you are talking about the trailhead near the headwaters of the West Fork of the Cimarron River. I believe this trailhead is named "West Fork Cimarron", and not "Wetterhorn Basin". I was confused, because I thought you were describing the approach from the south, through Wetterhorn Basin proper. If I'm wrong about this, please let me know!



mpbro - Jul 21, 2004 8:56 pm - Hasn't voted

Untitled Comment

Jacobs and Ormes, in Guide to the Colorado Mountains (tenth edition) describe the North Face route as follows: "At about 11,400', leave the West Fork Trail and hike up the small drainage coming off the north face. Alternating bands of snow, and a couple pitches of 5.2 rock, lead up just east of the summit, for a short scramble to the top."

This looks like an excellent alternative to the SW Chimney, especially for day trips. Anyone have additional info? Seems that much of the snow could be avoided by going to the Redcliff/Coxcomb saddle, but perhaps the snow is considered part of the route's fun?

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5th Class Colorado PeaksMountains & Rocks