Uncompahgre River (Upper)

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Uncompahgre River (Upper) Canyoneering Canyoning Caving
Also known as: Uncompaghre River; Upper Uncompahgre River.
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Uncompahgre River (Upper) Banner.jpg

Difficulty:3C3 III (v3a4 III)
Raps:‌7, max ↨50ft
Overall:3-6.5h ⟷2.2mi
Approach:30-45min ↑800ft
Descent:2.5-5.5h ⟷1mi ↓800ft
Exit:5min ↑0ft
Red Tape:No permit required
Shuttle:Optional 10min
Rock type:Sandstone
Condition Reports:
16 Aug 2023

"Lovely day in Upper Unc during the Ouray Canyon Fest! Water wasn't problematic in the short raps or downclimbs in the pretty narrows. Depths were no

(log in to submit report)
Best season:
Late July-


Upper Uncompahgre is a fun water park with jumps, slides, chutes, and a few rappels.

Minimum rope requirement: 1 X 100 feet. Recommended to take two and leapfrog.

Typical time for this route is 3 to 6 hours. Canyoneers inexperienced in down-climbing in swift water will greatly prolong the time required.


Drive from the Ouray Hot Springs Park drive south on Highway 550 for 4.3 miles and turn left onto the dirt road at a blue sign on the right for "Alpine Loop". This is also the exit. Gauge the water level where the Uncompahgre River flows through a culvert underneath the highway.

Hike 1.2 miles up the dirt road traversing three switchbacks. After a small scree field, when the river is close to the road, look for a social trail from the road to the river.

A Car Shuttle is possible with high clearance vehicle. Shuttling this section of road will eliminate the approach hike but won’t save much time.

  • Hiking the 4x4 road
  • Descent

    As with all Ouray canyons, the pool depths change every year after the spring runoff and after severe storms.
    Always check pool depths before jumping.

    First Technical Section

    The first rappel is 10 minutes downstream of the approach point on the map.

    R1: 20’ from webbing around old mining debris in the watercourse. This has been jumped as the water is typically deep.

    R2: 25’ from bolts on Canyon Left. The pool is typically too shallow to jump, but the rappel can be set short for a short slide.

    R3: 50’ from bolts on Canyon Right. The rocks are slick leading to the anchor, so clip in with a safety tether. A hand line from a tree on Canyon Left is recommended to get the group to the anchor safely. About 2/3 of the way down is a nice ledge that offers a seat behind the veil of the waterfall and is a unique opportunity to do so. There is also a redirect on Canyon Left near the lip which can be utilized in high water conditions.

    The canyon can be exited up a slope on Canyon Left after R3, back to an old mining road leading upstream above the first rappels to the 4x4 road.

    Second Technical Section

    A short distance of open streambed after R3, a magnificent section of narrows starts with chutes and slides for about 500 feet. Beware foot entrapment.

    R4: 30’ from a tree higher on Canyon Right. The pool below can be jumped or slid if deep enough.

    R5: 25’ from a large rock chock on Canyon Left into a shallow pool. Some may downclimb this low-angle slab.

    A narrow chute follows R5, followed by two possible slides and a downclimb before the canyon turns to the right for a short distance of streamwalking.

    Third Technical Section

    R6: 35’ from a tree on Canyon Left. Some have downclimbed this low angle slab. A 15 foot downclimb in a chimney immediately follows. Extend the rope if required.

    R7: 40’ from bolts Canyon Left with a small free-hang. Downclimb on Canyon Right in lower water or duck under the huge boulders into a big chamber on Canyon Left and downclimb a chute on Canyon Left.

    The field of large boulders that follows can be downclimbed entirely without rope, though some optional rappels may be required if staying in watercourse.

  • downclimb through large Boulder Field
  • Exit

    Exit shortly after the large boulder field downclimb sequence and contour the hillside, walking various paths through the woods back to a switchback on the 4x4 road.

    Alternatively, continue further downstream and exit onto the road when the road and cars are near.

    Red tape

    Beta sites

    Trip reports and media



    Information provided by automated processes. KML map by (unknown). Main photo by (unknown). Authors are listed in chronological order.

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