Wheeler Mountain - South Ridge

Difficulty:  Easy Class 3 
Summit Elevation: 13,690 feet
Trailhead Elevation: 10,950 feet
Elevation Gain:2,900 feet
Round-trip Length: 8.50 miles
Trailhead: Montgomery Res.
Author: BillMiddlebrook
Route Added: 08/23/2005
Last Updated: 08/11/2012


Less than 1 mile south of Hoosier Pass, take the County Road (CR) 4 west from Colorado 9. Start measuring mileage when you turn onto CR 4. At 0.3 miles, stay straight. At 0.6 miles, stay straight. At 0.8 miles, go right on the higher road. At 1.4 miles, reach the parking area at Montgomery Reservoir. Cross a small bridge and continue around the reservoir. Near 1.6 miles, the road gets a little rough. Climb the hill for a bit and locate a turn-off to the left - at 1.7 miles. Turn left and park near a water shed and concrete wall. This is the trailhead.


This climb begins with a long, easy hike to 13,300’ and finishes on Wheeler’s rugged South Ridge. Hike northwest and west over 2.5 miles up the rough 4WD road into Platte Gulch. Near the end of the basin, stay right as the road climbs up to Wheeler Lake at 12,168’. The lake is over 3 miles from the trailhead.

Photo #1 and Photo #2 show the remaining route from Wheeler Lake. The 4WD road ends on the left side of the lake. Continue north on an old road as it turns into a trail. Your next goal is to climb a grassy slope leading to the high basin south of Wheeler - Photo #3. Pass an old car (Photo #4) and begin your ascent up the slope on the left side of the stream. A faint trail climbs this slope to reach the basin. If you cannot find the trail, simply parallel the stream until you reach the top of the slope. Enter the basin (12,500’) near the outlet of an unnamed lake. Locate the old trail as it continues to the right around the right (east) side of the lake - Photo #5. If you lose the trail, keep hiking north toward the northeast end of the lake. Above 12,600’, reach a flat area with evidence of an old mine. The summit is to the northwest but you must now hike west to reach a saddle on Wheeler’s South Ridge - Photo #6.

The basin looks confusing from this area. Look up at the ridge to spot the saddle. In summer, the slope leading to the saddle is covered with grass. Believe it or not, the trail continues all the way to the saddle, but it’s faint. Look for small cairns. Hike west across the basin through talus and between rock outcroppings. Keep an eye on the slope/saddle ahead. Near 13,000’, cross a flat area before starting up the slope below the saddle. Photo #7 shows the easy slope above 13,100’. Reach the south ridge at 13,350’.

Now the fun begins as the route becomes more challenging. The summit is 1/4 mile away and some scrambling is inevitable. The south ridge is rugged and covered with loose rock. The remaining route uses the left (west) side of the ridge. Walk to the west side and look for trail segments or cairns. Continue north along the side of the ridge. There are several areas where you will climb up onto a rock rib only to have to drop again to avoid cliffs up to your right. Work your way to an easy section where you can see the summit ahead - Photo #8. No need to gain the ridge yet - continue along the side. The summit is not obvious - it’s the point with a large "Y" of white rock on the side. This can be seen in Photo #9. Reach another small rib before the summit - Photo #9. Once again, drop down and enter a loose gully that leads to a notch just north of the summit. Turn right and execute an easy Class 3 move to gain the small summit.

From the location of Photo #9, there is another option to reach the summit: It is shown in the photo with a dotted line. Climb directly up a gully on the right side of the "Y" summit block. When you reach the ridge, turn left and climb over to the summit (Class 3). Photo #10 is a view of the South Ridge from Clinton Peak. From the top, Photo #11 looks north and Photo #12 look south.


Stock vehicles shouldn’t attempt the very rough 4WD road up from the trailhead. This is one of the roughest roads in the area.


Photo #1 Photo #2 Photo #3 Photo #4 Photo #5 Photo #6 Photo #7 Photo #8 Photo #9 Photo #10 Photo #11 Photo #12