Southern Rocky Mountains
|Range Type||Mountain range with well-recognized name|
|Highest Point||Mount Elbert (14,433 ft/4399 m)|
|Countries||United States |
|States/Provinces||Colorado (66%), Wyoming (17%), New Mexico (17%)|
(numbers are approximate percentage of range area)
|Area||79,008 sq mi / 204,631 sq km|
Area may include lowland areas
|Extent||542 mi / 872 km North-South|
255 mi / 410 km East-West
|Center Lat/Long||38° 56' N; 106° 34' W|
|Map Link||Microsoft Bing Map|
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The Southern Rockies are the large, distinct, and high group of mountains centered on Colorado, blanketing a huge chunk of that state. Separated from the rest of the Rockies by the dry, open basins of central Wyoming, the Southern Rockies spill over Colorado's northern and southern borders into Wyoming and New Mexico, but these heart and soul of this mountain group can still be thought of as the Colorado Rockies. The extentions of this area into Wyoming (the Park and Sierra Madre ranges) and New Mexico (the southern Sangre de Cristo and San Juan ranges) are consisently lower than the Colorado portions of the shared ranges.
The Southern Rockies are consistently high, rising to over 14,000 feet/4267m in several widely spaced ranges, but the warm, dry summers of 37 to 41 degrees north latitude keep snowfields and glaciation to a bare minimum. The majority of this area is massive, rounded, sprawling, relatively gentle masses of peaks, with the occasional craggy, steep areas sprinkled about. The many ski areas of Colorado are testament to the terrain of this part of the Rockies--just mountainous enough for excellent skiing without being too steep and rocky.
The best-known peak-bagging endeavor in the western United States is the ascent of all the 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado. Popular guidebooks tell hikers how to gain these magic summits, road maps show their locations with special symbols, and many hikers and climbers would be hard-pressed to name more than a few non-fourteeners in the state. The Colorado Mountain Club officially dubs 54 peaks as "fourteeners", but, as with any list of mountains, there is controversy over what sub-peaks and offshoot summits count as separate official peaks. Some advice: decide on consistent criteria (for example, a 200-foot gain from a col with another summit) and make up your own list, or just select peaks that appeal to you in some way.
Nevertheless, the list of fourteeners is indeed an impressive catalog of summits, ranging from the famous (Pikes Peak-14,410') to the challenging (Longs
Peak-14,256') to the high (Mount Elbert-14,433') to the obscure (Mount Sherman-14,015'). Most fourteeners are easy climbs, often just hikes. Only about ten or so, including those in the Crestone area in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Wilsons in the San Juans, and summits in the Elk Mountains, require anything more than walking to gain the summit. The hardest don't even require a rope if the climbers are good and careful scamblers, and two (Pikes Peak and Mount Evans) have good auto roads to their tops.
With so much attention having been devoted to the fourteeners, more and more people are discovering the Colorado "thirteeners" (13,000 foot peaks), many of which offer just as much as their slightly higher but more popular and famous neighbors. There are, by one count, 583 thirteeners spread out among the state's ranges, so climbing all of them is much more of a long-term, open-ended challenge than following the masses to the summits of fourteeners. And Colorado has plenty of 12,000 footers or 11,000 footers that would be dominant and spectacular if they were located in any other state. Indeed, Robert Ormes, long-time editor of the Colorado Mountain Guide, has expressed dismay at the emphasis of fourteeners, saying that pointy Mount Zirkel (12,181') is perhaps the finest peak in the state.
|Map of Southern Rocky Mountains|
Click on red triangle icons for links to other ranges.
Note: Range borders shown on map are an approximation and are not authoritative.
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|Other Ranges: To go to pages for other ranges either click on the map above, or on range names in the hierarchy snapshot below, which show the parent, siblings, and children of the Southern Rocky Mountains.|
|Rocky Mountains||Level 2 (Parent)|
|         Far Northern Rockies||Level 3 (Sibling)|
|         Canadian Rockies||Level 3 (Sibling)|
|         Central Montana Rocky Mountains||Level 3 (Sibling)|
|         Idaho-Bitterroot Rocky Mountains||Level 3 (Sibling)|
|         Greater Yellowstone Rockies||Level 3 (Sibling)|
|         Western Rocky Mountains||Level 3 (Sibling)|
|         Southern Rocky Mountains||Level 3|
|                 Park Range||Level 4 (Child)|
|                 Southern Wyoming Ranges||Level 4 (Child)|
|                 Flat Tops Area||Level 4 (Child)|
|                 Front Range||Level 4 (Child)|
|                 Elk Range Area||Level 4 (Child)|
|                 Sawatch Range||Level 4 (Child)|
|                 Central Colorado Ranges||Level 4 (Child)|
|                 San Juan Mountains||Level 4 (Child)|
|                 Sangre de Cristo Range||Level 4 (Child)|
Major Peaks of the Southern Rocky Mountains
|Ten Highest Peaks|
|1.||Mount Elbert||14,433||4399||Sawatch Range|
|2.||Mount Massive||14,421||4396||Sawatch Range|
|3.||Mount Harvard||14,420||4395||Sawatch Range|
|4.||La Plata Peak||14,361||4377||Sawatch Range|
|5.||Blanca Peak||14,345||4372||Sangre de Cristo Range|
|6.||Uncompahgre Peak||14,309||4361||San Juan Mountains|
|7.||Crestone Peak||14,294||4357||Sangre de Cristo Range|
|8.||Mount Lincoln||14,286||4354||Central Colorado Ranges|
|9.||Grays Peak||14,270||4349||Front Range|
|10.||Mount Antero||14,269||4349||Sawatch Range|
|Sub-peaks are excluded from this list. List may not be complete, since only summits in the PBC Database are included.|
Photos of Peaks in the Southern Rocky Mountains
|Mount Elbert: Mt. Elbert, covered with spring snowfields, from south summit.|
|Blanca Peak: Blanca Peak lords over the open expanses of the San Luis Valley.|
|Grays Peak: Grays and Torreys peaks from nearby Kelso Mountain.|
|Torreys Peak: Torreys Peak from nearby Grays Peak, 3 feet higher.|
|Longs Peak: A view of Longs Peak from the "boulder field" to the northeast. The Diamond is the sheer cliff on the left side of the peak.|
|Mount Wilson: Mount Wilson is the leftmost major summit in this view of the San Miguel Range from the Telluride ski area.|
|Mount Princeton: The massive 3-summited bulk of Mount Princeton is a landmark towering above the Arkansas Valley.|
|Mount Sneffels: Mount Sneffels is one of the most photogenic peaks in Colorado.|
|Missouri Mountain: The bulky, ledge mass of Missouri Mountain from the Pine Creek valley.|
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