On the morning of October 6th, 1955, United Airlines 409 took off from Denver headed to Salt Lake City. The airplane, a DC-4, crashed into the high ridge near Medicine Bow Peak at an altitude of 11,570 feet, about 50 feet too low.
All 66 people on board were killed. At the time it was the most fatalities for a commercial airline crash in the United States.
We put together a short video of how we found the site:
Initial recovery and investigation efforts were very difficult given the high altitude, rugged terrain, and bad weather. It’s always possible for an early season storm to close Wyoming Highway 130 by mid October.
Some of the wreckage from UA 409 was propelled to the other side of the mountain, some remained hung up on the high ledges, but most of it was scattered along the boulder field that falls from the cliff face and in the snow melt pond below.
No conclusive cause for the accident was found. The airplane was intact and even climbing at impact. No mechanical failures were discovered. The flight was off course to the west and while there was bad weather the pilot Capt. Cooke was very experienced and had flown this route many times. The probable cause was listed as pilot deviation for unknown reasons.
In August 2001 a memorial to those who died in the accident was placed at the Medicine Bow Peak Overlook near the Miners Cabin Trailhead.
The bulk of the wreckage was destroyed but the boulder field coming down from the wreck is full of fragments.
You can get there by parking at the Mirror Lake Trailhead but there is no trail to the wreckage (the route on our maps is just for reference). You have to hike northwest from the trailhead, get to the west side of lookout lake, go over a ridge and down into the low ground that makes the snow melt pond. You will be walking cross country and over boulders but the distance is less than 1/2 mile.
If you are looking for a guide to get you to the Wreck of UA 409: