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UA 409 crash site near Medicine Bow PeakOn 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:

Wreckage from UA 409 with Sugarloaf Mountain in the background.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.

UA 409 MemorialIn 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 do visit please take only pictures and leave only foot prints because we can’t share special places when they are gone.




If you are looking for a guide to get you to the Wreck of UA 409:

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User Comments

  1. GlueBall |

    Probable cause is deliberate westerly deviation to effect a shortcut; cutting the corner between Laramie and Fort Bridger while bypassing Rock River by 30 miles. It was early morning daylight and the flight was cleared under VFR (Visual Flight Rules) at 10,000 feet. While off track the flight obviously had penetrated some clouds, obscuring the 12,018 foot (3,663 meters) Medicine Bow Peak which they had plowed into. There may have been some pressure to make up time as the flight was more than an hour behind schedule. But it was reckless to fly into clouds when under visual flight rules, especially when off the airway over high terrain. Stupid.

  2. ragnar1 |

    18 year old can not overcome 2 adult pilots

  3. Joseph DuPont |

    Possible incapacitation of crew by carbon monoxide emanating from a faulty cabin heater was speculated upon based on recovery crew observations that crew bodies appeared ‘discolored.’ what about the crew being dead before the crash?? Perhaps Pvt. Monk killed the crew locked the door and that is why the crew had a strange look because at room temp. they were decaying and everyone else turned cold while still alive??? this could support the suicide killing theory..

  4. Joseph DuPont |

    One of the passengers Airman Lawrence Monk said good bye to his mother and gave her his bible and said she would never see him again. To me would have been a prime suspect worthy of being investigated. Was he? Young Airman Had Premonition Of His Death CHEBOYGAN, Mich., Oct. 6 (AP)

    The mother of a Michigan airman killed Thursday in the crash of an airliner in Wyoming said the youth had a premonition of impending death.Mrs. Richard Ryan of Cheboygan said her 18-year-old son, Lawrence Monk, gave her his Bible early Sunday morning and said, “I’ll never need it again.” Mom, you’ll never see me again but you’ll hear about me,” the youth told her.

    They went to church together Sunday she said.

    Monk, en route to Oakland, Calif., enplaned at Willow Run Airport near Detroit.

    Monk enlisted in the Air Force June 22. He planned to make it his career, his mother said. This was the first trip home. He arrived Sept. 22 for a 12-day furlough.

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