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Adventure / October 21, 2013

Colorado’s loneliest place: Vermillion Basin

Written by: Matt Minich

So you want solitude. Not the relative quiet of a well-traveled path through the woods or national forest campsite. We’re talking dark side of the moon solitude. Real hermit stuff.

Boy, have we got the place for you. Northwest Colorado’s 77,000-acre Vermillion Basin roadless area has no established campsites, no maintained trails, and isn’t even marked on most maps. It’s a place so quiet, passing planes sound like rolling thunder.

The basin is part of Colorado’s high desert — populated mostly by deer, elk, and sagebrush, and home to petroglyphs and artifacts of the Fremont Indians, who called it home more than 1,000 years ago.

It’s best hiked in the spring and early summer, when Vermillion Creek (it’s main water source) is at peak flows. Always pack in extra water, as the creek sometimes goes completely dry. Bring warm clothes, a compass, and the USGS 7.5-minute maps for Irish Canyon and Sugarloaf Butte, which are available online for $8 each.

Getting there:  Fill your gas tank and water jugs in Maybell, and head northwest on Highway 318 for 41.5 miles to Irish Canyon (Moffat County Road 10N). Drive about 10 miles through Irish Canyon, and turn right onto a jeep track shortly after the terrain opens up. Follow this track for about a mile to a BLM gate, and park here. The road continues beyond this gate to Vermillion Creek, but would likely become impassible after a rain, leaving you stranded. For the best scenery, follow Vermillion Creek to the north.


about the author

Matt Minich

Matt Minich is Editorial Director for Shoulders of Giants. He has spent more than a decade writing, editing, and curating content about outdoor sports and adventure. As an adventure journalist he has climbed peaks in Patagonia, rappelled waterfalls in Colorado, B.A.S.E. jumped in Moab, and sampled fermented horse milk in Kyrgyzstan.

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