Located just outside Grand Junction, the 210,172-acre Dominquez-Escalante National Conservation Area looks a lot more like Utah than Colorado. And to be fair… it’s pretty close to Utah. But it doesn’t get the same crowds as Zion Arches, or Canyonlands, and it’s just a four hours drive from Denver.
So this week, we rounded up two of our favorite hikes in one of Colorado’s least-visited wild places.
Short Day: The Escalante Canyon Potholes
We understand that you might be hesitant to take on a desert hike in the peak of summer. Not that we’d blame you—local temperatures can reach into the triple digits this time of year. But that makes this peak season for the “potholes”: a series of natural swimming pools carved into the sandstone.
The most popular of the pools is the so-called “Jumping Hole,” which can be jumped into (illegally) from 15-foot cliff walls. This pool can be accessed by a short walk from the road, but adventurous hikers can spend hours hunting down less-obvious (but just as worthy) pools in the area.
Getting there: Turn on Escalante canyon road from Highway 50 and the Potholes are 12 miles down the road on the left. Make sure to stop for the marked petroglyph and early homestead scenic destinations along the way. There are no fees for the area, and leashed dogs are allowed.
Photo by Bob Wick.
Long Day: The Big Dominguez Canyon Trail
At 16.6 miles each way, the full hike through Big Dominquez Canyon is actually a really long day. So long that many parties choose to stretch it into a two or three-day backpacking trip. But because it’s an out-and-back hike, the canyon tour can be easily adapted to fit any appetite for adventure.
From the 3.5-mile mark, the canyon is lined with petroglyphs, waterfalls, old mines, and primitive stone shelters. Most of these are visible right off the trail, but some petroglyphs are hidden in more remote parts of the canyon. At mile seven, a mineshaft can be found near a rock shelter used by early miners.
Getting there: Start at the Bridgeport Trailhead off of Highway 50. Follow the trail from the parking lot, through a lower parking lot and across railroad tracks. Enter the Wilderness Area after about two miles. At about 2.5 miles you will come to a junction, and follow the Big Dominguez Canyon Trail to the right for as long as you’d like.
Photo by Bob Wick. Words by Anna Baldwin.