New Year’s Eve | Sunday, December 31, 2017
Well this is it! My last hike and trip report for 2017. It was another great year for getting out and exploring and I’m already making plans to make 2018 even better! For my last hike of the year I decided to stay closer to home and go for a hike into the Dominguez – Escalante National Conservation Area. Last summer while we were going for a drive through Escalante Canyon Diane spotted a trailhead sign along the road for the McCarty Trail which I had not noticed or heard of before, so I added it to my list to come back and hike another time. Today seemed like a good day to finally check it out.
I slept in a little later than normal on Sunday, had a little breakfast and then made my way over to Escalante Canyon later in the morning to start the hike up the McCarty Trail. At first, the trail climbs steeply into the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness on an old road and then levels off when it reaches the top of the McCarty Bench in about a half mile or so. Once on the bench the trail follows around a band of cliffs to the northeast point of the Camp Bench before climbing again up onto this bench. From here the trail gently climbs with the grade of the Uncompahgre Plateau through pinyon and juniper forest with a few open grassland areas mixed in. This is a long trail that you can take all the way to the Brushy Ridge Road in the Uncompahgre National Forest if you like, but I had no intentions on going that far today. Maybe one day I will hike down from the top? I didn’t want to just turn around somewhere on the trail, I wanted a destination to visit, so after a few miles I got off the trail by and old brush fence and hiked to the edge of the bench where I got a nice overlook into Palmer Gulch. This was a good spot to turnaround at.
Starting the hike at the McCarty Bench Trailhead in Escalante Canyon.
Hiking up the old road near the beginning of the trail.
Following the trail on the McCarty Bench below the cliffs of the Camp Bench.
I followed this old brush fence for a while on an off-trail hike to the overlook of Palmer Gulch.
A fine view from my turnaround point with the Book Cliffs and Grand Mesa on the horizon.
A nice overlook into Palmer Gulch below.
Looking across Palmer Gulch to Good Point on the other side.
Hiking through one of the open grassy areas on Camp Bench back toward the Grand Mesa.
Descending off Camp Bench to the McCarty Bench again.
After hiking about seven miles and returning to my Jeep, I still had some daylight left, so I drove down to the Gunnison River and revisited a few Ute petroglyph panels in the area.
Every time I drive Highway 50 from Grand Junction to Delta, I see the turnoff for Rattlesnake Gulch just beyond the road into Escalante Canyon and have always wanted to check it out, so before heading back home I went for a short drive down this road to the Gunnison River. It was a nice little area with good access to the Gunnison River, which I had just floated this past spring.
My Jeep along the Gunnison River at dusk.
Below is a map of my hike on the McCarty Trail to the Palmer Gulch Overlook. Just be warned that there is no official trail from the gate in the brush fence to the overlook, but it was pretty easy hiking following the old fence for a while and then picking my way through the pinyon and juniper forest to the edge.