Saturday & Sunday, May 18-19, 2019
This weekend we had some stuff to get done around the house but we still wanted to try and squeeze in a backpacking trip this month, so we decided to head over to the Dominguez – Escalante National Conservation Area for a quick overnighter into Big Dominguez Canyon. While I have hiked into lower Big Dominguez Canyon many times over the years, Diane had never been in this canyon before and wanted to finally check it out. We planned to do a repeat of my very first backpacking trip by starting out in Cactus Park and hiking down the canyon to Bridgeport so it wouldn’t be just another out and back hiking trip, plus I’ve wanted to redo this trip again now that I am much more experienced. After we had returned home from this trip I learned that Saturday was Colorado Public Lands Day, which I had never heard of before, so I guess it was pretty fitting that we actually stayed on public lands in Colorado this weekend instead of heading over into Utah like we usually do at this time of the year!
Entering the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness from Cactus Park under a threatening sky.
We left home in the early afternoon on Saturday and dropped Diane’s car off at the Bridgeport Trailhead and then we hopped into my Jeep and drove up to Cactus Park. We shouldered our packs and followed the old road into the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness. The weather forecast was calling for scattered rain showers in the area for the remainder of the day and there were a lot of dark clouds in the sky, but we decided to take our chances and hoped that the rain would miss us. For the most part it did, and we only encountered a few sprinkles throughout our hike and nothing that would get us wet. Just to be on the safe side since it looked like it could start raining harder at any time, we put the rain covers on our packs and had our rain jackets handy. The cooler temperature out was great for hiking, too!
After climbing up to the top of the mesa between Triangle Canyon and Big Dominguez Canyon we had a great view of the West Elk Mountains on the horizon. I really need to climb Mount Lamborn one of these days…
Wildflowers are plentiful in the desert this year!
You think someone could have removed this sign at the end of the old road when the area was designated wilderness over ten years ago…
Light illuminated Triangle Mesa in front of the Grand Mesa with rain showers surrounding it when we reached the rim of Big Dominguez Canyon.
We did have pretty great conditions at the Big Dominguez Canyon Overlook as the light and shadows were constantly changing.
Spotlight on the other side of the canyon.
A closer look at lower Dominguez Canyon.
Diane waited patiently while I took a lot of photos!
The amazing views continued as we hiked along the rim of the canyon to the trail that would take us down into the canyon.
The first ledge at the beginning of the descent into Big Dominguez Canyon.
Hiking down the rocky trail.
The last part of the steep and loose descent into the canyon.
We stopped to visit an old copper mine along the trail in the canyon. This old hand winch was pretty cool.
The deep mine shaft is covered up with this metal grate. Probably a good idea!
Archie Smith, 1907
Continuing our hike down the canyon.
A view of Big Dominguez Creek below our campsite for the night.
Layers of Light & Land
Not a bad view from camp shortly before sunset.
On Sunday morning we woke up at sunrise but the sky was completely overcast so there was no dramatic light or color to photograph. We packed up camp and continued down the trail.
A couple petroglyphs on a boulder along the trail.
A view from the junction with the Dry Fork of Big Dominguez Canyon.
The trail and the creek.
Soon we reached the popular Ute petroglyph panels that most day-hikers from the bottom turn around at.
An old shelter built under a boulder along the trail.
Diane spotted these faint petroglyphs that I don’t recall seeing before.
Next we walked over to check out the waterfall. The water was high, it was pretty cool outside and we didn’t want to get wet crossing the creek for a better view, so I took this shot looking right down the waterfall from above.
Looking down Big Dominguez Creek from near the waterfall.
Cowboy storage under a boulder near the trail.
The sun came out as soon as we reached the mouth of the canyon near the Gunnison River.
Crossing the bridge to the other side of the river.
The Bridgeport Bridge
Following the railroad tracks for the last mile to the trailhead.
We drove back up to Cactus Park to get my Jeep, but the road was a little too rutted in places for Daine’s car, so we had thrown my bike in the back so I could ride the rest of the way.
I got to ride a short section of the Tabeguache Trail on the way back to my Jeep
I loaded my bike on the carrier when I reached my Jeep and then drove back home. It’s great that even though we were short on time we were able to have a nice easy backpacking trip through a beautiful canyon so close to home!