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No Thoroughfare Canyon

Friday & Saturday, April 18-19, 2014

Since I have a three night backpacking trip coming up at the beginning of May and I never did get out on a backpacking trip last year, I wanted to get in a quick overnight trip this month. I have also wanted to camp in the backcountry of the Colorado National Monument and hike the full length of No Thoroughfare Canyon. I decided to take care of all three of these goals with an overnight backpacking trip through No Thoroughfare Canyon with my friend Jackson. We had a hard time figuring out a good night for this trip where our schedules matched up, and in the end it worked out best for us to leave after work on Friday and get off the trail on Saturday afternoon. I headed up to the Visitor’s Center on Thursday afternoon during my lunch break to get a backcountry permit for our trip. It was my first time getting one of those permits and the process was quick and easy. On Friday we watched the weather forecast all day hoping for an improvement, but it pretty much remained the same with a 50% chance of rain overnight and into Saturday morning. We decided to deal with the possibly of rain and went anyways. We left after work on Friday and parked my Jeep at the Devil’s Kitchen Picnic Area. Diane was nice enough to drive us up to the upper trailhead near Glade Park to drop us off so we wouldn’t have to worry about picking up a vehicle the next day.

We ended up hiking about 3 miles down the upper canyon before finding a spot to camp for the night.  There were a lot of clouds this evening but there were enough openings to allow some blue sky and sunlight through on occasion.  While the trail down from the rim into the canyon is maintained by the park and there is a decent primitive trail to follow most of the way, there were a few sections where it was hard to follow and we had to bushwhack through some thick vegetation.

Starting our hike from the upper trailhead along Little Park Road.

Trailhead by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Following the trail down into the upper canyon.

Entering the Canyon by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Most of the day was overcast, but we did get a little blue sky during our evening hike.

Upper No Thoroughfare Canyon by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Jackson coming down the trail.

Jackson by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The well-constructed trail into the canyon.

Upper No Thoroughfare Trail by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Jackson hikes through the ample scrub oak in the upper section of the canyon.

Brushy Trail by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Canyon Wall by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

After the scrub oak came the thick sagebrush to meander through.

In the Sage by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A nice view up another upper branch of No Thoroughfare Canyon.

Another Branch by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Upper Trail by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Sandstone & Clouds by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Canyon Sky by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Upper Scene by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The Grand Mesa and Chalk Mountain come into view in the distance. We also got a glimpse of Mount Garfield a few times, too.

Down the Canyon by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The last sunlight we would see for the rest of the trip…

Last of the Light by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Setting up camp for the night under the overcast sky.

No Thoroughfare Camp by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

After dinner and waiting for darkness to arrive we went to sleep early. I woke up around 1:00am when it started to rain, and it wouldn’t stop raining until we were back at my Jeep around 11:00am. We got up after the sun had come up behind the clouds and the rain was not too heavy. We quickly ate breakfast and took down camp while trying not to get everything too wet. Then we set off to finish the rest of the hike. Since it was raining pretty good when we left camp, I put my camera in my backpack with the rain cover on, so the next two photos were taken with my phone.

Jackson hiking in the rain as we left camp.

Hiking in the Rain by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The canyon ahead…

Leaving Camp by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The rain eventually let up enough that I was comfortable taking my camera out again. Shortly after leaving camp the trail pretty much disappeared. I knew we had to stay high above the wash for a bit, so we spent some time finding our way across washes, through trees and around boulders.

We started the steep and loose descent into the precambrian rock just past the Second Waterfall. There was a bit of scrambling, but nothing too difficult.

Descent by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Precambrian View by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

We hiked back up the canyon a short distance to check out the Second Waterfall.

Second Waterfall by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Then we continued back down the canyon. I liked the stripes in these rocks.

Slick Rocks by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Once we reached the bottom of the Second Waterfall the trail would continue to get better all the way back to the trailhead. This is the furthest most people hike up from the bottom.

Following the trail down to the bottom of the First Waterfall.

Trail Down by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Looking down on the First Waterfall from the trail.

First Fall by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Cascade by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The first sign we had seen since we left the upper trailhead. The trail would be easy from here!

First Sign by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

There were a lot of vibrant green leaves on the trees in this section of the canyon, which contrasts nicely with the black rock.

Spring Trees by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Green by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Wet Trail by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Low clouds hug the sandstone cliffs.

Rim Clouds by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Green Patch by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Foggy Canyon by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Following the stairs down to the bottom of the First Pool.

Stairs by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

There’s a small waterfall into the pool.

First Pool Waterfall by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

First Pool by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Along the Creek by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I’ve seen plenty of white Evening Primrose this year, but this was the first pink one.

White & Pink by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

In the Clouds by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Jackson checking out some birds in the distance.

Bird-Watching by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Just past Devil’s Kitchen…almost back to the trailhead.

Devil’s Kitchen by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I had to make a quick stop at Lower No Thoroughfare Arch.

No Thoroughfare Arch by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The last stretch of trail back to the parking lot.

Near the End by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Even though the weather didn’t cooperate with us on this trip, we both had a great time. It’s great having a place like this practically in my backyard and I know I will be returning again in the future!

>> No Thoroughfare Canyon Photo Gallery


  1. Bret Edge
    Bret Edge April 23, 2014

    Wow, this looks like an amazing canyon. Your photos do an excellent job of giving readers an idea of the scenery and terrain you and Jackson traversed. I do find it a bit comical that Jackson is all smiles in the first couple photos and then, in the photo of him in the rain, his smile has disappeared. Can’t blame the guy!

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat April 23, 2014

      Thanks Bret! It’s a very cool hike. You should check it out if you are ever in GJ. Funny thing is that Jackson actually enjoyed hiking in the rain on Saturday 🙂

  2. Rachel Cohen
    Rachel Cohen April 23, 2014

    Wow Randy! Outstanding series of images! Looks like a place I’d really like to go to! 🙂

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