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Big Dominguez Canyon: Cactus Park to Bridgeport

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.

Dominguez Canyon Wilderness

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…

West Elks View

Wildflowers are plentiful in the desert this year!

Yellow Wildflowers

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…

End Of Route

Light illuminated Triangle Mesa in front of the Grand Mesa with rain showers surrounding it when we reached the rim of Big Dominguez Canyon.

Rain Surrounding Triangle Mesa

We did have pretty great conditions at the Big Dominguez Canyon Overlook as the light and shadows were constantly changing.

Below The Storm

Spotlight on the other side of the canyon.

Light Across the Canyon

Big Dominguez Canyon Overlook

A closer look at lower Dominguez Canyon.

Lower Dominguez Canyon

Diane waited patiently while I took a lot of photos!

Dominguez Canyon View

The amazing views continued as we hiked along the rim of the canyon to the trail that would take us down into the canyon.

Canyon View

The first ledge at the beginning of the descent into Big Dominguez Canyon.

Ready To Descend

Hiking down the rocky trail.

Rocky Descent

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!

Deep Mine Shaft

Archie Smith, 1907

Archie Smith, 1907

Continuing our hike down the canyon.


A view of Big Dominguez Creek below our campsite for the night.

Little Black Canyon

Layers of Light & Land

Layers of Light & Land

Not a bad view from camp shortly before sunset.

Big Dominguez Camp

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.

Upper Boulder Petroglyphs

A view from the junction with the Dry Fork of Big Dominguez Canyon.

Canyon Junction


The trail and the creek.

Trail & Creek

Soon we reached the popular Ute petroglyph panels that most day-hikers from the bottom turn around at.

Ute Petroglyph Panel

Top Boulder Panel

High Panel

Claret Cup

Bottom of a Boulder


An old shelter built under a boulder along the trail.


Diane spotted these faint petroglyphs that I don’t recall seeing before.

Faint Anthropomorphs

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.

Above The Waterfall

Looking down Big Dominguez Creek from near the waterfall.

Big Dominguez Creek

Cowboy storage under a boulder near the trail.

Storage Box

The sun came out as soon as we reached the mouth of the canyon near the Gunnison River.

Canyon End

Crossing the bridge to the other side of the river.

The Bridge

The Bridgeport Bridge

Bridgeport Bridge

Following the railroad tracks for the last mile to the trailhead.

Along The Tracks

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.

Ready To Ride

I got to ride a short section of the Tabeguache Trail on the way back to my Jeep

Tabeguache Trail

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!

Headed Home

>> Big Dominguez Canyon Photo Gallery


  1. linkinslegacygmailcom
    linkinslegacygmailcom September 23, 2019

    Do you remember the total distance of this hike ?

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat September 24, 2019

      I just looked at my GPS track and it says it was about 12.5 miles.

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